Dipping my toe in the blogging pool again
These are some thoughts I scribbled down yesterday, and I wondered if anyone could comment or point me towards some reading matter on the subject.
Driving along today I began to reflect on the photographs I added to the Reside residency site http://resideresidency.weebly.com/reside-blog-susa…. I knew that, in the size the blog site dictated, they were not nearly as successful as the larger images on my computer, particularly that of the Methodist Church Hall , where all it’s idiosyncrasies were not visible in the smaller format.
I then began to reflect on the photographs themselves and how they couldn’t quite convey the feeling of being alone in this space and spending an hour in silence just looking at the scenes that were photographed. And so I began to wonder where the art actually was, where it resided, if you like.
When I looked at the ball resting against a chair leg with it’s pitted surface from years of boisterous play, did it become something else when photographed and presented on the website or was the art in the looking,in the selection of that image by myself as I looked around the hall and if so what was the moment when art entered the equation, could the art occur within me myself and what I chose to see or did it have to be documented and presented to others in order for it to take on the context of art. In other words, could art be a transaction that began and finished within myself, could it exist if there was no product as such to record that it had existed. Much writing on social practice and the movement away from the product in many artists practice emphasises the importance of the interaction with others, singling that out as the art happening if you like .
On a recent discussion listed in http://www.marketproject.org.uk/ where a curator was asked whether it was useful for an emerging artist to exhibit in a little-known space with a few viewers he likened that the analogy of the tree falling in the woods and if no one was here to hear it did to happen at all. I thought about this and my time in the Methodist hall and wondered whether art could begin and end in oneself without documentation and presentation to others, whether the capacity to transform a collection of items in space into art lay in the selective, subjective eye of the artist or whether even it existed before and after the transaction occurred with the artist’s gaze. Would the ball and the chair, which existed long before I chose to come along and photograph it, and will no doubt exist long after, have been or continue to be work of art all in it’s own right.
Blog posts for me are a bit like approaching revising for GCSEs ( the memory is etched on my brain), the longer you leave it between sessions the more paralysed you feel at restarting again. Once the post in January was up I thought I would wait awhile until I had some really meaty art related content to share before I put up the next one. As day-to-day life began to fill up with art related content (meaty or otherwise) I seemed somehow to be weighed down by the load and unable to find the time or energy to add another post. But before this blog disappears into oblivion I shall try and breathe some life into it.
The life of an artist can be a strange one, last month or so has found me;
a) rollerblading around the local village hall while wrestling with a giant roll of paper
b) beheading small baby dolls
c) icing dubious e-mails onto pavement
…and so it goes on, I could add some further bizarre acitivities to this list but some are just too hard to explain. Following the last post I was approached by the curator of a new space in Salisbury who was planning to put on a show to run in conjunction with ‘Lot’s Wife’ being hosted by the Salisbury Arts centre. I rashly agreed to produce new work within a limited time period then realised I had a holiday booked halfway through. Somehow though, as it always does, things came together and I had the uneviable position of joining the artists from the other exhibition on the discussion panel at the arts centre.
Chaired by the lovely Roy Voss – Bouke de Vries, Tom Badley, Doug Clark and myself answered a range of questions, all interesting but strangely none actually related to planned theme of the discussion. Everyone seemed happy though and meeting the other artists was a delight.
As the year has got going though things have taken on a much livelier pace as various opportunites have arisen. I now face three exhibitions quite close together with two PV’s on the same night, not to mention the Reside residency which is bubbling along beneath the surface. I did have the pleasure of getting to Phil Illingworth’s ‘Frightening Albert’ show at the launch of WW galleries new space with my husband and twelve year old daughter. Husband quickly found an old marketing mate to chat to (who turned out a relative of the artist) while Esme remained tranfixed by someone appeared to have just stepped out of Studio 54 (excellent handlebar moustache). With the two of them both busy I managed to meet some online connections I have known for some time but have now experienced in the flesh as it were -all good and a great show to see.
So as an artist who relishes showing in alternative spaces I’m feeling a bit like a kid in a candy shop with a disused pet shop at the Bath Fringe, an ancient church building riddled with secret spaces at St Georges Arts and a dank, dark recess at the Crypt Gallery in Kings Cross all awaiting site specific work. Yum, yum.
As befitting of the New Year, various blog posts have highlighted artists’personal successes and failures of 2011 and looked to forthcoming shows in 2012. Rather than do this, I want to quickly put the spotlight on the organisations that I have enjoyed working with last year. Treatment of artists varies enormously, from the hugely considerate to the downright appalling. Many times I have discussed the possibility with my technical support team, (i.e. partner) of creating an untraceable website where artists can anonymously report poor or exemplary treatment. Of course, as he has informed me, no website is untraceable and the difficulty of judging whether information is factual or falsified can lead you into deep water as ‘Trip Advisor’, the holiday accommodation site, has found out to it’s cost.
And so, as I am not yet as brave as the likes of Alistair Gentry, confident enough to launch Career Suicide, I will carry on moaning to close family and friends whenever the need arises. Last year I was lucky enough to exhibit with, amongst others, tactileBosch in Cardiff, Blank collective in Manchester and Coexist in Southend (whom I have worked with before). All artist led organisations, they were all extremely supportive, helpful and most importantly keen to facilitate work being shown sensitively with full consideration of the artists requirements. Despite, no doubt, struggling to make ends meet, where charges were made for application the amount was absolutely minimal in comparison to larger organisations. I also have to mention WW Gallery who, although they didn’t accept my work for the particular project in question, kept me fully informed of how they were progressing with the selection and wrote a detailed reply explaining which projects my work would be more suitable for.
In complete contrast I spent a long time putting a proposal together for a residency that demanded a long list of criteria to be covered such as incorporating the building, the grounds, the history and context, a project that would appeal to all ages, that would engage visitors, staff and volunteers and the list went on and on. I compiled a proposal which proved how each of these criteria could be met and included the timescale and a brief budget as asked for. Admittedly it was a lot of unpaid work putting the proposal together but the residency was local and opportunities such as this are almost unheard of in this area. Neither I nor anyone else I knew who applied received a confirmation e-mail to say they had received the application let alone any correspondence to say they had been rejected for the post.
Quite frankly if some galleries etc. can manage to treat artists respectfully, (and I can see no correlation between the number of applications to be dealt with or the financial pressure an organisation is under), there is no reason why it is not possible for all to behave this way. Rather than approach this from a negative point of view, let’s vow in 2012 to congratulate and flag up those organisations that do get it right and hope that the rest may take heed and follow.
*’Oooooooooo – I am a lonely painter, I live in a box of paints…’ – well actually that’s not quite accurate, I’m sitting by the computer debating clearing out the studio and starting work again – and I’m not a painter. It’s been a long time since I’ve worked in a group studio but I still miss the motivation of having other artists around me on a daily basis. Living in a quiet rural location has many advantages but a bustling stream of ever-changing creative input from other artists is not one of them. And so Christmas is over, the parties, relatives, drinks dos, mega pictionary games, etc The festive season passed as quickly as the sky lanterns we launched with friends on Boxing Day Eve drifted swiftly out of sight. The studio, taken over for a stint as Santa’s warehouse, lies strewn with wrapping paper and cardboard boxes, the aftermath of late, Cava fuelled Christmas Eve activity. Briefly my inner compass momentarily thrown off course, I wondered, tiptoeing through the studio mess, whether I could leave all this behind in 2011-and become another person with another life, considerably more balanced and ordered than this one. And then I catch sight of an object I have collected and I know what it could be, what it could say and how it could exist in a gallery space and I can’t forget it.
For many years, coming from Belfast to England, there was a transition period in my language where, subconsciously, my words would come out in a more rounded English accent, or even a splicing of the two, or I would use words that would have been uncommon to me previously. When this happened I would feel an almost physical discomfort in my mouth, as if one version of me was painfully morphing into another.
When I’m in my studio surrounded by the materials and objects that feel right to me I know I can’t make that transition and leave the language of making behind. It’s just too much part of me, I’m not sure I would even know how to begin to learn a new one. At moments like this a friend’s words, another woman artist struggling to balance family life with her work, always echo in my head ‘I did try to leave it behind but it just wouldn’t leave me.’
Back to work I think, bring it on 2012
* for anyone unfamiliar with this, check out Joni Mitchell’s ‘Blue’ album
Anyone with a household of six people and a dog will know dropping everything to attend and art event four hours away is no easy feat. So it was on Saturday, everything had been planned down to the last minute with a workshop prepared for the morning, one child delivered to the Duke of Edinburgh orienteering walk, Christmas presents packed for friends up north (hadn’t seen them in 5 years) and dog delivered to our neighbour to spend the weekend with his friend, the aptly named Kinky. Anyone unlucky enough to be drawn into the drama through my twitter account will know the plan started to unravel early on as firstly I was late for the workshop due to an accident with a dog shutting the road out of the village. I subsequently got there to discover the workshop had been cancelled back in September, then picked my son up from the walk and unbeknown to us managed to split the oil sump on the car and leave most of our oil in the forest carpark. It was only at the first service station to Manchester that we discovered the damage. An hour and quite a lot M & S goodies later, the RAC man delivered us straight back home again and that was as close as I got to attending the exhibition awards night at the Title Art Prize show at Blank Collective.
Back home I rushed an apologetic e-mail off to the curator and turned up to relieve our neighbour of the dog, who, on hearing about the aborted visit (and I even had a new frock to wear) broke open some red wine and the rest of the day is a little hazy.
Anyway, on a more positive note, a little casual chit chat on Facebook over the weekend with various artists from two main towns in the area turned into a more than significant spot of networking as I dropped a few suggestions that they may want to collaborate on certain events. With both parties keen to take up the idea is looks like the ball is most definitely rolling.