Yesterday over lunch in the little (half) kitchen beside the studio Mireia said something that set me thinking: you work with layers.
As I sat here sewing, as I was driving home last night, as I made dinner, as I washed up after breakfast this morning, and throughout the day I have been thinking about that seemingly simple statement: you work with layers.
Layers is not a word that I would have come up myself but it feels so appropriate. Layers are exactly what I work with – sometimes literally but nearly always conceptually. I like the imagery that comes with the word – bethat layers of clothing, geological layers … even the layers of an onion.
When I make and talk about my work there is layer after layer. Each one having its distinct and separate character. The physical layers might be sequential, the theoretical ones not necessarily. The talking could easily be as much a stripping away of layers as it could be a building up of them.
As I sit here now I am struck by Mireia’s choice of preposition: with. I look up a brief definition of ’with’ – accompanied by. A shiver runs down my spine. This too seems to be so appropriate – the layers, especially those layers of meaning, are things that accompany me. I like the immediacy and proximity of ’with’ … there’s a closeness almsot an intimacy. ’With’ even suggests something collaborative. I have described my practice as a collaboration with materials. There is something both active and open about ’with’.
While I am in this vein – the verb: work. It’s activeness, it’s physicalness, it’s everydayness all appeal to me.
In its entirety Mireia’s short phrase captures the essence of what I do. It is both specific and open for interpretation. For the moment at least it feels as though it is the sentence that I have been longing for – the simple definitive statement that describes what I do without either complication or reduction.
Thank you Mireia!
I work with layers.
Starting to think about the presentation that I have to make next week for a short course (can two half days really be called a ’course’ at all?). I do not know where to start, this morning while washing up after breakfast my mind flitted between different styles of presentation, different starting points, different focuses … as I said I really do not know where to start.
This feels uncomfortably familiar, and I am sure that the intention with the instruction to prepare such a presentation is exactly to wake these feelings in those of us who do not have a clear vision of who we are or what we do.
What is the intention with this presentation? Is it to present ourselves to the course leaders and other artists/participants? Or is it an exercise in how to present oneself to a prospective commissioner – the course is about how to apply for public commissions. Am I over thinking things? Should I have one way of presenting myself no matter the audience?
I am pretty sure that I am over thinking things – that is what I do. And I would really like to change that. Over think and overload … those two have a symbiotic relationship – one leads to the other in a viscous circle. Maybe it is time to empty out things … by which I mean empty my mind and my work. Empty out all the thoughts and ideas – all those ’learned’ things. If I empty my work then the audience has the opportunity … the invitation … to if not entirely fill it then to at least contribute to the filling of it.
Do I have the courage to do ’what feels right’? I think that the overloading has to do with justifying and accounting … explaining … piling things on to and in to artworks that should stand on their own. And if they don’t stand on their own then something is not right with the artwork rather than not being right with the account, or the justification, or the explanation. An artwork should work as art and not as an illustration of ideas.
Perhaps in my desperation I overload things in the vain hope that the more things that there are the greater the chance that one of them appeals to someone … trying to be all things to all people. What this seems to result in however are very overloaded works and a fractured self.
Despite being quick to reassure other people that things are far more complex than simply being right or wrong I find myself worrying that I will do the wrong kind of presentation. That said I shall re-read the mail about the presentation, and then I shall trust my intuition and make the presentation that I want to make. One that hopefully is not so overloaded that it stifles and suffocates the audience, rather one that excites and intrigues them.
Let the crazy out and let the light in!