The summer show…What an experience that was! I have to say the past two weeks have been an incredible rollercoaster of emotions- it’s a cliche I know, but so true. Leading up to the show you’re going a hundred miles per hour to get it all looking it’s best and also getting prepared for assessments. And then theres the constant repetitive talking about the work that’s in the show- this affected me in a way I had not expected. I had been prepared for having to attempt to keep my energy up and seem as excited when talking about my ideas on the final day as I was on the opening night; but what I hadn’t prepared myself for was how it would affect the connection to the work in progress- not the work in the exhibition.
Throughout the degree we have been told to let go of the idea of a ‘final piece’. To see ideas as not necessarily answers to questions, but development into a better question. Our fantastic course leader, Allison Neal, (who is leaving this summer also) summed it up perfectly when discussing this recently. She said that she would assume that our artistic research, and the constant chasing of a better question to ask, would end on your death bed when at your final moments you would lay there with the most beautiful, perfect question imaginable in mind! I love the idea this, because it is an ever-evolving, never standing still progression. There is no discovery of what box I fit in / what type of artist I am indefinitely. Everything I say about myself as an artist is ‘at the moment’. There is a real freedom in this. Anyway, how this relates to the show is that to spend the week summing up my practise and talking about final pieces has meant that for a whole week I have been doing the exact opposite to what my degree has taught me to do. As much as I tried to remain true to my desire to keep my feet firmly out of any box- I realise that a lot of the public wants to know what box you are from; maybe so that they can try to understand and contextualise you. There also seems to be a real celebration of a final piece, and that many people from outside seem to see research as a thing of lesser value than the final piece. I think this subtlety is what can often get lost in translation when discussing work with people who are not necessarily directly working / used to the art world. My practise is research based. And so ‘end product’ tends to be a snapshot/ a pause. I think this is the same for any artist really. As a result of a week of talking end results and boxes I have become detached from the concepts I was exploring leading up to the summer show. Yesterday was clearing out day, and whilst it was extremely saddening to say goodbye to the studio that has been my nest, it was great to be reunited with my journals. I have decided that reading through them will be the best way to reconnect.
So, with regards to the ‘what next?’ question, I suppose keeping going and maintaining my artistic practise is my key concern / priority. Sounds obvious and straightforward, but as a mum it is not as easy as it seems!! I am hoping to sort a studio space, which will help immensely, and also to maintain contact with other students to continue those valuable crits that i will definitely miss! I have been offered a place to do a MFA at Cardiff School of Art and Design, which I am thrilled about. I so want to go to Cardiff to widen my Network and to embrace the fresh challenge of working around people who are not familiar with my work. I think that will challenge me in a productive way. The main challenge I face is securing funding for the fees and working out how I will fund travelling from Hay-on-Wye to Cardiff! If there’s anything creative people are good at it’s problem solving, and so I am hoping that I will find a way. If there’s anyone out there with some advice it really would be much appreciated.
My blog has been quiet of late….life has been pretty hectic getting exhibition space prepped and ready to throw open the doors of college to the public. The exhibition space looked fantastic! I know I am biased (!) but I genuinely felt that we did a fantastic job of putting together a really interesting and diverse show.
We finally opened the doors for the private view yesterday- and what an experience it was!! We had a fantastic turnout and there was plenty of engaging conversation to be had. It was quite surreal to finally offer these works, that have been developing in the safe environment of the college studios, up to the eyes of the public. Though surreal- it was also refreshing. To really engage again with these ideas we’ve explored in conversation and to hear other perspectives.
I have to admit that for me, due to the nature of my work, I found this experience initially nerve-wracking. There is a strange sense of ‘coming out’. A declaration of my identity as an artist after three years of exploration. It was also incredibly liberating. I felt proud of my work, and the achievement of surviving my degree as a mother of four!!
To top it off I was thrilled to learn that I had not only been nominated by my tutors for student of the year and also commendation for critical writing, but that I had also won the Meadow Arts Prize. What a night?!
So, I look forward to the next week of stewarding at the summer show which ends on 20th June, (feel free to swing by and say hi if you happen to be in the area!) and using this opportunity to learn as much as I can through conversations with visitors. I will also use the quiet periods to take the time to let it all soak in and contemplate next steps. The plan of action…..where next?!
These past few weeks have been a real rollercoaster. Excuse the cliché but it is the most accurate way to describe recent life. Life has thrown challenges at me at what feels like the worst possible time to feel challenged- but isn’t that always the way?! Having to care for my dad through the recovery from a huge operation whilst approaching the end of my degree has forced me to be incredibly organised and focussed. Every cloud as they say! But in all seriousness knowing that my time was becoming increasingly precious due to the situation with my dad and also having a family to look after meant that I have streamlined my thinking, prioritised my workload whilst still managing to find time to maintain an experimental attitude to my work. It really is such a strange experience to maintain a playful approach to my work whilst knowing that it will be on show soon in the summer show.
I have had three of my large prints mounted onto aluminium dibond and I am thrilled with the final result. I really do feel that the scale amplifies the work, and this method of mounting gives the work a crisp clean look. Having these images ready to hang has given me the confidence to really experiment and explore without fear of ‘what if it all goes wrong???’ Don’t get me wrong- the idea of presenting these images is still very nerve wracking. I suppose I am used to showing people a work in progress, so it is non-commital and therefore the fear of being judged is less of an issue- A work in progress can change. But then again, thinking about it- is any final piece truly final? Or…. is it just an extended pause, a chosen snapshot illustrating the point in my research and exploration so far? Should there be fear? Fear no, but nerves yes. Nerves because it means that you are not complacent about your work. You are still questioning, still examining- staying critical!Having these ‘finished’ works has meant that I am able to continue to progress my ideas and my line of thought which is crucial, in my opinion, in trying to avoid any sort of block / crash after my degree.
I feel like getting the hand stitched images to a ‘final’ mounted ready to hang stage has allowed me to feel a sense of closure with them. I had sort of felt like I was ready to move on, to leave that part of my work behind but wasn’t able to articulate why. Maybe because I didn’t actually know. I feel that if I were to continue to do that work I would be holding myself back, trying to replicate the successes from before. What would be the point in that? I feel that these images have lead to further enquiries which if I were to carry on stitching I would be ignoring the path that I have discovered through this exploration. So, I am allowing myself to no longer stitch, but it has not been fully left behind. I am planning to still make use of collected material from this work- the film footage primarily. I intend on taking snapshots and exploring them in the way I previously touched on, (taking a series of snapshots and displaying as multiples, playing with the way we ‘read’ imagery / film and exploring this as a tool for manipulating / opening up time). I like what this way of laying out and collecting imagery achieved:
- I liked the way your eye reads a narrative from left to right, but by doing this the imagery is not chronological as expected.
- By having the imagery run vertical there is a reference to film, which then references a passing of time. The manipulation of time, the snapshot is after all a frozen moment of time, captured, preserved and re-presented.
- The snapshot- by the nature of being selected is elevated. Why is this moment in time ‘special’ enough to raise up and display?
- By freezing the frame the eye is able to see more, read more, notice more of that moment.
I am also in the process of creating a film using footage collected whilst stitching my hand. I am hoping to integrate some footage I have also collected of people handling hair. I have realised through reflection how sensorial qualities are of importance to me in my work. I like the ability to perceive how something feels purely just by looking at it. To me it is this that allows the viewer to connect to the work. I have been very aware of the effects hair has had on the people around me when I am working. I have realised how something as subtle as the hair being touched is an interesting way of exploring the concept of sensorial experiences of the body. Hair is a tactile thing. People play with their hair for many reasons: flirtation, comfort, nerves… But that is with their own hair. When hair is no longer attached to the body it becomes something else. Maybe a metaphor for death? Mortality? Either way, I have realised that people perceive it to be unsettling. Just by having human hair extensions lying on my desk, watching people’s reactions to it fascinates me. There is a curiosity, (is it real? who’s was it?) and also a repulsion. That contrast between fascination and disgust- That is a space which intrigues and fascinates me. I find it interesting to see the hands removed from their bodies via the frame of the film. To see hands removed from their context ‘playing’ with the hair- lots of interesting things arise from this observation. You are able to ascertain gender, rough age estimates etc by studying the hands- and these aspects all feed the work with certain meanings. Certain hand movements can look very seductive, sexual, controlling etc…. I am enjoying exploring this. To me the symbols and meanings we attach to certain materials is an extension to the material which is exciting to explore and use.
As it stands I have plenty of work to be getting on with, and this gives me peace of mind. At this moment in time I can’t imagine my work being finished- therefore as long as I have curiosity and unanswered questions- I will have a creative practise…
As mentioned in my previous post I have recently been exploring scale. Over the past week or so I managed to get some images printed at A0. I was trilled with the outcome for several reasons.
Firstly, (I feel slightly embarrassed admitting this) there was a real sense of achievement. I have never been taught photography, Photoshop / Lightroom- Over the past three years I have developed these skills through my own enquiry; reading lots of books, watching lots of online tutorials, etc. I have not previously experimented with printing macro shots large, so for me to be able to take a macro photograph under difficult conditions, (i.e.:One handed- one hand was completely stitched up!) and for that image to have captured enough detail to be able to be scaled up to A0 without losing any of that detail- for me this was a huge moment! Trivial as it may seem- for me it meant that I had developed my skills which was a huge boost to my self confidence. As a student there is a constant battle with self confidence. You spend so much time trying to build it up, then you find it, then you question / doubt it and sometimes you may even lose it (or is that just me?!) So for me to feel that sense of achievement after lots of ‘failures’ was great!!!
I think the enlargement is successful for several reasons. That immersive quality I have been searching for is there. Where it is there in it’s entirety so that I feel completely content is questionable- but it is definitely there. Secondly there is a transformative quality that I hadn’t really expected. Visually the image has an architectural / monumental quality- particularly when the fingers point up. There is also a sense of the familiar also being unfamiliar. The recognisable body seeming alien due to it’s scale. For me it has been fascinating to listen to the conversations that now take place around the enlarged works. They seem so much more engaged with the works. I had got used to people seeing the smaller images hung up in the studio and reacting with disgust or unease. The large images provoke a different reaction. People seem to engage with the formal qualities. They are able to look without disgust informing their opinion. Some have even compared the stitches to text! I am concerned that the image could become decorative. I want to find the balance between the ability to look without presumption, but also sensing that unease- mainly because of the source of the original concept. The idea of an adult acting out those repressed behaviours of exploring the body as a child without consideration for consequence- to me this is fascinating- but the juxtaposition is uneasy in it’s nature. I don’t want to lose that.
Going back to people finding it easier to engage with the large images- this surprised me. I had expected the larger images to be more ‘in your face’ and maybe more jarring. This presumption lead to a realisation on my part with regards to my creative process. I realise that due to the conceptual element of my process, I often overthink an idea and kill it before it has even been explored. I occasionally think it to the end though presumptions of how the outcome will be. I suspect this type of thinking is what has lead me previously to the dreaded BLOCK that us creative types live in fear of! Admittedly the blocks I have had so far have been nothing that a five minute tutorial haven’t sorted. But…I am aware that I will soon be out of HCA and will need to work through these situations myself. Surely this realisation will help? By recognising what may be a limiting thought I can attempt to stop it in it’s tracks. I need to remember my tutors advice that we only ever need a first step. By only ever having a first step we do not run the risk of limiting our outcomes. We are able to work freely. It is the surprises and mistakes that often uncover hidden treasures that we would have missed had we followed the set format in our minds. Thank you Alli for that nugget of wisdom- I will try to remember it and take it with me when I leave HCA!
Test Strip for A0