Jennifer Pattison

Burnt Eggshells & All The Things I Left Behind 2016-2023 (wip)

“This time is so precious,” says a woman in the park as she peers at my sleeping baby. A new phase in my life: ‘motherhood.’ It’s an uncharted landscape. Strangers, mostly women, engage me in conversation.

'Burnt Eggshells & All The Things I left Behind' is an ongoing piece of work which began in 2017 as I became a mother for the first time. I hear the echo of the woman in the park. I log image after image of my sleeping child. I imagine I can hear her growing like asparagus.

Caught between lockdowns, I document nature’s cycle, mothers-to-be in a pandemic landscape, science experiments to engage a child’s mind as the pandemic starves us of social interaction. Boredom, easter eggs, mother’s day flowers and the frozen potential of life.

The first year of caring for a baby is an avalanche of love, exhaustion, magic, interruption, anxiety and sacrifice. Sandwiched between the tick-tocking of domestic routine is the slow unfurling of creativity, enriched by a new, primal experience.'Burnt Eggshells & All The Things I left Behind' is my personal response to the hum of motherhood. Every part of my daily life has changed and my practice now exists alongside and is fed by my caring role.

My process is slow and I capture a frame or two when I can, leaving a roll of film in a camera for a year at a time before finishing it. Analogue processes allow me to time travel; a trip to the lab transports me into the past and reveals my daughter as a baby again.

Fragments of myself, past, present and future are glimpsed in close domestic spaces. Long-standing female collaborators reappear in this work, a decade on, each with her own experiences: one expecting her first baby, another freezing eggs so as not to run out of time. New friendships grow. I am bonded with women by the shared experience of mothering. Childhood friends, childfree friends and my daughter are all performers in the frame.

Burnt Eggshells & All The Things I Left Behind

Frozen, locked down
Mothers to be face solitary labour

Time passes, our children grow
Tadpoles appear
The light in the house is warm
I am uprooted

The translucent skin on the swollen egg bursts
Yellow yolk on the floor
Time passes, we wait

I am a shapeshifter
Sent without knowing to cradle us
Patching up holes with brown paper
Time passes, she walks

I hold the tray of burnt eggshells
I wrap them in plasticky film and keep them safe for later
Time passes, I get forgotten

All alone in a darkened room frozen to the spot
I dare not move for fear I will wake her
I want to leave to join the others
But I stay here
with you

Jennifer Pattison