Had a slight mid-residency panic. On Tuesday the gargantuan task I have set myself of producing 64 new drawings hit home. It wasn’t so much the quantity of work that started to scare me, more the danger of seizing up and producing poor work.
It’s quite difficult to explain but after such a positive end to last week, where I really felt the concept of the came together, the drawings started to become a bit too ‘self-conscious’. A key part of the way that I create is getting lost in the mark making and trying to avoid direct conscious decisions relating to the aesthetics of the pieces. To put it bluntly, I produced a couple of drawings that weren’t cutting it and I started to panic.
I think the problem was partly over-working and in-turn feeling quite isolated in my studio. I’ve been working day and night fitting in drawing time with my other work commitments and I think I was starting to get mentally and physically burnt out. I always advise students of the importance of taking a break and re-connecting with reality. 9 hour drawing marathons were indicative of me not following my own advice!
So yesterday I had a complete evening off. No pencils. No paper. No Madge Gill. No AIR. Just a few drinks with my partner, a stroll on the Southbank and a nice meal out. The result? Today I’m feeling re-energised and ready to kick on. I just completed an 8 hour drawing session and am really pleased with the work I have produced…!
In other news I have finished planning my artist talk at the gallery. Annabel Tilley (artist and co-director of Zeitgeist Art Projects) has agreed to chair the discussion, which will take place on Wednesday 19 September. The focus of the talk will be exploring the automatic, process-based nature of drawing. I can’t wait – Annabel tends to give me a ‘constructive assessment’ when we discuss my drawings. Her comments are usually spot on and will open up the conversation for a pretty meaty debate!
To book a free place at the talk click here
After a weekend of pondering I think I have finally resolved another key issue relating to the final exhibition. It’s amazing what a brew in the garden can do…!
I am keen for the exhibition to not act as a full stop on the residency. I feel like I am just getting started and to try and cobble together drawings over the next couple of weeks just for the sake of having something to show seems like a missed opportunity.
Therefore, I have decided to set the show up as an evolving exhibition, with 64 new drawings introduced into the space as and when they are produced. Drawings will be presented in various states of completion, with the aim being to complete the series by 1 November 2012 – the final day of the exhibition.
I think this is a really exciting concept and one that allows a greater degree of research and exploration directly through the process of making. It will also make it more explicit that this is an active residency as opposed to something static.
A few people have already said I am slightly mad for attempting so many drawings in the series, but I am convinced the results will be worth it.
More info on how I am approaching the drawings over the coming days.
Great meeting with Rosamond yesterday afternoon. We decided on a title for the exhibition: ‘Autography’, relating to notions of automatic writing and drawing as a form of signature. We have been deliberating since the residency began on whether the show requires a title and came to conclusion that it needed something to pull the themes and concepts of both mine and Gill’s work together. ‘Madge Gill/Jack J Hutchinson’ just didn’t quite cut the mustard!
We also finalised plans for my artist’s talk. A preliminary date has been set for Thursday 13 September at the Nunnery’s Carmelite Cafe. There will be a short introduction to Gill followed by a conversation between myself and the Chair (exciting name soon to be announced!). I am interested in exploring drawing as an inherently private activity, often done for individual reasons. However, it’s other purpose is to provoke and invigorate, and exhibiting is intrinsically public. The talk will address these issues within the context of mine and Gill’s practices.
Yesterday was also the first time I have physically taken my new series of drawings into the Nunnery and we spent a long time bashing out ideas on how to avoid them getting lost in the space. This is constantly an issue with my work. The drawings are so delicate and small that an intelligent approach to how they are presented is essential.
I definitely think we cracked it…!
Today I have been completing the fourth in my new series of postcard-sized drawings. I have documented my mark making process in a short promotional video for the exhibition. I’m pretty sure this type of video would horrify Gill, but I found it really interesting watching my actions and movements. It sounds a bit strange but I really do get lost in the drawing process and to watch it back was quite unnerving!
Check out the video here:
Creating drawings during the Madge Gill Residency
Today I have been reading Deanna Petherbridge’s superb essay on Gill titled ‘Recouping Otherness’. She explains that, from the sparse facts of her life that we do know, Gill spent a long time in bed after a miscarriage and illness that claimed one eye. Although she probably ventured out of her bedroom to go to the shops to buy her postcards or art materials, for the large part Gill was isolated from the outside world.
There is no way I can possibly fully understand the traumas Gill suffered. The closest I have come to experiencing such seclusion was probably when, just after I completed my MA in drawing at Wimbledon College of Art, I contracted reactive arthritis. Bed ridden and unable to walk for just over two months, I felt trapped in my own little world. At one point I couldn’t even pick up a pencil without being in absolute agony and when I finally could the drawings I made sat in bed were quite different to what I was producing before I got ill.
Thankfully I made a 100% recovery but that period still effects me, even if it is more psychological than physical. Perhaps it is the reason I test myself with my mark making – the more intricate and ‘perfect’ I can make it, the more I have moved away from an illness that temporarily robbed my of all my technical skills as an artist.
This afternoon I actually attempted to make a drawing in bed. It was bloody hard work and not much fun! Perhaps it reminded me too much of what was a pretty traumatic period in my life. However, the biggest thing was that I just missed my studio.
When I was recovering from my illness one of the first things I decided to do was get a new studio. My confidence (both in terms of my practice but also generally) was at a real low and I knew that meeting a new studio group would help. I made new friends who encouraged me to ‘get back in the game’ as it were and have had various studios since, at one point travelling about 100 miles a day from the midlands to commute to Cor Blimey Arts.
I now see my studio at Bow Arts as an integral part of my identity, not just as an artist but as a person. I don’t think I will be having a ‘lie-in’ again soon…!