The final blog post for the ‘Armchair Artist Residency’.
The Beaney House of Knowledge and Art: The Front Room ‘Armchair Artist Residency’ blog.
Blog number six, February 2014:
In a cardboard box on a shelf in the museum storerooms there is an ancient flint hand axe with a distinctive loop-design at its pointed end. The loop is a naturally occurring feature within the rock itself but someone knapped the flint in such a way as to place it just so. I held it and it fitted my right hand perfectly (it felt wrong in my left hand). My fingers found the indentations around its edge and my thumb settled in a shallow concave dip in its surface. It felt to me like a craft tool. I wondered why I found its looping line so pleasing. Maybe it’s because I recognise in it evidence of that familiar human habit of creative self-expression and play: that urge to transform mindless inanimate material into things with meanings and significance or simply to make them look more interesting. That museum object has been haunting my thoughts. It was made to be useful but the deliberateness of the placing of that loop also expressed a side to someone’s imagination and their pleasure in making something. Museum objects make you think. My ‘works of art’ have no use beyond that of being ‘works of art’ and I wonder about their place in the world of contemporary art.
I’ve come to the end of my time as ‘The Front Room Artist Armchair Resident’. The brief was simply to “…be inspired by the collections, the people, the place and the stories.” It didn’t involve a commission to make works of art. I was simply expected to make visits to the museum and to write six blogs about my experience. I spent time looking at the museum objects (the stained glass window on the stairs and the ‘Saxon’ disc broche are particular favourites of mine) and I drew various museum objects to see what my drawings made of them (I’ve written about this in previous blogs). My exhibition in The Drawing Room was a fantastic and unexpected extra to my time as ‘The Armchair Resident’ and it gave me an opportunity to show sketchbook-drawings alongside some of the drawings I had done in the museum.
The residency gave me an excuse to muse on my relationship with the museum and with the town of Canterbury. A visit to the Canterbury always used to involve spending some time in the cathedral. When I was little I loved to go there with my Mum. It was a place to find perspective. I can’t afford to go there these days (the entrance cost is extortionate) and so, sadly, it no longer plays a part in my life and I miss it. But then, maybe, the act of Drawing is a kind of prayer, a reaching-out, or at least a kind of meditation. This might sound silly but I mean this in the sense that Drawing is an act of paying quiet attention to the presence of something outside of your self. When you draw, you have to be open to the possibility of changing your mind about what you think you are in the presence of. Good lines are Drawing’s simple blessings – these are the lines that are better than the ones you might have been able to foresee. They’re the ones that say: ‘Look, it could also be like this!’ You can’t consciously force the good lines into being; they can only come into play when you’re deeply engaged in making sense of the presence of a thing through Drawing. People who draw will understand this (we walk amongst you and we are legion!).
It’s been difficult but interesting trying to find the words to describe my thoughts and so I’ll end with a quote from John Berger’s book, Berger on Drawing in which he also acknowledges how hard it is to write about art:
‘ALL GENUINE ART approaches something which is eloquent but which we cannot altogether understand. Eloquent because it touches something fundamental. How do we know? We do not know. We simply recognize. Art cannot be used to explain the mysteries. What art does is to make it easier to notice. Art uncovers the mysterious. And when noticed and uncovered, it becomes more mysterious. I suspect writing about art is a vanity, leading to sentences like the above. When words are applied to visual art, both lose precision. Impasse‘.
Thank you to the people at The Beaney for having me as the ‘Front Room Artist Armchair Resident’ and thank you for giving me the chance to exhibit my drawings in The Drawing Room gallery. If I could have afforded the time and bus fairs it would have been interesting to have drawn everyone who works in the museum and make museum objects of you.
…and finally, will the person who pinched the folder from The Drawing Room please return it (the Beaney put together a couple of information folders to go along with my exhibition in The Drawing Room). I am extremely flattered to think that someone wanted one so much that they turned to a life of crime to get one but The Beaney can’t afford to lose their posh folders. You’re very welcome to keep the pages but if you can use your stealth and criminal genius to put the empty folder back that would be nice.
Thank you for reading these blogs. I wish you all Good Drawing (and if you think you can’t draw, come to my drawing classes in Margate and I’ll prove you wrong)!
In re-posting these blogs I’ve had to tweak a few sentences here and there but mostly these are as they were originally published for the Beaney’s website. I’ve re-posted them here because they are no longer to be found there. These are not works of great literature but I think there are some good ideas in them (I think the firs two blog posts aren’t too bad). Since doing this Artist Residency I’ve continued to develop some of the ideas I was working on at the time and you can find more images and posts about my art-work on this ‘a-n’ blog, my wordpress blog (https://royeastland.wordpress.com) and on my facebook page (https://www.facebook.com/Roy-Eastland-1495390357351370/).