My relationship to the studio has changed completely! Taking the computer out of it means that I spend time there completely differently. This week I began working on the glittered door again after a break of possibly nine months. I spent a few happy hours sitting with a paintbrush, binding agent and glitter, filling in tiny blank spots where the white ground was visible. It was pleasantly labourious. I (think I) can see a difference between the area I worked on the rest of the door. While I am at Mejan I am going to take the opportunity to ask for advice on glittering. I wonder if I will have to rig up some kind of door-size ‘shaker’ to get an even coating … on the other hand the ridiculousness of working by hand is quite appealing. The process minded me of some of the other labour intensive and optically challenging things that I have done; the patch-working, the sewing-up of white shirts with white thread in white rooms. It is hard to focus on the glittered surface and sometimes even then a reflection of the ceiling looks like a blank spot … or a slight tilt of the my head reveals glitterless patches where there appeared to be none.
Yesterday I met with Amanda (Newall) my project supervisor at Mejan. We had a good and wide ranging discussion, and I left feeling motivated to get on with making. We talked about the year being a period of experimentation (and space for failure) with critical feedback and support – Brilliant!! This is exactly what I need. I noticed immediately how we talked about my ideas without me feeling that they required explanation or justification beyond that the idea intrigues me. I have a starting point and that is the most important thing right now, what happens after starting will to a large extend be determined by the work itself. Or rather by my feelings about it – in discussion with Amanda. The lightness of this is both frightening and delightful. I have the feeling that this is going to be a very interesting and rewarding year!
Last weekend I had the pleasure of being at Liz and Kjetil’s wedding. They are a truly lovely couple and it was as if no time at all had passed since I was staying with them and making the “Brief Encounter” piece for their gallery. A couple of days before the wedding Liz put me in touch with another couple who would be travelling over and staying in the same cottage as me. Via email we arranged to meet at the airport and share the cost of a hire car, and despite both our planes being delayed we met up and started to talk as Debbi effortlessly embraced driving on the right in the horizontal rain of a very dark Norwegian night. We spent most of the weekend talking about being artists and all that that entails – it is amazing how sometimes it feels as though you have known strangers all of your life! Debbi’s name seemed familiar to me and at some point during our conversations we worked out that we were both in the Pilot 3 project and attended the opening in Venice. We did not say more than hello then, how fantastic to meet again six and a half years later in another country at the wedding of artist friends! A wonderfully inspiring weekend that reminded me how important it is to stay in touch with like-mined souls!
This morning I collected my overalls (bought when I was at Dartington) and the shadow sketches. They are now in my locker at Mejan just waiting for me to meet with the tutor who can help me construct some kind of plaster lathe for turning the solid forms from which I will make some moulds …
Now I am going to have coffee with Leah Capaldi who I met at her presentation at Mejan yesterday.
My world is moving very fast at the moment ….
Re-reading my application for the Project Programme has helped settle my somewhat overwhelmed mind. I started to wonder if the project I proposed (aware of my suspicion of the word ‘project’) was still relevant to me as it was conceived many months ago and before doing the artistic research course. That course made me realise the importance of my sense of integrity in my practice. I made the application to Mejan thinking that it would be interesting to develop (re-engage with) more sculptural aspects of my practice – exchanging the installations and second-hand materials for independent objects and more traditional materials. Since enrolment the validity of this switch has given me much to think about:
Is doing something quite different advantageous or disruptive? An opportunity for new learning and experiences, or a distraction and dissipation of energy and focus?
Re-reading led me to wonder if I can have/be all these things at the same time, and if any anxiety I feel now is actually the excitement of knowing that I could be on the brink of something new and unknown. I took out the sketches that I was making when I made the application – shadows of my childhood soft toys. I had also made a few sketches where I drew mirror images of halves of the shadows, these created more abstract drawings that almost resembled those visual illusions where you can see different things depending on whether you focus in the white or black image. It was during this re-looking that I began to wonder if my sense of not knowing the value of my proposal could, and would, only be resolved through doing it – though the making processes.
And so I have started to think of this time/work as an open process rather than as the realisation of a proposal.
How great to allow myself to say “I will not know until I make it”!
It is most important that the work (“the project”) makes sense to me – I do need to remind myself of this no matter how obvious it sounds.
Meeting with my supervisor on Tuesday. Looking forward to second session of Making Matters course at Konstfack tomorrow …
Awareness is a curious thing.
One of the short stories we are reading for the Swedish course is a translation of Julio Cortàzar’s Axolotl. Having not read an English translation it took two readings for me to be confident that I had not misunderstood it entirely. Alongside the story is a small black and white picture of an axolotl – the image is quite captivating. On Wednesday I went to Mejan to drop off my request for workshop induction courses and noticed the poster for the ‘welcome party’, in the top right corner is an image of another axolotl. All of a sudden I found myself wondering about the connections and significances between quite separate appearances of this strange creature. Encountering something unusual twice, and in different contexts, alerted me to it, heightened my awareness and I began to wonder if the axolotl might be a sign or motif … of what, I do not know!
My first week at Mejan gave me some sense of the year to come – a blend of fantastic opportunities and possibilities, along with a need for concentrated focus and structure. The introductory day gave me the sense of becoming part of a well-established and historic institution; the school’s principle continuing the tradition of calling, by name, each member of the new classes up on stage to receive a round of applause. This was followed by the academic and administrative staff introducing themselves. Then everyone went outside for a group photo. It was an old-fashioned large format camera, and perhaps it was this that gave me sense that standing there and being photographed was some kind of entry into the history of Swedish art. I was really pleased to meet another artist from last year’s Artistic Research course, she is on a fascinating and very theoretical sounding course. We are both also continuing with the next research course at ‘the other’ art school! A tour of school’s workshops and facilities in the afternoon made me envy students embarking on the five year combined BA and MA course but also think about how equally easily one can also be simply distracted by possibilities.
The next day there was a lunch for project programme students – there are a lot of us! Many of the others have previously studied at the school and are returning after years of working independently. As I looked around the table I was pleased to see a good range of ages! Purely by chance my ‘supervisor’ sat beside me, by even more chance the person on her other side was her other student! It was good to meet her, especially as she was leaving for the UK that afternoon and would be away for two weeks! (We have now arranged our first proper meeting for the 24th.) This day made me realise that I am there as a professional artist, and not a student – and this might well be a very significant aspect of my learning and development during the year. Perhaps what I need to acquire (refine?) is a more professional approach and attitude to my practice, to be less ‘backward about coming forward’ as they say. I do not mean that I want be develop arrogance or bravado, more that I want to develop my practice into something in which has a more pronounced of cohesion. To somehow develop it’s integrity and place in the world. Why does this sense of being a ‘real’ artist always seem to be just out of reach?
Having said that this elusive sense of being professional (on my own terms) feel more ‘almost within my grasp’ than it has done previously.
There is a line in Wim Wenders’ film on Pina Bausch about having the courage to ‘let the crazy out’. It struck a chord with me, it is perhaps this courage that I seek, that I want to find within me, that will give my practice the core and integrity that it sometimes lacks. I wonder if I need the opposite of ‘blind courage’, and if that need is why I seek knowledge and understanding – not for its external worth but rather for the possibilities that it opens up internally?