I am thoroughly enjoying spending more time at the studio. This morning I was continuing with testing different adhesives for glitter. Last summer I spoke with Pia, the (now retired) specialist in the Royal Institute’s ‘Material Knowledge’ laboratory, and I am starting from her recipes and suggestions. It is good fun to do these tests and compare the results as I build up layers of glitter on wood offcuts. While mixing various ratios of different glues I started thinking about, and not for the first time, how I often have to learn new skills. I love learning new things but perhaps it would be nice to have a deeper knowledge of a few materials and techniques.
Last night Donatella Bernardi presented her work for Kunsthalle Bern to us – Morgenrote Aurora borealis and Levantin Into your solar plexus. It is an amazingly wide ranging and ambitious installation throughout the galleries realised through collaborations that she negotiated between at least seven other institutions and countless artists, the whole thing being conceived and produced in about two months. She, and it, are truly impressive! A combination of hearing how she works and being in the midst of putting on my own very modest show made we wonder about ways of work and scales of ambition.
I am fighting the thought that I might be too old to re-assess how I work. Not that there is anything fundamental wrong with how I operate, just that I might get closer to my ambitions for my practice if I opened myself up to new ways of thinking about what ‘making’ can mean. There is also something about not being awkward about being ambitious. I can be bad at asking for help, and at asking for what I want. It is probably more accurate to say that I can easily feel that asking for anything is too much and to avoid disappointment I do not ask for even appropriate things*. This is definitely something to return to!
(* on the other hand I can be surprised when I am not offered one of the very limited places on an internationally renowned PhD programme … funny when I know that I would not bother competing for an exhibition at an equivalently high profile museum.)
I dislike terms such as ‘strategy’ and ‘network’ however these might be exactly what I need in order to advance my practice and make it truly sustainable. I might already have started to do things differently (which is why reflection is useful!). The show that I am putting on here feels like a ‘try-out’ – something to be worked on and developed. I want to see how these new pieces function and how I feel about them. Testing them, and myself, and inviting people to see them will give me feedback that I can use to take the work to the next phase.
Many years ago, at perhaps the height of its popularity, I made the decision not to be an ‘artist/curator’. It was, then, an important and necessary choice for me to call myself an ‘artist’ and nothing more. Now might be a good time to consider if my artistic practice might benefit from some lessons from contemporary curating. So much of what I am interested in are ideas and possibilities of the connections between things … might this not be well expressed through presenting my work in relation to some of these other ‘things’? And is this not curating?
Inspired by Donatella, I imagine how wonderful it would be to design an exhibition that includes not only my glittery door and jigsaw puzzle pieces but also artifacts and artworks that refer to black-holes, rites of passage, time travel, burlesque humour, stage show illusions, and discotheques … Wouldn’t that make it easier and more fun for my audience to engage with what I am doing?