The process of making work as part of the ‘The Shape of Things’ programme, including The Gifts, a textile installation for Bristol Museum and Art Gallery, and new work for a group show at Flow Gallery, London.
I’m breathing new life into this blog as I have been making a body of new work for the shape of things group show at the Flow Gallery in September (Sept 10th – Nov 6th) and I realise that a lot has come out of making The Gifts that is having an impact. These smaller works, that are helping me define my visual language of textile sculpture-come-poetic object , are a real joy to work on and I am so relieved at the headspace they give me and the opportunity to work very intuitively over a number of hours in a kind of dialogue with objects I find. The starting point is normally a poem that suggests wrapping an object or an object that calls to mind a poem. The poems are always either from Rumi or Hafiz, so far..and I use extracts and bind them around on bias binding, like a three dimensional ode.
I’m working/blogging in parallel on an installation commission for The National Portrait Gallery , part of which will be based on The Gifts (1-99). I’ve developed it into a three part work to correspond to the three groups being portrayed, and using objects not just from the past but from the present and future. I am loving the balance between work on a large scale, public work which has involved intense encounters with others -and this slower, more intimate encounter with myself through object, text and material. I’m posting some images here to show what I am creating, some of which will be part of the Flow show.
It’s been a long time since i made work for sale in this way and the pricing is something i have to feel my way into..I am curious to see if it has commercial appeal but mainly i am revelling in making the work and how grounding it feels to do it and how it brings up other ideas for a next piece, like following a trail further and further into a forest of treasures..
I also have some interest in The Gifts being shown again next year, which, if it becomes a concrete possibility, i will write about next month. This is on my big wish list, along with it being purchased into a public /private collection so that it is cared for, and I believe it can happen. When it does, I will have crossed a bridge and a whole new vista will emerge of what’s possible with this work , in terms of its legacy and wider impact beyond the timeframe of engagement and initial display.
Taking down ‘The Gifts’ the other week was disoncertingly swift and easy (granted there were six of us..Benoit thankfully returned and the apprentices were on board, very focused).
After the long haul of making the work and the labour intensive process of hanging it all, it felt like, a few snips and it’s all over. Which is probably healthy, but there was an air of melancholy leading up to it, mainly in Julia and me, the principle midwives of this particular creation..
When work disappears like that, when it’s initial life is over, it really does feel like it was a dream..
It’s all in boxes in my studio now and i am trying to rest for a while, focus on slower time at home, recharging until the next project begins. I still have photos to edit for my website update, film footage to look at and lots of information to add into the installation notes that accompany the work for the next time it goes up, whenever that may be. I am also considering what kind of work i want to make for the Flow Gallery show – smaller wrapped pieces, i have some ideas and Yvonna who runs the gallery came to the show so we are in dialogue. I am sure I had more to say than this and am going to write up an evaluation of some kind on how it all went..
I have another project starting next month which will most probably breed another blog. I have found this such a crucial space both for documenting the process of the work and getting focused on what’s at the centre of what i am doing and also what needs to follow.
I had one last echo of my mother after the show came down. I have made friends with Shafan, the Iranian staff member who has been working in the gallery a lot during the show (often by request). She and her husband are the only Iranians in Bristol from the same part of Iran as my mother (they speak the Turkish dialect she used to speak). She invited me to have dinner and stay at her house on Monday. i was exhausted but it was such a tender invitation and so well timed. As i ate her delicious food and listened to farsi on the tv and talked with her, I sensed my mother vicariously taking delight in this creative episode of my life which brought me so much and which will take quite a long time to unravel..
I had a rather bad accident the other day and burned the inside length of my left arm. I have been on painkillers and in need of rest so been looking for quiet inspiration and also reflecting on this project as it approaches its final week…
I was thinking of Janine Antoni, an American artist who I met in 2006 – myself and 11 other artists did a one week performance lab with her and Melissa Martin called Lore + Other Convergences at LADA/INIVA in London.
It was an intense learning experience which brought up a lot around collaboration, object-related perfomance and process as product.. I remember Janine was very encouraging of the idea of The Gifts, which I had already shown the seed of with a piece I did for Limbo Arts in 2004 as part of a group show called ‘Abandon’ and it was her that pointed me to the ‘Power and Taboo’ show at the British Museum at that time, where i discovered the wrapping rituals of the Pacific Islands divinity culture that helped develop my thinking around this project.
Discovering Antoni’s work at that time was quite a revelation to me (I was new to the live arts scene and had not heard of her, much to the other artist’s surprise…) as there were many common points in what she had been doing with great renown and success) and the path i was only beginning. she also seemed to have a lot of integrity around her approach to the commercial side of the artworld and some solid ideas about how to navigate it while retaining her strength and freedom to make the work that interested her.
I found this interview with her again called ‘Framing Sculpture’ which I really like and which I wanted to share here, especially ideas around relationship to the object and the role of the viewer…
If you don’t know her work she is really worth a look and has a lot of gently thought provoking things to say. And it always feels good to acknowledge one’s influences and inspirations…
Aside from this, as if in response to my earlier thoughts around the targeted exposure of our work to curators, Shape and the museum have organized a Curator’s Day on Tuesday. I am using it to hone down how i present the essentials of my practice (since the presentation will be brief) and also to prepare thoughts for myself around where my practice might go next as I feel a crossroads approaching – more on this later…
It’s funny how old things can feel once they are done. The Gifts is still on for another three weeks, is still being seen anew by thousands of people every week, and yet for me, four hours away, it feels like a runaway member of my family – they’re coming home soon, what do I do with them?
Who knows whether my dream of finally getting my work collected and properly looked after will come to pass, that’s out of my control, but what I am realising is that once the gig’s over, if you don’t have someone representing your interests for you, it’s still a one woman show most of the time.
I am incredibly fortunate that I already have other projects on the horizon, but this is a new situation to deal with – making works that are no longer very temporary (textile sculptures are fragile but reasonably straightforward to conserve and re-hang) and that I don’t really want to hold onto, mainly because this was a project about releasing old energies embodied in objects. The feng shui of holding onto them doesn’t really add up.
So, my main desire is that the project gets properly disseminated to those who might have a hand in extending the installation’s life nationally and internationally. I am lucky that the shape of things have this on their agenda to some degree – our show at the Flow gallery in September will help, having the catalogue done is brilliant and the circulation of the project to their own networks will certainly help – not to mention the huge audiences that have seen the work at the museum. But, as an individual artist, I still feel that there is a big leap to be made into the world of galleries and collectors who might provide another income stream as well as another way of disseminating my work to places I do not yet have access to. And reasons to be able to spend more time in my studio making smaller work and getting quiet headspace.
It’s a question of guaranteeing longevity – if the work doesn’t get seen again in different context then its just a photo in a catalogue, an image in the head. Maybe I am just impatient and/or spoilt, I am always looking one step ahead to what has not yet happened, willing it to be so and not always allowing adequate time to appreciate what I have achieved. I also am already missing the close working relationship with Julia, our curator at Bristol Museum ,which was very enriching and supportive –I want one of her all the time!.
Re the next step with this particular project, I do keep thinking about what Rosa said just a few weeks after we had gotten the show up, ‘That was that, what now?’