continued from post #33

I like the part of my work that responds spontaneously to other artists, new ideas and calls for exhibiting, just as I have in the past couple of days. I very much want to improve my access to my collections – the raw material of my creative practice – so that I’m able to continue to do so, more efficiently. The issue of time, in all of this is of course, the crucial factor and my current situation has made me recognise the benefits to be had from investing time now, in order to save time for the future. One of my first steps towards this, is to take a break from writing this blog. The entire premise of ‘Keeping It Going ‘ in any case, asked the questions:

Will I be able to maintain a blog at the same time as being creative in the studio? Will it help or hinder my practice as an artist?

Even if only temporarily, I will miss the discipline of writing here. But the time used for regularly maintaining this blog will be better placed for now, in sorting out my studio space and getting on with making work. Setting up ‘It’s The Little Things’ for the This ‘Me’ of Mine exhibition over the past few weeks has reminded me just how time consuming installation/assemblage work in itself can be – and that’s when I’m familiar with the work, know where things need to be placed and have already processed and emotionally let go of the items used in the installation.

I haven’t familiarised myself with a lot of my collections for some time – it’s that difficult to get to/access thing again! But I know it will be no small task to sort through it and I know that a considerable amount of time and patience will be required to do it thoroughly. There is a vast amount of ‘stuff’ – both the literal, physical objects and the emotional and psychological.

Letting go has never been easy for me; I’ve never been good at endings or goodbyes. But I do want to say goodbye to feeling in the dark, disorganised and a bit all over the place with regards to my knowledge about what is it is that exactly makes up my collections – the materials that stimulate new ideas and sustain my creative work. It’s time to rediscover, assess and know what I have.

I will at some point, I’m sure, want to report back. There are a lot of emotions and stories tied up in the boxes I’m preparing to unpack – I’m almost certain that I will want to share some of the associative narrative with you.

Thank you in the meantime to so many of you – to a-n who encouraged me to start this blog in the first place through organising the ‘Why Blog’ workshops; to the Artists Talking community for your commitment to reading what I have to say; and to those of you for taking the time to leave comments about what my posts have meant to you; it’s always been truly appreciated.


In a conversation about our respective creative work with a couple of other artists on Tuesday night, I announced that I was going to take a break from writing this blog. I surprised myself a bit by saying it, but then it’s often said that the most meaningful conversations take place in the pub.

And anyway, it didn’t come completely out of the blue, it’s something that’s been on my mind – especially since that Monday, a couple of weeks ago when I took a long, hard look at my studio space – essentially, looking at how workable it is – or not, as the case may be. Such thoughts arose from a long nine hour stint of sorting, a nine hour stint of unpacking a whole load of things from boxes.

Unpacking the boxes is always exciting for me – I’ve held onto all this stuff for some reason or other, after all. And however many times I’ve seen them, most of the items unpacked from the boxes never fail to delight me. It’s through rediscovering them, that new ideas for making work often come up.

But it also creates mayhem and chaos and with just a few unpacked, the studio floor quickly becomes full, littered with books, objects, photos and clothing taken from the boxes. It’s always the way – by the time I’ve emptied just a fraction of them, there’s no spare floor space, no room to manoeuvre and making work of any sort is made completely impossible.

I’ve been in this situation a few times now; the only solution after sorting seems to be to repack things and re-stack the boxes in order to re-establish a space for making. There are times of course, when the sorting becomes a positive part of the whole creative process – when new ideas are formed.

At other times, though it’s felt like I’m quite literally shifting things from one place to another, without any clear sense of purpose. It’s what I call the hamster wheel scenario – going round and round in circles and crucially, not getting anywhere. This unpacking and repacking routine has started to feel increasingly pointless and dissatisfying.

Time at the studio is limited and precious enough as it is; I feel the need to find ways to make use of that time as effectively and as constructively as possible. My studio space needs to be made more workable and I need to have easier access to the stuff in storage. A studio visit from an artist on Thursday confirmed this; I couldn’t immediately put my hand to the glassware I wanted to show her and I felt frustrated about being disorganised in this way and even slightly unprofessional as a result. I was also included in a fun twitter exchange with some other artists at the end of this week just gone and felt equally as frustrated about not knowing where my handkerchief collection was so that I could get involved with some photo sharing.

continued …


Leaving a piece of work I made for the recent ‘Discernible’ show in the hands of the curators was, as I said, a new and interesting experience. Allowing ‘Other’ (see image) to stand alone, without any explanation about the narrative behind the work, was unusual for me. It feels ironic, retrospectively, that I asked for it be suspended, hanging in the air – just as I’d left the whole concept that lay behind it; hanging, unsaid & unspoken.

I also let go of ‘It’s The Little Things’ when it was installed in the Kaleidoscope gallery in Sevenoaks last Friday, on the third leg of the This ‘Me’ of Mine touring exhibition.

In Deptford and in Folkestone, I’ve been there to install my work for the exhibition. I didn’t even question whether I should be there; it felt like a given. This time round, however, I made a decision – to be practical about the implications of being at every installation set-up and to try and let go of controlling the installation of my work. It wasn’t easy, but I decided to hand it over to the capable hands of the curator, Jane Boyer – alongside a photograph for guidance of where the various bits and pieces should go.

‘It’s The Little Things’ is composed of a number of small things rescued from my Nana’s home, placed onto shelves and a mirror frame set on a plinth. The objects are pretty precariously balanced and it takes a while to set them up and get the things looking the way I want them to. I’ve managed to spend a good hour or so building and then just generally tinkering with the various objects during installation in the last two venues – making sure they’re ‘just so.’

Apart from a couple of text queries from Jane and then, very thoughtfully, a photo of the installation completed by her, I haven’t seen my work in its finished state. I’ve missed being involved in installing it this time round, if truth be told. The process of placing the individual objects is the part that I love – it’s what feels crucial to me in terms of how the final piece of art work is realised. I enjoy it probably more than anything else I do in my creative practise.

But if one of the driving forces behind my work is to continue to be about letting go, then handing over the responsibility for installing it is a necessary part of that. Someone once told me that he felt I lost something quite crucial in my work when I started ‘sticking things.’ It’s an observation that has stayed with me. But in practical terms, I think I may need to reconsider how I present the assemblage pieces I create in the future. If they’re not fixed in place, they may be fine as they are in the studio but not so fine if they need to be transported and installed by someone else. It’s all been a bit of a learning curve.

I hadn’t intended to go to the Kaleidoscope gallery in advance of tomorrow evening’s launch night, but as the time approaches, I’ve realised there’s a part of me that’s keen to be there to make sure the work is exactly how I’d like it to be. This is not a reflection on the curator – but as I said, the placing of the objects is everything to me. If I don’t do it, am I really the artist?

Letting go, it seems, has its limits!


The space for comments on these blogs is where the real conversations between artists take place and is for me, one the most useful parts of maintaining a blog here. I really appreciate other artists taking the time to interact, all adding to the overall feeling of being connected and not alone in experiencing the many highs and lows often associated with being a practising artist.

Stuart Mayes left a comment on a recent post I wrote. His comments are always upbeat and positive and I’ve been an admirer of Stuart’s work ever since I first encountered it here, via his ‘Project Me’ blog on Artists Talking. Consequently, I’m always pleased to read Stuart’s take on any of the issues I raise.

He left this comment on my blog last week:

‘Your question about how much, and what, to reveal is interesting. For me it is often a question in relation to a fear of being judged – if I say something personal will it change how someone looks at my work, could I come across as frivolous or silly, or equally as someone trying too hard to seem intellectual …’

I’ve been thinking a lot about this over the past few weeks – about how honest – I mean, really honest – we’re prepared to be, ‘for fear of how it might impact on the way our work is perceived,’ as Stuart says. Much as I’d like to think that being aware of a readership didn’t affect things, I know that the reality is that I have become more conscious of what I reveal.

For some weeks now, there’s been a strong parallel running between the recent prolific sorting out and de-cluttering I’ve been doing and my feelings about maintaining this blog; a correlation between the actual physical act of sorting, running alongside the sorting of my emotions. If each object taken from storage means (at least) something to me on an emotional level, then that’s an awful lot of feelings to deal with. So many questions have been raised in the process – what do I want to keep quite literally, of the objects from mycollectionversus what do I want to give or throw away? Like-wise, how much do I wish to keep to myself, versus how much am I happy to reveal? The private versus the public. How much do I share? How much do I keep to myself? It’s back to that question again, one that keeps cropping up.

I closed the last post on the subject of letting go – leaving behind, relinquishing. It’s a theme that’s deeply immersed in my work and I’ve written already about how it felt hard to let go of the second piece of work I submitted for the ‘Discernible’ show. It’s called ‘Other’ and is composed of three bubble-gum pink plastic people sitting high up on a perch in a cage. All three of them are closely seated together – but, while two of the figures, the man and woman, have their arms wrapped around each other, there’s an air of isolation about the third figure – a man alone, shoulders hunched, isolated, in spite of his close proximity to the other two.

There is a narrative in the piece, but I’ve chosen not to reveal it. I’m letting go of a piece of work and allowing it to stand alone – no stories attached, and no request for any participation other than to observe. In this respect, it’s an interesting and very different experience for me.

See Stuart Maye’s blog here: