Blog following my residency at the Centre for Drawing, University of the Arts London, which runs from 21 January – 1 February 2013
I’m sad to say it’s all over.
I’ve had a definite ‘back to reality’ feeling this morning as I’ve waded through emails and tried to catch up with the things I’ve had to sideline to focus on the residency. The house is still a hideous mess but I’ve been less keen to tackle that as yet, prioritising instead the bulging inbox of my work email account and letting some family and friends know that I’m still alive after two weeks of silence on the social front.
I’ve still got some residency related activities to complete after starting to scan sketchbook drawings and download photos of the space as it looked for the opening on Friday. Archiving this material is important as although the work I’ve made has some connections to what I do in my own studio it has been produced in a tight framework of eight days and I’ll have to find an appropriate way to document that. I have more scanning to do first, to my horror neon and metallic paint don’t scan well (at all, actually), so there lies another problem to deal with once I’ve dragged myself away from my neglected inbox.
Friday was a great day, despite the morning being a blur of curatorial stress. I’ve mentioned my disinterest (shortcomings) as a curator in a previous post, so I enlisted the help of a curator friend. He promptly told me to take down everything that I’d already hung and pointed out where the ‘weak walls’ were, which just happened to be most of them. So lots of rushing round, trimming, hammering and sweating later and the room suddenly looked better; much more restrained and quieter than I’d hung it myself. Taking lots of time and getting someone else’s opinion seems a good strategy for me, I’m very happy to make the work if someone else wants to make the show.
The PV went well, a lively mix of staff and students from Wimbledon, and some of my immedate network of contacts. I had some great conversations with the MA Drawing students, and will look forward to seeing them again at their exhibition at the National Gallery on 8th March.
After everyone had gone I took all my work down and moved out. It felt sad in one way but it’s been such a positive experience that these feelings outweighed anything negative. Being in a room alone over such a concentrated period of time has taught me a lot about how I work. I went with no agenda and ended up making things that I would never have expected to, but other things reflect earlier ideas that I’ve perhaps left unresolved in sketchbooks from a year or more ago. It’s strange how ways of working can creep back into the forefront of your mind without your realising. I feel satisfied that I what I made was an honest expression of my experience in the space – after all, I think that drawing at its most rudimentary is a wholly honest process, like handwriting or natural vocal internations. I have used drawing in different ways, to record, explore, test materials and, something new for me, I have drawn from things I have made, closing the circle of where drawing fits in my practice. I generated visuals quickly and didn’t focus on ‘finishing’ work, but moreover on developing living, breathing ideas, which could be taken back to my studio and developed further. It’s been a productive, creative and stimulating experience on which I will continue to build and reflect.
Writing this blog, although time consuming, has aided my processes of evaluation and helped me to focus on the days ahead. To my surprise and delight I’ve had much positive feedback on my writing and have been so glad to hear that my experiences are of use to other artists and students, as it turns out that we all share many similar experiences in the paths through our careers.
Thanks to everyone who has read about my adventures each day and I look forward to reading about yours soon.
Yesterday was my last working day at the Centre for Drawing. I could sense the clock ticking all day and despite trying not to, I felt more pressured than I had in previous days. I knew that I only had a few hours until I had to start curating the work I had made over the past eight days and it suddenly felt like there was a very tangible deadline. I learned a few important lessons yesterday. Firstly, I realised that as soon as I panic or rush to finish things I become clumsy. More than once I stabbed my hand with a scalpel and bled on otherwise pristine sheets of paper. Similarly I dropped a paintbrush amply loaded with black paint onto a drawing, rendering it useless. I had other equally stupid and embarrassing accidents too. Stress and worry are seemingly counterproductive to me finishing work and at one point of the day it felt like I’d destroyed more work than I’d made. I also learned that the purpose of yesterday shouldn’t have been to manically make extra things to put on the wall but would have been better spent looking at what I already had and thinking about how best to present it. Maybe I was putting off this part of the process. I know many artists who enjoy curatorial tasks but I’m certainly not one of them. Given the choice I’d rather squeeze in another day of making work rather than start organising the studio space for people to visit on Friday. However, after the fairly disasterous start to the day and an enforced period of reflection I finally instigated this process later in the afternoon. By the time I left CfD yesterday I’d started to hang a few things. I still have plenty of organising to do on Friday morning but think (hope) I’ll approach it better for being away from the space today. Then, almost as soon as it started, my residency at the Centre for Drawing will be over and I’ll be moving back to my studio – back to the urban vibrancy of New Cross Gate.
I’ve given up on ever seeing the amazing sunlight from my first day at the Centre for Drawing again, so have compromised somewhere between soldiering on regardless and thinking on my feet. My previous ideas of making work that changes once the sunlight moves across it will remain as ideas until I am lucky enough to be working in a space with natural light again. In the meantime I have today been filtering things out of my sketchbook to develop further in the last two working days of my residency.
After my experiences at CfD I’ve been wondering what it would be like to do a longer residency. As well as being able to generate more work I’m sure I’d be completely exhausted too – I’ve had a fantastically intense time at CfD. In an ideal world I’d have liked these first two weeks to do research, generate ideas and test out initial principles, with a further two weeks to create something more resolved. But as it is I’ll be leaving with plenty of things to keep working on and a big burst of energy from my recent sustained activity.
Today I’ve been reworking a couple of things from last week’s sketchbook research. I’ve remade some line drawings in black acrylic on paper and photocopied them. Not entirely sure what I’ll do with the photocopies as they copied much cleaner than I’d expected, without any of the anticipated stripey rendering or grungey toner marks. I’ve left them spread out in the research studio for reevaluation in the morning. Despite the drawings being very reductive, literally just three or four lines, it took most of the morning to ensure that I made a neat job of them. In my sketchbook I can tolerate errant blobs of paint and leaking masking tape, but not once I’ve committed to prospect of people actually seeing them.
I also returned to the folded metallic structures I started exploring last week. I made a series of folded lines in metallic card (these are just ‘sketches’ and with the benefit of time and access to the appropriate technologies they would be realised using less ephemeral materials), and experimented with the reflective qualities of the card by adding sections of different coloured paper or card. The original forms had evolved from line drawings I’d made from the architectural features of the room last week, and from trying to suggest corners and receding perspective in a three-dimensional ‘drawing’. Today, once I’d placed the structures to the wall I noticed that the white gridded window frames reflected in the shiny surfaces, introducing aspects from the room back into the piece of work. I suppose this is obvious but it’s easy to get so involved in making objects that the way in which they interact with the environment can come as a surprise.
Before I left I made a plan for tomorrow, my last working day of the residency. I can’t believe it’s nearly over…
It was good to be back at the Centre for Drawing today after the weekend. After a busy day I’ve now only got two working days left, my head is bursting full of ideas and I don’t have enough time to work through one tenth of them. It’s hard to keep a realistic perspective on what I’ll have finished by Wednesday evening. I’m teaching all day Thursday and will then be back at CfD on Friday with just a couple of hours to tidy up and present what I’ve done over my eight days there before the space is open to visitors in the afternoon. It’s not much time but I’m remaining positive that there will be something worthy of showing people on Friday.
I keep wondering if I should have gone into the residency with a plan to make something specific, as all I’ll have by the end of my time there is a series of exploratory studies and small tests. I’m sure nothing will look as resolved or impressive as I’d have liked it to before starting the residency. I feel content with that though, which surprises the perfectionist part of my personality (if you don’t know me that’s quite a large part of my make up). I’ll be leaving the space with a lot of new ideas to take back to my studio, not just plans for new work but an intentness to employ different materials in resolving future work. Moreover, this is the first period of time for over five years where I’ve had so many consecutive days to make work without interruptions from teaching or family responsibilities. I’ve felt able to relax and enjoy working without a plan, to be responsive and try things out without knowing what the outcome will be. This has been a very positive aspect of the residency for me.
The first thing I did today was to make a list of things I can realistically work through before Wednesday evening. Obviously as the day wore on that list got even longer, so tomorrow I’ll need to trim it back again to something more manageable. I worked through a few quick ideas in my sketchbook, and applied some gloss varnish to selected areas of some drawings I’d made last week. I’ve started to be interested in the relationship between glossy, varnished areas of a drawing and the matt paper, which may be as a result of me being inspired by the reflected light in the CfD studio. I did some more work on the wall drawing with the pinned, stretched black cord. It’s a drawing that could go on forever, and I wish I had enough time to continue it across a whole wall. Then I made a small wall piece with white card cut into geometric shapes. The side of the card that faces is wall is flourescent pink, which causes a colour cast on the white painted surface. I felt that this was a successful sketch for something larger and made with more resilient materials at a later date. It will be important on Friday to document all these things well, so I can return to them in my own studio and continue to develop them into something complete. It’s frustrating having so many ideas that won’t be fully ‘finished’ by the end of the week but very exciting to know I’ll be moving out of the Centre for Drawing with lots still to do.
Argh, I’m half way through the residency. Where is the time going? I had a moment of panic this morning when I realised that after today I only have three working days left at the Centre for Drawing. Three days and I’ve barely made it out of that enjoyable investigative stage in my sketchbook. I really wish I had another couple of weeks there to resolve ideas, meet some more new people and enjoy my afternoon flapjack from the canteen. Just five days there and I’m basking in a wonderful routine of thinking, making, evaluating, and more making. Today I also added ‘talking’ to my list of activities with a hugely enjoyable afternoon working with the MA Drawing students.
I talked for an hour about how I use drawing in my practice. It was an informal session with a lively discussion at the end. Preparing the presentation gave me an opportunity to analyse and articulate the role drawing plays in my work, which obviously I’m aware of, but verbalising it for a new audience helped to clarify some important aspects of what I do. The MA Drawing course is an innovative programme which generates debate about drawing from a variety of perspectives and academic disciplines. I really enjoyed contributing to the dialogue. After my presentation I did some tutorials with the students and found out more about their individual aproaches to drawing. Although they all have very personal and therefore different relationships to drawing in their work, they are all very engaged with their practices and the wider context of drawing. It was a very enjoyable and stimulating afternoon.
Before the session with the students I carried on working through some ideas in my sketchbook relating to the reflective folded structures I’d started exploring earlier in the week. I’m usually not a huge sketchbook user but I’ve found the linear sequencing of the book structure really useful this week. It reflects the consecutive days that I have had to work in the Centre for Drawing, and I can see a notable development in my ideas from page to page. It will be a good archive of my activities at CfD and a useful resource when I’m back in my own studio. Thankfully I still have some time left before I need to move out – just three working days – but I know they’ll be productive!