Even after all these years I still feel that every time I make a piece of work or undertake another project, I learn something new… about myself, about my practice, about the way I make my work.
Now at the end of the Once In A Universe project I’m attempting to address those pithy Arts Council activity report prompts:
– what you achieved, compared with the original aims of the activity
– what you learned, and how the activity has helped you develop
– any longer term impact the activity has had
though I’m not sure that some of the answers are necessarily what they want to hear. Of course I can write about the practical skills I’ve learned, the new partners I’ve made, how I’ve scaled up my work, increased my networks, built my audience…
But what I feel has actually happened is that I’ve finally managed to find some sort of balance between research and making, between content and process. In the past I have struggled to reflect my research in my work, grappling with the question “but how do I make artwork about this?” Now, a happy thing seems to have happened – I’ve come to understand that I can allow the artwork and my instincts to lead the way and my research resources are deep enough and broad enough to be able to draw out content and context that will attach itself seamlessly to new work. In the past it’s been a painful process – trying to conjure up work and wrestling with it until it somehow “fits” the research.
Is this making any sense? I’m sure that many artists probably experience this problem too: the issue of “content”, so stimulating and productive when it naturally evolves, so paralysing when it doesn’t.
So happy days. Could this be a breakthrough for a slow learner?
Below: some images of work made during the Once In A Universe residency, some of which have been waiting to be brought to life for far too long.
Glancing back at my “Day 1” blog post, it was strange to see the beginnings of my plan for the Once In A Universe residency and compare it with this much more developed section of the plan which eventually acted as a record of my progress during 10 working days at DC1.
More than 12 years ago I embarked on my first ever residency, Watch This Space at Phoenix Brighton, working for six weeks in the public gallery spaces with people popping in to see the work as it progressed. It’s always been a productive way of working for me: a fixed amount of time, an empty space, and opportunities for conversation about the work – it all adds up to a stimulating experience. My two week residency at Devonshire Collective has been as productive as expected and with the support of mentors who have advised me throughout the whole project, it has been an opportunity to make a real leap in my practice.
Skills and strategies learned during all of those 12 years and more have re-surfaced in interesting ways during the last two weeks. Old mapping and drawing techniques with sticky tape on the walls and floor are echoes of that residency in the Phoenix galleries.
Other features of previous installations have crept in to this new work too: the merging of wall and floor based works into a single installation, grids and lines which navigate or define the space, light, sound and movement: these are all devices I have used before. They now feel like tools, resources I can draw upon to make new configurations, part of my growing repertoire.
Yesterday photographer Jonathan Bassett came to photograph the work before I took it all down. His precision and painstaking approach was fantastic and his enthusiasm for the work was encouraging. Now I can’t wait to see the photos, and over the next few days and weeks film-maker Anna Winter will be editing the footage she has captured throughout the project to make a series of short films for me. Time to Watch This Space again.