I work in the De La Warr Pavilion galleries as an invigilator and during my shifts I have time to reflect on the work around me and naturally I drift into how it influences my own work. This is valuable time for turning over ideas.
Reading about George Shaw this week I recognised a similar thread in his influence, that of transformation, he talks about the mythology of Diana and Actaeon in Titian’s painting, ‘the death of Actaeon’ about the transformation from hunter to hunted, man to animal, clothed to naked, flesh to meat, life to death. Actaeon passes from not knowing to knowing and when that boundary is crossed he reflects, it is never possible to reverse. I was thinking about my own work and that I like trying to make the unseen seen, or the invisible visible.
By telling a story of mythical characters the writer is able to explore ideas and behaviours that may or may not occur, some writers talk about characters taking on their own parts and the narrative writing itself. I like to think that I bring together a combination of characters within a given context which will create their own dialogue and expose the central idea by their association.
So for me ‘line’ becomes the narrative, materials become the character and the context is the location and the external influences.
The implication in Ovid’s story of Actaeon and Diana is that Actaeon passes into something that is sacred. I wonder what changes when we ‘know’ something.
I started making a giant maquette onsite this week and it was traumatic. I started with a plan that went so far, but then my gradual acquired knowledge of the material, in this case oak strips 4mm x 60mm x 3m revealed they were problematic to handle to say the least. Having transferred already from chestnut to oak due to availability and similar material properties I found that my hopeful innocence was destroyed and the real life fact of how difficult it is to use a material at its physical limits kicked in. I became frustrated and despondent, casting about for ways to escape. I could change materials completely to man made, I really want to use metal and rubber or plastic. Or I could keep going and blindly force myself through my own transformation, from knowledge of impossibility to achieve the impossible.
I think in the end I did and I am mightily pleased!
Petulant, blind, deaf and mute to how I could make this giant collapsing structure stable on my own with only some very heavy clamps, a ball of string and some terrible knot tying. I found that unsurprisingly perseverance eventually paid off, with some adjustments. I used all the material on one structure (I was planning to make 3!) I was exhausted physically and mentally. But the reward was great, I felt euphoric and saw how the work could be even better and further reaching than I had first envisaged.
I had to make the transition from not knowing how the reality would play out to discovery of the truth and then adaptation. Of course this is the great cycle of process in making work, I travel from an unconscious state of possibility (faith) to a consciousness of my own limitations (disbelief) to the creation of my work (belief, through witness).
The most rewarding gift is someone outside of this process coming along and seeing the unseen, making those connections and extending the narrative. That for me is the revolution and the resonance, the transformation into a new state.