Why circles are so important to my work

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A couple of weeks ago I was in conversation with some dear friends, who are in my art world and with whom I speak every Sunday, pretty much without fail, about my art and my art business. We had carved out time to focus on specific issues we were struggling with in our businesses, and we have been doing this every week for the past five years. So we know each other pretty well.
Having just taken part in a large art exhibition, I asked what they thought I should have as a tag line, to be printed and placed on the wall alongside my artworks, to try and explain my work and encourage conversation. The reason for this is that when people speak to me about my work they are charmed by its meaning, and I want to encourage more conversations.
This is an attempt to show you me ‘air hugging’ LOL I know miserable me.

The ideas I had come up with were:
Hugs are circular – circles are hugs!
Love hugs? These circles are hugs!
What are hugs to you? (cuddle, embrace, clasp, squeeze, hold, clutch)
What do hugs mean to you?
A hug in a painting!
Everybody needs a hug!
Hang a hug on your wall!

The last line came out tops but what was really interesting is that these friends, who know me and my story so well, had never seen me physically describe my work. It was only because I was demonstrating the physical responses people had to my work, that I also showed them me making circles/hugs with my arms. For one of my friends this really hit home. It immediately reminded her of her mother who lives 8,000 miles away from her. I had touched a nerve.

The conversation continued about signage etc. but what also came out of it  was a suggestion that I consider offering hugs for free at exhibitions. Hmm, maybe (it kind of depends on the person) but this lead into a conversation about me being photographed hugging other people. Now, this idea I liked.

Hugs mean so many different things to people, depending on who you are hugging and sometimes why you are hugging them. Visiting my sister and her family I told them what I wanted to do and asked if they would be happy to be hugged and photographed at the same time. I am really fortunate that my sister’s children are so loving and kind, and they all jumped at the opportunity, as did my sister and her husband. I have to admit it has been a very long time since I was hugged in such a kind, loving and soothing way and without any agenda. It made me very tearful but also extremely grateful that I have such an amazing family through my sister.

But I am now on a mission to give to, and receive hugs from, the world. If you think about it, this kind of intimate contact with another human being is amazing but can be so different. Another dear friend has just become a grandmother again. Hugging and holding a newborn baby is a very different experience to holding and hugging a toddler or a child having a tantrum. The need to provide that security is very different.

Then there is the friend or relative who is dealing with loss; the hugs given to help deal with grief are so different from greeting that friend you haven’t seen for years. And what about romantic hugs, be they healthy and open or a secretive affair? Then there is the renewing of a friendship or simply  meeting up with friends from time to time who you politely hug and kiss hello. Celebrities “air kiss” and hug and in times of trauma you might be hugged or held to keep you out of danger.

So you see that hugs are essential to us humans. We receive them from the moment we are born and, hopefully, throughout our lives until we die. During that time a hug represents security, support, friendship, intimacy and love in all its guises.

I did discover some interesting information written by a couple of relationship experts. Apparently, when people hug with their arms around each other’s waist or shoulders but standing side by side, this type is used by friends who don’t feel a closeness to each other and is called a side hug, suggesting that it is more like saying “You’ve got this” but without being fully engaged.

Artwork by Alison G Saunders for sale

With friends the hug is chest to chest but with a gap between pelvises so that nothing sexual can be misconstrued. Hugging a person from behind is normally an intimate form of hugging between adults but is a reinforcing form of hug from parent to child.

Hugging with arms around each other’s waist is an intimate form which can become more romantic and sexual. A so-called bear hug is most commonly delivered standing up but can be lying down, too. This is a safe and caring hug delivered to make each other feel safe, secure and loved. There is also a one-sided hug which is often given by one and received by the other displaying limp arms. It is a supportive hug often given in times of turmoil for the receiver.

The last hug I want to report on is the heart – to heart hug! Apparently most people start a hug from the right side of their body because it is less intimate and protects your heart. So if you hug someone from the left side of your body you are likely to be in an intimate relationship with that person but not if you start with the right.

How does this all equate to the artwork I produce when the circles I make are linked to hugs in my mind? When I am making work I am considering the emotion I am feeling, the colours that emotion conveys and the type of circles or hugs I am giving to that work. Some are big thick solid hugs, some are thin linear hugs/circles. I recently made a series of six monotypes which I produced on a day when I was dealing with some difficult news about a loss and the circles/hugs are still there but they are broken because that was how I was feeling.


I have included a photo of me being hugged here. Just one; the rest I will share on Instagram over time. But this photo makes me smile and when I start on the next series of works I shall have this and the other photos in this series displayed in front of me to make me feel as special as the hugs did on the day I received them.

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