Since I’ve recently invented a time-machine and I’ve done the usual time-touristy things (learnt how they built the pyramids, listened to Plato at The Lyceum and partied on V-Day), I think I might plan another tea party.
The one last week with great figures and historical minds was truly fascinating; I had the likes of Isaac Newton, Leonardo Da Vinci, Artaud Brecht, Carl Jung, all of the Monty Pythons, Sun Tzu etc over at the Hanging Gardens of Babylon for a spot of tea and scones. Incidentally, and for future reference, I also discovered that there’s a little place on the outskirts of 1860s York that makes the best crumpets – definitely worth visit if you’re ever in that neck of that inter-temporal dimension.
It was a really interesting evening of meaningful critical debate and the exploration of surprisingly contemporary ideas (I mean, you should’ve seen Aristotle and Emmeline Pankhurst arguing over the concept of working single mothers!) before a hilarious game of absinthe-fuelled Twister and dancing to banging mash-ups involving David Bowie, Vivaldi and Shakespeare rapping verse. Moreover, I never imagined believing that Edgar Allan Poe knew how to party!!
I think I’ve ironed out the logistics now – we pick a great venue in a great time period before picking people up en route. And note-to-self – I need to improve the inbuilt translator transmitter before the next shindig as there were some very embarrassing misunderstandings!
I’m planning on inviting artists to this one as: I’d love to discover more about their artistic processes and practice, if all that we know about them is true and if they really do deserve all the hype they get. There’s loads of artists that I love and admire, but I want to curate a group that would actually talk to one another and have a laugh; I’ve learnt that SOME people (I’m looking at you Nitcheze!) sure know how to kill the mood… I won’t be making that same mistake again!
Leonardo Da Vinci – I’m definitely inviting him back! We get on like a house on fire and he is FAB-u-lous. He’s really witty and SO quick with his banter – you can tell he’s got a razor sharp mind. He spoke more about his scientific interests in Babylon though, so it would be great to hear more about his art.
Salvador Dali – I know he’s a very predictable and almost cliché choice (don’t tell him I said that), but he intrigues me – I wanna know how much of it is a façade, a character, an act for the public… and how much of it is actually him.
Vincent Van Gogh – Another cliché choice, I know, but like how he found comfort in Wauters’ ‘The Madness of Hugo van der Goes’, I find reassurance and comfort in him. He reminds me that you can still achieve great things in spite of mental health difficulties. I think it would mean a lot to him to know not only that he provides strength to others, but also that he’s considered a ‘great artist’ in the future. He’s always come across as a very lonely man and I think it would be a much-needed confidence boost and support his recovery to have a brew with people who admired him.
Francisco Goya y Lucientes – I think I need to find him at the mid-point of his career – sort of past all the airy-fairy, wholesome paintings he did but just before he gets really, really unwell (late 1810s-1820s, maybe?). I’d like to talk to him about his experiences and how he paints in that very distinctive style of his.
Paula Rego – I’d like to talk to her about her choice of narrative in her work… where’s it from? Why that? Is it for the subtle shock value, or because she wants to explore the blurring of boundaries, or what? I’d like to hear her perspective on things, and if she believes in the concepts and ideas that she portrays.
William Blake – I think with Blake I’d like to put to bed this contention between if he was a creative genius with a vivid imagination or if his imagery was a result of psychosis. Not that it matters, but I’d like to learn more about the process behind his sometimes very haunting works.
Gilbert and George – I really enjoy their work and I can imagine them to really bring some fun to the party. I’d like to discuss with them the ideas and contexts behind their work.
Greyson Perry – I really warm to Greyson and I admire the sensitive and thoughtful way he approaches topics and individuals in that docu-series he did recently. I can imagine he’s right good for a laugh around the table but I also think he would have a lot to say about the contemporary issues that matter to him and about his wider practice in general.
Marcel Duchamp – I get a real sense of mischievousness from him and I admire the balls he had to do what he did. However, I’d like to question him regarding the rumours that Fountain wasn’t of his doing at all, but rather an unknown female artist. He will probably deny it of course, but it would be interesting to see if he squirms or not…
I had also considered inviting Andre Breton, but he’s waaaaaaay too intense for something like this.
Oskar Schlemmer – Oskar was a real influence for me back in my Scenographer days, since he was the resident Bauhaus theatre designer. I’d ask him how he works and how he reached things like the Triadic Ballet. I get the impression he might take himself a teeny weeny bit too seriously, so we might have to offer him a glass of something strong to loosen him up a bit.
Joseph Beuys – Although I don’t approve of him using SO many dead animals in his work (I might interrogate him about where he got them and how they died etc), I really do enjoy his work and his ideas. I would love to hear him talk about his ‘social sculpture’ theories and the impact the war had on him, and engage in political debate and conversation about various things. I can imagine him being the argumentative one around the table, somehow, so we’ll need to watch him!
This is all very male-dominated, which as a female, I am acutely aware. There has been and is a number of strong female artists, yet they’ve been overlooked and underappreciated in a male-dominated field. You’ve got your Fridas and your Georgias and your Marianas and you Leonoras, and even though I greatly appreciate their work, I can’t honestly say they grab me enough to have questions to ask them. And no, that’s not because they’re women (of course it’s not), but because I’m not as acutely inspired by them or are as curious in their life stories; much like your Pablos or your Jacksons or your Naums. I just seem to know and recognise more art created by men. But is that just my ignorance? Because the narrative fed to me has mostly revolved around male work? Because of the social, political and economic limitations set upon women artists throughout history? Because it’s men who wrote the art books? Because even though theres many MANY more female artists and practitioners in the world but it’s STILL the men that get all the glory?
Women slightly outnumber men on the planet, so statistically, if everything is fair and reflective of the world, successful/well-known/household name female artists should therefore also slightly outnumber successful/well-known/household name male artists. But that isn’t the case. Personally speaking, I know more female artists than male artists but it would appear on the surface that the males tend to be doing slightly better for themselves in getting more work, more commissions, selling works for higher prices in better gallery spaces etc etc, all in all. Sweeping generalisation, I know, but it’s just an observation I’ve made. Which is pretty annoying. Same goes for BAME representation in the arts. And disability representation in the arts.
My tea party is very white male dominated but to invite female/disabled/BAME artists JUST because they’re female/disabled/BAME is insulting and positively discriminates against them. It wouldn’t be not solely on the merit of how their art moves me. I am digressing here, but I feel they’re all very valid points. Hmm… this feels like a conversation for another day.
Regardless, these lot are on my initial guestlist, and I feel like I could learn an awful lot from them all in different ways. I would like to put a contemporary piece of work in front of them all, and organise a sort of art school crit – just to see how they would each react since I wonder how much of a product of their time they each are.
I’m not sure on where to host it though… I was thinking about asking Katsushika Hokusai to host us, arranging a Japanese tea ceremony before delivering a printing workshop so we can each create our own views of Kyoto. Blimey, what an exhibition that would be…
Y’know when you have too many ideas and too many potential avenues to explore in your practical work to the point you don’t actually do anything because you don’t know what idea is the best to realise or invest time in (at least at first) ?
I both know and don’t know what I want to make. And why. And for what. And by when. But I’ve found myself drowning in potential avenues. And I can’t seem to commit to anything, let alone move forward and develop an idea. And it’s kinda pissing me off.
I remember reading this thing about jam. There was a study where groups of people were offered different types of jam; one lot we’re offered a smaller variety and the others, a larger variety. More people were attracted to the larger number of choices, but the ones who chose fewer options were better at deciding on/buying their favourites. Or something like that anyway.
Too much choice is tough, and the abstraction of creativity makes it more difficult and very different to that of tangible jam.
What is it that brings on this choice paralysis? FOMO? Dissatisfaction with a potential outcome? Committing to the ‘wrong’ thing? A missed opportunity? Worrying where each idea might take you? There’s probably a million life coaches with a million blogs making millions of pounds strategising on how to overcome the choice paradox. From personal experience, my suggestion is to work out what it is you want, and for what ends…
I learnt in my third year that all this appears to be a frustrating part of ‘my process’. My mind always whirrs off in a hundred directions when I embark on something a little different, and I always intend to do them all (or at least the strongest ones) and see what sticks, and I always seem to get overwhelmed with myself and then always end up doing very little for a while. And yet I never seem to learn from my folly!!
However, I seem to need to wait to get to ‘this’ point, this period of pissed-off self-annoyance (because I’ve paralysed myself and haven’t been as productive as a result) before I reflect on what it is I want to do. I sit down with a cup of tea and my [initial] sketchbook, full of ideas and research which shoots off on a million tangents, and thematically analyse it all, trying to work out what it is that I’m trying to grasp, what I’m trying to say. I might draw out threads or concepts from amongst the chaos, and use these as new starting points. Then I start a new sketchbook and off I go, invigorated with a new sense of clarity. And then I’ll do the same thing again in about six months (if not sooner).
It’s a difficult process, but if you’re like me – someone who gets bogged down with what you could make – try this approach? It’s often worth it in the end.
I wish I didn’t think so much about meaning and concept (or at least care so much about it) because I probably wouldn’t get so entangled with myself. I value complex ideas and thus expect strong concepts from other artists and their work though, so I guess it’s probably a good thing that I put myself through my paces. If I didn’t, I’d probably have a pile of work of a much lesser quality/interest that doesn’t really explore something about something that I’d probably feel apathetic about.
…But then they might be more relatable (and certainly more commercial) if they weren’t so ‘heavy’.
…But then, I don’t make art for the appeasement of the world, I make art to explore and communicate my own, don’t I?
I could go back and forth arguing with myself, but I’m only going to find myself questioning my process, which is the last thing I need right now!! What I need to do, is to sit myself down with myself and thrash out what I’m trying to say with my work.
But first… anyone else have a craving for jam on toast? Oooh, I think there’s also peanut butter in the cupboard as well… hmmm… decisions, decisions…
Are you ready?
Are you ready for the obligatory ‘let’s-have-a-recap-of-the-past-year’ blog post? Why not start this new a-n blog with a recap of the last year?
In terms of Art, without a shadow of a doubt this has been one of the best years of my life. I am not writing this post to brag or humble-brag or otherwise be annoying, but I am more writing it to remind myself that not everything is so doom and gloom all the time (which is often the case when you battle bouts of depression). So many positive things have happened in 2018. I was talking to someone recently about it all and I was sort of saying ‘I’m so lucky’ (or words to that effect’ and something they said about how none of it has really been luck and that it’s all pretty much a result of hard graft and putting myself ‘out there’ despite my anxieties (most people believe me to really self-assured, but it couldn’t be further from the truth!).
I won’t go into too much about each thing that happened, as you can find out about most of it across the website here and there. Most of it will be art-based, but there will also be a few more ‘personal’ things that have made an impact. So anyway, here comes the obligatory lets-look-at-what-has-happened-over-the-last-year blog post:
- Not a lot, granted. Not a very exciting start, is it?
- Queens House Exhibition; Artist Takeover #1 – This was a really great opportunity. Work and Uni got in the way of me really squeezing the opportunity to the max, but I enjoyed it and I met some really great people through it.
- Began biking – Ok, so not very much to do with art, but this has been a huge thing for me in terms of my fitness. I love biking about, and I love the freedom it provides me. This was a huge thing for me this year.
- BCUR Conference in Sheffield – Following on from my win at the BCUR Posters in Parliament event in 2017, I went to the conference in Sheffield to give a talk on my research. I was super nervous but since I was one of the first ones up that day, it allowed me the space to sit back and chill and enjoy the rest of the day. It was in the car on the way home, when I wondered out loud to Jill Howitt and the others in the car why there isn’t a decent critical arts journal about, that the concept behind The Critical Fish was born.
- Developed heightened awareness of ‘living green’ – I’ve always known about it and believed in the value and purpose of it but it’s something that hit me like a tonne of bricks in April. I’m not even sure why. I know it wasn’t Blue Planet 2 -I’m not emotionally robust enough for that! If I recall, it started because it was icy and freezing and I was thinking about the poor birds and how they must be so cold and thirsty and hungry and it got me all bothered and upset. So I started crafting little bird houses and fat balls to hang outside my windows and then the passion for the earth and it’s creatures just grew and grew… Again, not directly art-related, but this has had a mahoosive impact on my work in terms of context and materiality. My current interest is surrounding environmental philosophy and I plan to exhibit work on this theme at my Littoral Vistas exhibition in Spring.
- Bit of a quiet month. If I remember correctly, my mood dropped quite a bit, I had pulled my shoulder out and I was spending every waking moment finishing sketchbooks and preparing everything for the Degree Show…
- Had an interview with Professor Peter Renshaw – what a lovely man. He’s writing a book and wanted to interview some art students about the things that mattered to them, and the role and value of the arts within a community context. I since sent a testimonial and have kept in touch with him – can’t wait for his book to come out!
- The Ten Degrees Show – the culmination of two years hard work! I’m smiling thinking about it now – I’ve just realised how much I miss the energy and excitement and comradery of my classmates. I miss being around you lot… This was such an amazing experience that I’ll be valuing for a long time.
- Roland Box Prize – kinda drunk when it happened (it was the night of my Degree Show, twas to be expected!) but HSAD gave me the 2018 Roland Box Prize! Gobsmacked to say the least! I didn’t know much about Roland at the time, but as succinctly put by ArtRabbit:
‘Rowland Box was a printmaker who studied for his Dip A D at Hull School of Art & Design in the mid 60s, working there in the mid 70s and also from 1986-89. He died in December 2015 aged seventy. He demonstrated technical excellence in printmaking and was a tireless campaigner for human rights and used his skills as an Artist to raise awareness of politically motivated persecution and cruelty, sectarian intolerance and violence. He searched for resolve and celebrated positives that shone through the chaos of hatred.’
What an honour. And for what it’s worth, I have since been unable to find out if it’s ‘Roland’ or ‘Rowland’, categorically (please take no offence Mr. Box!). My award said ‘Roland’, so that’s what I stick to!
- I registered my business with HMRC. It’s official! Big moment!
- Went on a much needed holiday to Spain. Was badly sunburnt by the second day, but I had a good time nonetheless.
- I was in Spain when it happened – I got my results! I got a First! I was so over the moon. It sounds so petty, but at Camberwell I just missed out on a Distinction (and it got me down), at Middlesex I again just missed out on a Distinction (and it got me down) … so to get a 1:1 with an average of 79% was a phenominal feeling.
- Think Big! at Humber Street Sesh – a wonderful experience. Was working on stuff to exhibit throughout August once I got back from my hols, and had an exhibition of work down Humber Street under the umbrella of Think Big!
- The boyf and I signed up to the gym, and 3 days later I blew both my ankles out. At the gym. The irony is not lost on me. Severe ligament damage and severe spraining. Didn’t walk for four weeks almost and limped like a good’un for about eight weeks. Not art related but it had a massive impact on me and my head, and therefore, my art. Was drugged up, in pain, not biking and not being able to go the loo on my own will do that to a person.
- I don’t want to share too many details, but to add insult to injury (literally), I had an operation (not ankle-related) scheduled for the week after I did my ankles in. The op and the aenesthetic and everything didn’t do much for my head either!
- August was mostly pretty crap, except for Think Big! at the start of the month and this: after months of working on it, Jill and I submitted our proposal bid for Fish to Arts Council England and City Arts!
- Quiet month really. Still recovering from les ankles and re-learning to walk straight.
- Graduation! I donned the cap and gown, and, in front of my mum, dad, step-dad and boyf, I limped up the stage and collected my 1:1. Smashed it, mate.
- Also on my graduation, I collected the 2018 David White Memorial Award. My second award in just a couple of months. Flabbergasted.
- Caspars Interior – I got a quick turnaround job designing the interior of a new crepe bar down Newland Ave in Hull. I spent a lot of time on it (way more than I originally quoted, so it’s kinda my fault I undercharged there!) but I love my designs (and so do the clients, and their opinions are the ones who matter!) and I can’t wait to see it open!
- Fish was accepted by Arts Council and City Arts! Woop woop! Jill and I got cracking straight away on the work to meet our deadlines. I was so happy. To get funding straight away like that!
- November was a period of a LOT of professional development workshops through ENRG. Lots of late nights, but I met some amazing people by doing so and learnt a fair few tips on how to develop my business.
- Was accepted as an UNION student! This is AMAZING! It means that for the next year, my arts practice will develop beyond belief and I’ll get better guidance on how to use the power of art for social change and for communal good rather than fumbling my way through it.
- Got the keys for my new studio space down Park Ave. It has been a very busy month so I wasn’t in there as much as anticipated but still… I have the keys!
- The Emergence Bursary Award. Omg omgomgomg – another award! This is also incredible as this is another means of artistic career support from Shape Arts, Disability Arts Online and a-n, and will be a huge boost to my profile and creative development as I plan to use the money to do courses and put on solo exhibitions etc.
And so, that is the year. An amazing year. Like, I’m almost nauseous because it’s a sickenly huge amount of good stuff. I feel like I’ve been noticed, which is a huge thing for any artist to feel. That’s all we want really, us artists, isn’t it? For people to like our work and who we are. I’m riding such a high right now and have this new found sense of confidence (a feeling I’m not too familiar with, to be honest) and I want this wave to keep going as long as I can.
At the moment, though, there’s quite a good few things to look forward to in 2019:
- UNION – being part of this for the next year solid. I’m sure to learn so, so much from mentoring and the residencies and meet so many new and passionate people on the quest to build a better world.
- Emergence – everthing that goes with this award. Confidence building, new knowledge, promoting disability arts, Royal Drawing School (hopefully), solo shows… let’s see what happens.
- Making work – obviously. Having a studio space now means I can make work a lot more freely and on more ambitious scales than I can do at home. This is the crux of my practice and I can’t wait to see what I get stuck into.
- Littoral Vistas – Exhibition in Hull at Central Library planned for Spring. Will be exhibiting work with Ten Degrees sistas Sinitta Beadle and Rebecca Addinell and I can’t wait to see what we’ll do with the space with curatorial support from the lovely Isabelle Tracy/Eunhae Cho – thank you for the opportunity!
- The first issue of The Critical Fish will be in May 2019. I’m so keen to see how it pans out as the first real big self-directed arts production that I can lay claim to (with Jill, of course). I’m anticipating Fish to be a roaring success, so from that we will hopefully be putting in for phase 2 funding
- The Feral Art School is going from strength to strength in the city now – I offered to teach a course, which, funding pending, they have said that I might be able to deliver towards the end of the year. Fingers crossed!
- I will of course, be developing my business as I go along. Hopefully, a few freelancey jobs will spring up here and there.
- This has yet to be developed, but I’m hoping my role within the Humber Recovery & Wellbeing College will be developed as the year progresses. I’m keeping quiet for now but with any luck you’ll see some awesome things from me through work!
- Something else? You know me, I’ll probably find something else to get my teeth sunk into… I’m not one for standing still for very long am I? I’ve already submitted applications for one or two things…
And that’s it. My year in review. A very busy but very fruitful year. I feel like a different person than I was at this time last year… I’ve certainly grown a lot. I have much more confidence in my practice than what I did have, that’s for sure. I might do a more in depth critical reflection of things in future, but right now, I want to leave it quite documentarian. In short though, a lot of good things have happened this year and I want to keep that momentum going – onto the nextt!