There’s a lovely high white corridor wall just outside our studio, and Sarah suggested I put some work up.
To be frank, I could do with selling something. Not just for the money, but also as I am drowning in work, and rapidly running out of storage space. We had a discussion about what was the purpose of me putting things on the wall, as some sort of post-post-graduate show, or to sell? The two aren’t mutually exclusive of course, but if I’m doing the former, it becomes more difficult to hang older work, and justify its place. However, as I am doing the latter, I need to find a way of showing mixed work, without being such an arse about it.
So, I gather together a load of stuff from under the spare bed and out of the loft. Now we’re not talking ancient monuments here, we are possibly talking about the last three or four years. I group it all on the studio floor in “bodies”… This is one body of work, for the joint show “One” (with Bo Jones)… This is from “Are You Listening?”… This was from this, that was from that… And I was getting twitchy and dissatisfied. But this is why you need someone around you who will challenge that. Why can’t this shirt go with that drawing? Why can’t that stitched piece go with that one? Sarah started shuffling the work around the floor, unfettered by my work chronology, she could see connections that I hadn’t, because basically it hadn’t occurred to me. Of course I know that my work has common themes, but my grouping of items uses a very particular set of personal criteria. Because Sarah doesn’t have that list, she was much freer. I started to see things differently, and weirdly I started to like things again. Work that I was ready to dismiss, and put on the reject pile, suddenly came to life when put next to a newer piece. Miraculous! The layered bra drawings started to relate to the altered children’s clothes… Moth eaten vintage patchwork related to the mending of a child’s dress I completed a couple of weeks ago.
Having regrouped and reassessed, and fallen back in love with some of the old work, I set about reframing, or in some cases, just taking out of a frame, ironing, re-mounting, and tidying up, polishing glass etc. I attached new mirror plates, touched up white paint here and there, and now they are ready to hang. Now it isn’t rocket science is it?… but the act of refreshing the work in frames, and the two garments I have chosen to accompany them, has made me respect my old work more. It has made me see that these pieces are still relevant, still worthy of regard and discussion in a new setting.
The new setting is an excuse to get the work out, show people what I’m about, and actually, showing not just the new stuff, but the slightly older work alongside it, show people who don’t know me what I’m doing, how I think. As I look at these little piles of almost curated works, I find I’m quite pleased with how it all hangs together as a new body…
This was helped I think in part, by the buzzing around in my hind-brain of the Eva Rothschild exhibition currently on at The New Art Gallery Walsall. She choreographs the work, putting new with older work, in new combinations… Fresh views… New relationships…
I must really remember to look at my practice and the work it produces, as a whole thing, not just a series of series… The connections are clear once I open my eyes!