The aspect I find most difficult to manage as an artist with a portfolio career is the fluid nature of projects, how there are no hard edges as such and one piece of work has a tendency to bleed over, time wise and impose on another. When you add in a family of six to trail after with all of their work and social lives to co-ordinate, it gets a little messy.
The nature of freelance work also means you rarely ever know what’s round the corner, paid work is either a feast or a famine, and in feast times, there’s still a temptation to hang onto all offers given in case famine lies ahead. Of course the diversity and unpredictability of the work is, at the same time, what makes it so compelling.
And so this is why I found myself in a coffee shop this morning discussing a possible project with a wonderfully innovative opera company who create hugely inspiring events with children with special needs, while I have also been awarded an ACE grant to create a film around the military events that have shaped Salisbury Plains and been selected for Solent University’s AA2A residency – (which will deal with a different body of work entirely). Now I’ve just got to create a box of time for them all, including ongoing work in a school – and I’ll be fine.
Earlier this summer, things were looking a little famine like in the paid work department and I could definitely feel an unspoken pressure to get my act together and start bringing in some income from a more mind numbing, but dependable source. My husband has been really supportive but even I was beginning to question my sanity as the bills were rising. Luckily, the Ace grant has come just in time, and as other small waves of work come in, I feel my practice is once again back on safe ground.
But more of those projects later, what this blog is focusing on is the ongoing effect of the re:view bursary. So far I have worked with two mentors, one of which has advised on a more practical level, the other of which approached me with a really personal interest in my work – both have been invaluable. Some advice was slightly conflicting but where both mentors crossed over on was the advantage of being connected in some way to a university. This fell into place when the AA2A scheme moved closer to home and as such I will now be one of Solent, Southampton University’s artists in residence for the foreseeable future. I am actually hugely excited about this as primarily it will help me experiment with presenting my ideas on a much larger and more complex scale digitally and entirely open up the possibilities in all sorts of media. Not only this, being part of the vibrant atmosphere of university life should inject a much needed boost of enthusiasm which is sometimes hard to maintain as an isolated artist. Another area which Helen Sloan, the latter mentor, has helped me make sense of is how to departmentalise the different areas of my work and recognise that it’s OK to do so. At the time I discussed the potential Ace funded project which will be on a specific theme, quite different from the theme’s I am working on myself and I was concerned about this. Helen made me see really clearly that that commission could happily rest separately from the rest of my work and this shouldn’t create a conflict. She encouraged me then to select one or two main ideas from the other research I was doing and focus in on them, particularly resolving how they would come together in an exhibition space.
None of this was rocket science but sometimes you just need the calming encouragement of another voice to make you see through the fog. This has been a good year for me, not a busy year so far as exhibiting goes, but a good year for me to grow and an instrumental part of that has been re:view. Thank you a-n. A little funding is bearing a lot of fruit I feel.