I’ve had a pretty inspiring couple of days. I was intrigued by a Twitter discussion started by AIR Council’s Rosalind Davis asking: “What motivates you to keep working in the arts?” I responded: “Creation. Growth. Success. Failure. People. Drawing. Insight. Beauty. New horizons.”
In many ways the list sounds like the synopsis for an awful Phil Collins comeback album (perhaps minus the drawing bit). However, I guess it really is what keeps me going. Particularly the bit about new horizons.
Moving forwards and advancing my knowledge and skills is incredibly important. However, I am learning that new horizons are often reached through looking back. Re-engaging with the past often sheds new light on future possibilities. If anything, this residency has made me think a hell of lot about not just who I am as an artist, but also as a person. I’ve confronted a lot of things that for a long time I was embarrassed about, but in fact have helped shape who I am today. And it all feeds into my drawings.
In the last couple of days I’ve shifted gears slightly and have speeded up my production pace. When I started the residency I was keen to push the ‘all-over’ action style inspired by Gill’s approach. I don’t know what happened earlier on this week, but the latest drawings have much more space and movement in them. I am making smaller marks, predominantly dots. Perhaps it is the result of repetitious exhaustion, spotting the finish line and loosening up a bit. Whatever the cause, the results are really pleasing.
I also had a cracking meeting with Annabel Tilley planning our talk. She is a real kindred spirit in terms of a passion for drawing and mark making. In fact, I think every drawer should book a tutorial with her! She’s pretty damn inspirational.
Yesterday, Rosamond and myself reached a decision on how to display my new set of drawings. After swaying back and forth between various possibilities, we have decided to present the 64 works on a shelf 1 inch in depth around the perimeter of the Nunnery’s large exhibition space. One of Madge Gill’s large scrolls will be positioned on a 6 meter long cabinet in the centre of the room.
I am really pleased with this conclusion. It will allow the viewer to experience the full materiality of my drawings as objects, rather than concealing them behind frames or perspex. There will also be a nice balance between the subtlety of my tiny works and Gill’s more direct scroll.
Obviously conservation will be a worry as the drawings will be left exposed. When I made the announcement on Twitter, curator Lucy Day tweeted: “Look good but wouldn’t survive a show or more than one. Speaking as curator with conservation in mind!”
I am pretty confident the drawings will be ok. The khadi paper is pretty robust and the space is incredibly self-contained, with an invigilator watching the work at all times and careful attention paid to environmental factors such as light and humidity.
We will have to see. There may well be a follow up blog titled “Dealing with having 64 drawings nicked.” Hopefully not!
I had an interesting day on Friday. I was interviewed by London Media Centre for a promotional video looking at the legacy of the Olympics and its effect on artists in the east end of London.
It was rather strange being on the other side of the interview process. Usually I am the one asking the questions and I got pretty nervous beforehand. However, I loosened up as the interview went on, managing to avoid too many sarcastic/politically incorrect answers.
From a personal perspective I think the Olympics has been really positive. Initially when London won the games I was quite dubious about how it would impact on artists in the east of the city. Some of my friends who had live/work studio spaces in warehouses close to the Olympic Park were worried about losing their homes and communities. Also the issue of public funds being redirected away from the arts to sports has been a cause for concern for a number of years now, with the full impact probably still not fully felt.
However, I have found it incredibly inspirational watching athletes give their all, pushing themselves mentally and physically in search of a goal. One moment that sticks in my mind is Katherine Grainger winning gold in the rowing double sculls. Despite massive disappointments in the past, she just kept going and going. On a certain level, I can definitely relate. The last month has been pretty gruelling as I have attempted to reach my target of 64 new drawings for the Autography exhibition. I would liken it to when I do a 10km run. There are points where you just think “is it really worth it”, but in the end the sense of achievement is incredible.
With less than two weeks until the exhibition opens I’m now entering the home straight. Maybe I will buy some gold refills for my Staedtler Mars Micro pencil once I have finished…!
The last couple of days have literally been a case of getting my head down and making some work. I’m really excited by the drawings I’m currently producing and the language of the marks I am making is quickly evolving, no doubt in part due to the amount of drawing I am doing.
I have always felt that the most interesting results happen when I let go and become lost in the act of making. I wouldn’t call these occurrences ‘accidents’ as such, but they are definitely split-second moments where the unexpected occurs. There is always a certain level of control and I think (consciously or subconsciously) about every mark I make. However, ‘mistakes’ happen and usually these acts of unintentionality are the most exciting.
On the train back to London today I was reading MoMa’s ‘Jackson Pollock: New Approaches’. I’ve probably not read this book for about 10 years but it is a fascinating read. As with most books on Pollock the reproduction images don’t do the actual work justice, but the small black and white photos of grand pieces like Number 1A, 1948 sparked a few thoughts.
Pollock always claimed he could control the paint, famously declaring “NO CHAOS DAMN IT” in response to a Time magazine article on his work. There are hints of his all-over style in my drawing, but it is the exploration of the intentional and unintentional, particularly in relation to the final composition, that I find most interesting.
On another note, I also spotted an image of Carl Andre’s Lever at the back of the book. It is a collection of 137 firebricks laid out on the floor of the National Gallery of Canada, Ottawa. When I got back to my studio this afternoon I experimented with perspex frames, with a view to displaying my 64 drawings in a similar way Andre’s piece on the floor. There was something quite analytical and inviting about this approach that I liked…
I’ll sleep on it!
I’ve had a really successful couple of days drawing. Following a great chat with Rosamond, I have relaxed a little and am just allowing the marks to come. I’m no longer ‘forcing the issue’ at it were and I am excited by the results.
I’m not ashamed to say I am a confidence person and often I just need a little bit of reassurance that I am heading in the right direction. It’s strange because I’d consider myself an excellent networker, but when it comes to my drawings I am incredibly sensitive. Just a few words of encouragement tend to go a long way!
After a funny old week, I got all the encouragement I need last night when I attended the Ludlow Open 2012 opening. I met some wonderful artists making incredible work, including Lisa Snook, Justine Cook and Debbie Locke. I also had a great chat with the show’s curator Jo King who has done a superb job of pulling the show together. I’m looking forward to seeing what she does next.
Topping off a lovely evening, I also sold one of my pieces to a collector. As I mentioned in a previous post, it is a strange feeling letting go of my drawings. However, the £250 will definitely help with my studio rent/National Insurance payments/materials costs this month!