Non-verbal communication was a key aspect of life for me in Japan.
It may appear on the outside to be a challenging prospect when working abroad, but I found recalibrating communication methods invigorating - and it confirmed to me that less, is often, more.
The importance of making yourself understood in a culture where you can't always explain your actions creates a determination to be positive on both sides. After all, who wants to risk a break down in communication or to cause offence with no way out? This was civilising.
I also found that the connections made with people with little English to be some of the most poignant and meaningful, with both parties taking a leap of faith. This was rewarding.
So it was an immense relief to be spared the trials of my native language and experience another way.
It occurred to me later that our encounters with art, history and the natural world are similar in that they are largely non-verbal - which might explain why they are often so potent and memorable - with sight, sound, scent and touch all coming to the fore.
Now, as I build the sculpture ‘Exhume’ I find it is very much an exercise in silent negotiation. A settlement will be reached, but only if I commit myself to chance and allow the clay to respond, until we finally reach a tacit understanding.
(Image: Birgit Van der Lans)