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This photograph may be of my first ever installation! I’m forced by an innate honesty to give my older sister collaborative credit. Indeed, seniority probably makes her lead artist – to be fair.

This may seem like a playful beginning to this post – but I am (in some senses) deadly serious. Finding this picture was one of those moments in life where things fall into place. I’m experiencing this kind of eureka effect all over the place lately (the unusual frequency of which doesn’t detract from each new find). I’m processing after my radio programme and the colossus that was the ACE bid writing for the Museum for Object Research part 2.

It’s been hard picking up the threads of my studio practice and I think I must recognise that my practice is evolving in ways which make studio practice less vital to me right now. I’m both in limbo (waiting for the result of my ACE bid) and on a slow build creatively speaking.

Alighting on this photograph allowed some of my recent uncertainty to evaporate. Now I know why I’ve had the ‘through the windows’ music from Play School  (playing at the beginning of this YouTube video) as ear worm. I’ve been messing around with plaster of Paris and latex, mould-making and casting.

This is all in the early stages and partly inspired by a series of workshops  designed to create a community installation. The influence of the recent Racheal Whiteread exhibition is also very obvious in this work. Perhaps less so is the work of Cy Twombly whose sculptures I encountered for the very first time in Munich several years ago. I hadn’t known about them despite being a devotee of his painting practice. They were a revelation, sparking joy.

I experienced paradoxical emotions – both a deep sense of recognition and surprise. In my excitement I ran around the gallery saying hello to each new friend. As luck would have it a fantastically illustrated book was for sale (and in the sale) for almost nothing and I have kept it in my studio awaiting its moment.

Sometimes I feel I’m not making work when in reality my brain rarely switches off and I have a surfeit of ideas. Channelling and organising them is another matter, and it can be overwhelming and bewildering to manage the sheer volume and tangle of cognitions my autistic brain produces.

This is where the Play School ear worm comes into it’s own and the messing about with materials (especially the new stuff) is so important to me in finding my way.

The importance and value of documentation (thank you dad!) is proven once again – as without this image of my early forays into making through play (circa 1964) I might not have glimpsed where all this tinkering about is leading (to a complex multi form installation I think, which I can just about see the edges of in the corner of my mind’s eye). Trusting process is immensely difficult when you’re at the beginning of something new. It can feel like you’re ‘wasting time’ at this point because explorative work is like that. But it’s absolutely vital.

Untutored explorations can lead to interesting failures! I have a bagful of dusty plastered and latex coated items which are probably unusable.

So I’m also watching a lot of ‘how to’ videos on YouTube – again, I am reminded of how much of my learning was through the telly (as a child) and how well quietly absorbing information through a screen still suits me.

Autistic artists are often autodidacts and YouTube offers a brilliant way of accessing information which can unlock new skills. Once I get my teeth into whatever emerges I will also be thinking about new ways to reach audiences with my work. I’m honestly tired of starting from scratch each time a project closes – new autistic strategies are also forming in my mind.

No wonder it often feels like I’ve got the M1 running through my brain, or that the idea of a kind of Play School at my kitchen table is so very good for my practice right now .


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I don’t want to write too many words. I’d like my video to speak for itself. Mainly, I need Arts Council England to know that their bureaucratic processes, in current form, disable significant groups of autistic and neurodivergent artists.

I know autistics who succeed in making applications – I also know many who are unable to contemplate beginning one. The argument often goes that “neurotypical” artists struggle with it too. Albeit true (in the sense that it is a gruelling process of competition for limited resources which also requires ‘insider information’ to succeed) it is also an ableist thing to say because it minimises exactly how uneven the playing ground is for us as a group. Just because some of us push through doesn’t mean it is okay. The bar is high – but the bar is also structurally unfair.

I want also to say that those of us who do take on the beast can be harmed in the process. I think this is disabling.

I think Arts Council should know.

 


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