It’s good to review what has been happening. End of the year is as good a place as any, and lots of other people are doing the same so I might as well join in!
As I read my diary and look back on the things I’ve done, 2022 seems to have been a year of looking outwards into the world, spreading further, and making plans to go further in 2023. 2021 was a more introspective year I think.
I have continued to show work with the RBSA, and continued conversations with fellow members, and I have had a particular interest in showing up for a small Crit Group I was invited to join.
Drawing Songs drew to a close in January. I started to collect things – particularly twigs – on my daily walks. My intention was to feed the abstract, to ground myself after the internal, cerebral nature of Drawing Songs… to look outward, deliberately. The drawing of the twigs and lichen became an almost obsessive cataloguing.
Alongside this early in the year, I note the completely failed expedition into trying to show and sell work at the RedBrick Market in Birmingham. It failed commercially. I sold nothing, and nothing (in comparison to my fellow artists) was stolen either. A complete waste of money and time and effort. But hey ho. I had a couple of nice outings there with my friend Sarah Bagshaw, and I learned something. This was NOT my audience. That can sometimes be a painful thing to learn but I was actually heartened to discover that I do have an audience for my work and that I have found that with the RBSA… not without its faults, of course, but it is more aligned with how I think of myself perhaps.
I’ve continued writing, rehearsing and performing with The Sitting Room. We are now back to the original trio we started with, and it is a thing of joy. We are working hard on new material nearly all the time, and have a good collaborative relationship. We have just recorded our third EP, called Three or maybe 3… undecided as yet. It’s sounding good. Produced by Michael Clarke, who also did Drawing Songs with me. It will be released soon… final mixing and mastering happening at the moment.
In another period of outward looking, I found myself over the spring and early summer working with Helen Garbett and Bill Laybourne (Workshop24) again on a social art project called Radio Public. Social art is not a thing I usually do. But under the guidance of Bill and Helen I found it rewarding, and stimulating, and again, good to look out at the world around me. I am happy to turn up at anything they put on. Always fun, and also always peppered with interesting and thought provoking conversations with intelligent people who know different things to the things I know… I hope I will be doing more with them in 2023.
I also was selected to show work in the WM Open at New Art Gallery Walsall. This felt like a very special occasion, and it was good to look around the room at other artists I admire and follow, feeling I was among friends and comrades. I have also benefitted hugely from online and email conversations with both Kate Murdoch and Stuart Mayes… thank you both for keeping me going!
This year of venturing out (physically as well as artistically and intellectually) also has seen me become more active in a political sense. I have been a member of the labour party for a few years now, but couldn’t really see how as an artist I could offer anything. This year though I have been painting placards, and encouraging others to do the same. Small steps. I have had a few conversations about my new work too, as for the first time I find myself doing work that sits very firmly in the political sphere.
My work drawing twigs turned into twig wrapping, and then became an exploration into the statistics of child poverty in my area, and after talking to my councillor and the team at local Labour HQ, I have decided these wrapped, cared-for twigs will stand as metaphor for the 33% (ish) of children in my area that live in poverty. Fellow artist and poet Rick Sanders and I , inspired by the Bank Job film made by Dan Edelstyn and Hilary Powell, have decided we will do some social art in our community, in the park where I have collected most of my twigs, and hopefully with one of the local schools too.
Following a conversation with the RBSA, I submitted a proposition, which was accepted, to put on a solo show in May 2023, called Five, Six, Pick Up Sticks. It will be a challenge I think, but one I am definitely up for!
I became a member of RBSA in 2021, and I was the first artist ever to include a sound piece in their candidates’ submission. This still feels like a big deal, and I’m very proud of this. RBSA had an extraordinary general meeting in 2022 to allow photography, and a wider range of media to be accepted, and this motion was overwhelmingly agreed. It feels like the time is right to push gently at boundaries. This is why I feel like I am in the right place. I have been asked to help select the applicants for next year’s Graduate Artists Programme. This is such an honour and privilege and I am thrilled to be part of this movement towards opening up the society to a broader range of art and a broader demographic group of artists too. A gently push to move a 200 yr old rock into the future, so that it has a future!
I was also asked to be a judge for the Frontier Gallery Open exhibition at Exchange Studios in Sheffield this month. It is the first time I have done such a thing, but really great to be part of another art conversation with my fellow judges.
As I read back over this, it does seem a bit like a trumpet blowing exercise, but there are lots of things I failed at too. Two more rejections for small funds, and yet another rejection from the Trinity Buoy Wharf Drawing Prize. It’s not all rosy. I think it is important to state both sides… it can be tough. I am still broke. The ACE money ran out quickly. But I have another application in for funding the solo show, and intend to apply for something for the Pick Up Sticks community work with Rick too.
In amongst all of this, I have had to apply to renew my passport! Debra Eck has asked me to revisit the USA in the spring, and also to ship over a load of work for a mini-retrospective exhibition of my practice over the last ten years. I am so thrilled by this, and look forward to 2023 with huge enthusiasm and excitement! (Hoping my knees stand up to the stresses!)