I have developed a one-to-one session and a workshop for artists, it’s called The Artists Space. The first sessions took place in June in Brighton. I want to write about how this evolved. The workshop or sessions are about taking the time to reflect on your practice and discuss the issues that concern you – with a fellow artist or group of artists. This idea came to me as a synthesis of different threads of ideas that have run through my career as a visual artist and designer.
The first of those threads is my concern with the social and political relevance of practicing art. When I was at art school (1974-6 Fine Art at Leeds) it was very hard to see how what we were doing fitted into the time and place where we lived, it appeared to exist in a vacuum and be separate or even divorced from most peoples reality. This was the hey day of conceptualism and while I found myself caught up in those ideas I also felt myself not quite believing in it, not feeling it was something I could do wholeheartedly.
When I was at Leeds I used to struggle with a profound lack of confidence in the value of making art. In order to make anything at all I had to wait until I had a strong idea and make it quickly before I was overcome with doubt again. I identified myself as an artist from my earliest memories so my time there was pretty difficult and envisaging a career as a sculptor or artist was fraught with contradictions.
It was this complex of feelings and ideas that led me into becoming a community artist. After volunteering briefly at the Deptford Albany I got a job at Paddington Printshop in West London working with campaign groups designing silk screen posters and leaflets. This was my dream job at the time, combining as it did creative work with political and social awareness and working as part of a team.
The other thread came into my life around this time (mid 1980’s) when I joined my first men’s groups. The men’s groups were a response to the fact that so many women were joining feminist women’s groups and gaining support, knowledge and strength from the practice. The men’s groups also put me in contact with psycho-therapy as many of the participants were trying it out as a response to the underlying problems that were coming to light in the men’s groups which clearly did not have simple solutions.
I have supported myself with art/ illustration/ design related jobs for the whole of my career now and a few years ago decided to become more focused on the art aspect of this. It’s worth mentioning here that through my own psycho-therapy sessions my understanding of myself as an artist has changed over time. I am now much more at ease with myself as a creative person and value the opportunities I have to exercise that creativity through my craft skills and ability to think. Organising myself to make more of my living through this skill combination is another matter and an ongoing challenge as I am sure it is for most of us. One of the pieces of advice I got more than once was to curate or get involved in organising shows and artists in some way. This never seemed very practical for me so I have not taken that advice literally as yet.
I have done several years of personal psycho-therapy and psycho-analysis and this has had a profound influence on my thinking both about my life in general and my practice as an artist. Psycho-analysts of all kinds (there are many varieties) work by listening to their clients in a holistic way, that is they listen to what you are consciously talking about and for signs and messages from the unconscious mind too through sub-texts and dreams. This means that they see people as much deeper and complex entities than most of us present to each other in our daily interactions. The unconscious mind includes shadowy and primitive aspects of ourselves that we have learned to screen out most of the time but which influence us frequently but in ways that are hard to see.
It is this perspective which led me to think that I would really like to use my own rich and varied experience of maintaining a career in the visual arts in a constructive way that involves other artists. So I have devised a workshop programme that will give artists the space to review their own paths and compare and contrast their experience with others in the same area of work. The workshop will consist of exercises that open up discussion and ideas about the true diversity of artists practices – we will not be doing psycho-therapy although I do hope that the event will have a therapeutic effect on the participants.
Find out more details about – The Artists Space