there's so much going on that's not directly connected to my artwork but that impacts on it.
Just over three years ago my partner was diagnosed with Motor Neurone Disease. For last 18 months I've spent at least five nights a week sleeping on the sofa-bed at his flat. He's coped amazingly well with it, it's an awful illness that has left him completely paralysed and now unable to speak.
It feels strange to 'reveal' this – especially here.
I have an (almost) ambivalance about it – it's both essential and irrelevant at the same time. What does it mean for me, as an artist, to have a partner with demanding terminal illness? I don't want special treatment (or sympathy) and at the same time I want people to know why I'm not at as many openings as I should be, or sometimes don't get to the studio for a couple of weeks.
And then again – being with him undeniably affects me and therefore affects what I make.
I leave the studio and get the bus to John's. The TV is showing an early evening game show or soap. He's in his reclining chair, the windows are closed and the volume is up. I turn the sound down and tell him about my day – noticing that his eye's keep flicking over to the silent picture. I turn the sound up and go to the kitchen to make some dinner. John needs a soft diet now, sometimes I long for something with some bite but can't be bothered to make two separate meals. Because I have to spoon-feed him we usually share one plate and cutlery, it's easier than all the changing around. After dinner it's more TV. The night care staff tidy away the plates and do the washing up. The flat is set up for John and there really isn't any space for my stuff so I sit with John in front of the TV. At about 11.00 I help the carer get John into his wheelchair, he takes his medicine and they go off to the bathroom. While John has his teeth cleaned and face washed I make up the sofa bed. I assist the carer undressing John and lifting him into bed. After I've been to the bathroom I go back to the bedroom put John's alarm on his wrist and kiss him goodnight. In the morning I have a shower and make breakfast while two carers get John out of bed, make him tea and take him to the bathroom. I spend some time with John in the bathroom, him sitting on his shower-chair, me holding the cup of tea to his lips (he dribbles more than he did a week ago). When he's ready for his shower I leave him with his carers and go to the studio ….
'I'm beginning to wonder if I'm (slowly) becoming the (fine) artists I am meant to be'
'real objects make me happy'
'don't think work, feel it'
Perhaps it was the heat, perhaps it was the strange beauty of Venice, perhaps it was the sheer quantity of artwork but something happened to me and I allowed myself to be guided by what felt right. That's the only way I can describe it.
As a result I found myself completely absorbed by pavillions and exhbits that I might previoulsy have hurried through in search of 'projects'. Pages of dense postmodern analysis given on arrival at shows were politely handed back and if I couldn't see what I was looking at then it wasn't the show for me. It was a kind of act of faith. And I guess I had a kind of epiphany.
In the Gardini I was completely entranced with paintings that were – to me at least – about paint, in particular Herbert Brandl (Austria), Troels Worsel (Denmark) and Gehard Richter (Germany). I'd been looking forward to seeing Felix Gonzalez-Torres in the Amercian Pavilion, and though I think his work is brilliant, it felt like the wrong time and place for this show.
Kris Martin's My Private show (in a casino over St Marco and for three days only) and Jan Fabre both demonstrated the power of articulate, elegant and technically skillful sculpture to function aesthetically, culturally and politically.
Being in Venice for the opening weekend of the Biennale was an amazing experience – I learnt a hell of a lot about myself and who I am as an artist.
I like objects. I like materials. I make sculpture.
Back to the studio …..
Linda Duffy phoned last week, she and Emma Healy are curatiing Hunters and Collectors at the new gallery in the Willesden Green Library Centre, along with the show we're planning at least one event involving artists and members of the public.
I really enjoy being able to offer this kind of thing, especially when exhibiting in a multi-use space. Discussing my work with new audiences has always been invaluable in helping me understand how it functions outside of the studio – and outside of my own ideas. I've had some very strong, and very diverse, reactions to pieces in previous shows. It's always interesting for me to have to think about how much of my motivation, inspiration and process to discuss – can revealing too much somehow reduce the work or does it make it both more accessible and more interesting. I hope it's the latter!
We're all visiting the gallery next week, it'll be good to meet the other artists and see the space. I'm very intrigued – although the space is attached to the library it's run by an artists group (Brent Artists Resource), it sounds like a good partnership – the kind of thing we need in Crystal Palace.