When I first started out on the pursuance of some sort of art practice, I laboured under a bunch of misapprehensions, misunderstandings, and misconceptions about what me as an artist should look like. For a very short time at the beginning, I thought I should paint. I denied my quilts’ existence. That was never going to work. I learned, through the process of the Artist Teacher Scheme (which I now find myself temporarily leading) and subsequently the MA in Art Practice and Education at Birmingham City University… in that glorious Victorian School of Art on Margaret St… that the shape of me as an artist was not ever going to be like anyone else. I learned about other artists and saw that the work that I loved was the work that came directly from the person. Raw, honest, real life. So I began a tentative process of trying to find out what I was. That is vaguely when this blog started just over four years ago. It seems like only yesterday, and yet feels like a lifetime away. I feel those first entries were written by a different me… I was a different shape then… the place I held in the world was different.
I feel more me now than I ever have I think… scales have fallen away. I know myself better, and I certainly like myself better. I know what I want now and how to make sure I get it. Confidence is an over used word perhaps… and this feels more like conviction than confidence. I have the confidence to demand what I want in terms of my work and my life, because I have that conviction that it is right for me, and for my work.
I have no illusions that my work will suddenly make it big, that I will become some sort of Big Art Cheese. But I know that the work I do now comes from my heart, comes from some of the raw parts. Some of the prettiest embroidery and the sweetest songs have come from the most raw. And yet I cannot leave it raw and exposed. The process of making it a different shape is like therapy. The process makes it easier (for me)to understand. To leave it raw and unchecked to me seems pointless. That might be the shape of another artist, but it isn’t the shape of me. I am a middle class, middle aged, white woman in the middle of England. Some of my recent work is about reputation, appearance, hiding the self – the bras being a case in point. It is who I am. But my processes are aware now. I experiment with how much to reveal. Some of the text I have written is partially obscured, can’t bear to expose all at once. Some confessions are couched in metaphor, or in the voice of another. I mix everything up with stories from other women… in a bid to disguise which bits are me.
Knowing the shape of me on the inside somehow makes me fonder of the shape of me on the outside. I’ve forgiven myself. I’m fifty four, wrinkly, fat, hairy in all the wrong places, bits of me don’t work properly. I wear clothes I like. My hair really is, often like a bird’s nest. But I quite like it.
But getting to know what’s happening on the inside of me, projects a different shape. I swear quite a lot, and sometimes I see people wince. Sometimes I apologise, sometimes I don’t. Sometimes I am quite reserved. Antisocial. Sometimes I am way too much. My influences are all over the place… music… poetry… art… second hand shops… food… family.. friends… talking to people… not talking to people…
But this is all part of the artist I explore, and get to know better every day. The better I know the shape of me, the better my work feels.
When I am talking to students, or emerging artists, I look for the bit that’s really them. It might be obvious, or it might be the bit they are most reluctant to talk about, but that’s where the juice is.
I love art that is about life, not about the intellectual philosophical theories of art… if anyone sees that in my work, it’s their problem not mine. I’m not that shape.