Susan Adams

Waiting for something

“On the bright August morning of my departure for Ynys Enlli I had met a young woman travelling around Europe on her own. Despite my ardent persuasion that she should come and visit she was adamant that she would not leave dry land for a place that has been known for centuries as a waiting place between life and death. And yes, as your boat is buffeted around by The Sound’s conflicting currents mid-way between the tip of the Lleyn peninsula and the island, fear jostling with elation spreads all over you. At first you see no sign of human life as the island hunches its steep mountainous back against the peninsula. Once you have rounded the mountain you no longer see the main land, you have passed into another world.

I arrived on Ynys Enlli with the framework of a plan: 30 paintings for 30 days, a video and sculpture about the search for St Isiona, an invisible presence who had written questions on pebbles to St Loge in an earlier piece “Escape from the Woodshed”. The “island of 20 thousand saints” would offer me a sign, a vision, leaving me with a clear picture of what should happen in the work.

I am attracted to the way the narrative of a saint’s life casually blends historical fact, fantastic events and the visionary. A saint is an individual whose life has been transfixed into a message. Their ascetic practice and suffering is a critique of society yet their icon status brings communities together, we need our sacrificial victims so that we may be united in pity and shame.

The island is self-selecting of the people who come to it because its so difficult to get to, everyone seemed unusual in some way, friendly and open with their thoughts. Its no surprise that they are an important part of the work as people appear bigger on a small island. It became apparent that most who came to the island were looking for something and some indeed were looking for nothing. I became fascinated with the idea of waiting, and finding … Nothing; not as a negative but as a zenith that mystics strive for.

However, the desire for Something is unquenchable in most of us, and sometimes the island gave off a hazy delirium, shaking off its solidity and becoming a thin place.

My name, I was sure I heard my name. It was just that kind of afternoon, the sky rinsed now and vacant, everything in waiting, stilled, clear as stoup water. Perhaps, who knows, I lost consciousness for a second standing there. There are many explanations. To be touched, to be visited - it's what we all want. The unrecognised figure on the path. Our name called.

from 'The visit' by Lesley Saunders

Towards the end of the residency I actually felt I was taking on some aspects of St Isiona; I went around the island dressed as her offering answers to peoples’ questions written on pebbles. I also carved my own/St Isiona’s tomb in drift wood and left it in waiting in the ruined tower just in case all the legends are true.” – Susan Adams 2002


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