Tuesday, 17 November 2009
I have usually found a sense of pride in choosing art rather than needing art. Am I being a little ignorant (and indeed arrogant)? Are the only people who are likely to persevere and wrestle with being an artist those who need to make art work for them?
I’ve been thinking a lot about what to do next – every artist’s million dollar question, or perhaps just mine.
I have never been one of those people who ‘always knew’ I was ‘meant’ to be an artist. Before I wanted to be an artist, I wanted to be an art therapist. That (and because I enjoyed art at school) is why I went off to gain a BA in fine art.
I credit the fine art course at Lancaster University with me wanting to be an artist now.
Now I really want to be an artist but realise also that I have be realistic about what that looks like. As far as I’m aware, even practitioners whom I would deem successful rarely earn their sole living from their making.
The big question is whether to pursue a safety net or not.
I have been wondering whether now is a good chance to start working part time towards qualifying as an art therapist (it would, after all, take three years part time). I have the means (just) to fund it without taking out a loan and I’m in a great geographical location to do it. Assuming I worked hard enough and remained convicted enough (big assumptions) I could theoretically continue with my practice in part (small parts, I think, because I’d still be earning my keep part time).
Enough waffle – in short, I think I could just about start training and still keep making a little bit along the way. Then, in the long term, a part time ‘career job’ could go a long way facilitating my art making as well as offering me some much needed structure and stimuli and contact with people.
However if art isn’t the only thing I can do, like it apparently was for Emin, will I ever be one of the surviving practitioners who wrestles, confronts and endures the rocky road of being an artist? Already when I hit the inevitable low that follows each roller coaster high I scout legitimate time-passers that allow me to avoid confronting the dips.
If I had a part time ‘career-job’ would I have too many legitimate escape routes from my studio and would I ever push on through to becoming an ‘successful’ artist?
Does anyone have any experience/input/words of wisdom to offer to input…?
Wednesday, 4 November 2009
Last year The Cushion served me well. First year post BA in fine art there is a LOT to learn – thrust into the ‘art world’, hugely in isolation, for the first time with no institution reassuringly backing me – luckily the expectations are graciously low.
In fact, after meeting Matt Roberts (a hero) briefly last year, one of my key objectives for the year became to realign my expectations, prepare myself for the long haul, not expect instant success and even begin redefining how I perceive success.
But the cushion is rapidly thinning and I’m ‘catching the fear’ so to speak. I’ve already had half of my time in the residency – HELP! – and it’s hard to quantify what I’ve achieved. I’ve developed lots of new work, yes, but have no quality marker for it and I’ve not got it ‘out there’ yet.
I struggle with Big-fish-in-little-Pond v. Tiny-little-fish-in-BIG-old-pond syndrome. The former is far more comfortable. I am the latter. In fact the pond couldn’t BE any bigger and I couldn’t feel any smaller in it.
To make matters worse, I’m hopeless with balance.
I used to resent that I wasn’t laid back (I like laid back people, probably because I’m not one of them) but now I’m learning to be grateful for my drive and motivation. At least it keeps me working. But the down side of being driven (and competitive) and not being good with balance is that sometimes I get to be obsessive. My GCSE and A-level years were spent slogging at my work to prove myself academically and it came at a cost.
So now I’m afraid of ‘over-committing’ my time. I’m so frustrated with myself. The residency is really generous with time and I’m sure there’s so much more I could do with it.
I remind myself of a Bible story – a worker trusted with money but so afraid of loosing is he buried it instead of investing it; taking a risk, allowing it to multiply. Don’t get me wrong, I do work hard – but I’m missing the boat somewhere. I need to be getting OUT more, more private views, applying for internships, risking rejections with competitions etc. more, more, MORE! I need to do more. I need to take risks.
Makes me think of a poem, I think by William Arthur Ward, called Risk. Here are some lines from it:
"To laugh is to risk appearing a fool,
To weep is to risk appearing sentimental….
To place your ideas and dreams before a crowd is to risk their loss….
To live is to risk dying,
To hope is to risk despair,
To try is to risk failure.
But risks must be taken because the greatest hazard in life is to risk nothing.
The person who risks nothing, does nothing, has nothing, is nothing.
Also, I’m afraid of getting lost and feeling lonely in the BIG POND.
Tuesday, 3 November 2009
A group of year 10 girls have just spent the best part of an hour in my studio. It’s fun to see how they connect with my ideas and watch them process what it looks like to be an artist.
Art in the ‘real world’ is so different from art at school. I’m glad to be millions of miles away from the performance of GCSE and A-Level art where I felt pressure for every page in my sketchbook to look picture perfect. I’m proud of my ‘sketchbooks’ now, scraps of found papers all bound together in various ways. They document important moments where I find myself in a different world and I just want to ‘draw’ – not draw pictures, but draw ideas.
Here is a photo of my most recent drawing:
The idea developed over 4 pages of scribbles following my 30 Seconds of Idea in Room3 (ref last blog entry) and I’m quite excited about it.
I’m hoping to exhibit in Peckham in February and am keen to develop my project in a direction that not only reflects an autobiographic interest and exploration into the notions of Home but possibly gives voice to some other people’s experience of home. I found that last sentence hard to spit out, it feels arrogant to assume that I’ll be able to ‘give voice’ to anyone or that I’m in a position to do so – but for now, perhaps we can assume that I will end up in a position to do so (before February), if I’m not yet.
So what I’d really like to do it make work that responds to what Home means when Home is living in one part of one of the local estates in Peckham. I’ve invited the kids at RMS to input into my ideas and one of them suggested theatrical readings of dramatic stories about home on the estates – but I know for certain that I do not want a performance. I want something really authentic and am trying to develop my ideas in a way that don’t assume a certain response to what Home may look like. Maybe the tone will end up more ‘I’m proud of my home’ than ‘gosh, home is a really hard reality.’
At the moment I’m thinking the boxes will be green...
…That's because of the history of where my project has come from.
Anyways, gotta run – once again trying to juggle time. Struggling with working for myself and other people legitimizing me not wanting to be flexible with time spent working for myself. Also, I’m trying to function with the discipline of 500 word posts! 498 today. (+ a few because I added a paragraph of waffle with image.oops)
Wednesday, 28 October 2009
Suffice to say, three days into half term, &my bubble is fairly well deflated. It’s been an anti-climax week, characterised by lack of motivation, two many sittings of This Morning &Loose Women &a battle with the value of my practice. I feel crippled by the lonely weight of working for &by myself.
As much as I find the technician jobs at the school under-stimulating I take for granted that they offer me time in the real world, adding a touch of structure to my life. This week has been lonely &I’ve found myself escaping into London just to have people around me.
Yesterday I went to see the Pop Life exhibition at Tate Modern. I knew I wouldn’t like it, but I’m glad I went; it’s quite a significant exhibition. Today I went to see the Turner Prize exhibition.
While I was in room3 I was struck with an idea for my own practice. I don't know where it came from. I can’t draw any connection what-so-ever between what I was looking at &the idea that came to me. But I think it could be an interesting development for my project &when it hit me I drew a deep breath before my sigh of relief. The tube journey into London today was spent fighting back tears because I felt so deflated but the 30 seconds of Idea came like food for my Making-Soul.
Perhaps tomorrow will be a good day, a day I can spend making in the studio. Then again, I thought that about this entire week.
If not … there’s always Loose Women. It is the holidays after all. Also I have a trip to New York that I can start booking and planning.
Tuesday, 20 October 2009
Box, painted green with windows cut out - but 'subverted' -- out of their original place, also possibly original scale.
Attempting to work pattern based on shapes and textures from wall surfaces onto the box, with shadows overlayed -- WAY too busy, totally unsuccesful.
So I tried one side of the box with no 'pattern', just shadows. Before I applied the lines of shadows, I covered the surface of the box with text - an account of someone's experiences of the war in Ambon. It's better than the above image, certainly, though that isn't saying much.
Right, must dash. SO much more to update -- ideas, experiences, thoughts re living life as an artist. BUT, I'm working on my time management, I've spent three hours today on my practice and I'm meant to be meeting someone in two minutes for a coffee.
over and out.
ps - here are some images from my design ideas for the previous work i've been posting up on this blog. I often think the outworkings of ideas are as interesting as any finished piece. you may disagree:
(I'm having an editing problem on blogger - I want the two images to be viewed panaramically (?) ... so they sit next to each other. Imagine them like that.)
Monday, 12 October 2009
Nevertheless, today I squeezed in 4.5 hours and now I'm running late with lots to do. Here is a photo update from the days work:
more to come...
Thursday, 24 September 2009
I've also spent much of this afternoon pursuing a vacant shop window in rickmansworth town centre to exhibit in. Whether it comes to frutition, it feels positive to be proactive. I'm keeping my fingers crossed as I post off my email.
Today Tom (head of art) honoured me in front of his year 13 class, letting them know how many applicants I fought off for my position here. His intention was to keep their feet on the ground about being an artist, but I drew encouragement from it and felt really humbled as I was reminded how blessed I am to have been chosen. Seeing how things have opened up in art making so far gives me hope for the future....
Tuesday, 22 September 2009
Not only walls, but also 'the domestic' - walls, windows, doors -- components of home.
I'm increasing interested in fragmenting and isolating the shapes (and possibly textures) I find on the wall surfaces and reducing them into very basic shapes. Outlining the shape of a wall, the windows - changing the windows proportion in relation to the size of the wall, re situating the windows as shapes in different places on a page. I'm trying to say with words what pictures might demonstrate far more effectively.
I love the linedrawings and mark making but haven't been very sure how to develop them. I tried a few things quite unsucessfuly, but then I began to combine them with the ideas I started to develop in terms of extracting shapes from wall surfaces and re-situating them on a page.
Wednesday, 18 March 2009
The proccess of working with the cardboard, turning it to a pulp and then using the pulp to create becomes interesting when you think about it in terms of 'deconstruction and reconstruction'. It's something I'm aware of while I continue to develop these explorations.
At best, the bricks take an hour each to make. At worst (depending on blenders etc) something more like 1.5 to 2 hours each. The proccess became tedious, particularly as the bricks require weeks (literally) to dry out. I made upwards of 30 life sized bricks but then I stopped. I had a few ideas about what I wanted to do with them, once I had made a collection, but all my ideas required hundreds of bricks and I felt the whole proccess was too time intensive for the stage of exploration I was at. I also knew there would be no hard in leaving them be and returning to them at a later date.
Tuesday, 17 March 2009
I absolutely love this extract written by Georg Herold:
I’ve had it with ritzy art. I want an art that looks like it has been through as much as I have. I don’t want something to impress people in the living room; I want art that doesn’t make me look shabby when I stand next to it. I want art that I look better than. I want art that’s a survivor. That used to be an asshole. That suffered, wised up, got over and then went on to become a stand up comedian or a parole officer.
I want art that looks like you wouldn’t believe the day it had. Maybe the work has a hang over and who can blame it. But you can’t say it’s not on the job and on time.
I want art that looks like it was beat up for doing the right thing. I like art that might rot if you’re not careful. I want art that could be fixed for not too much money if my ex-wife attacked it with a hammer…
I don’t want ritzy art.... It’s vain, can’t pass up a mirror. Only talks about itself. I’m not saying I want poor art. I want rich art. Triple cream. Big, fat, sweet and inflammable. Not ritzy. Just loaded.
I, too, want art that looks like it’s been through as much as I have. I grew up in South East Asia. I’ve lived in a lot of different buildings and like most third-culture kids struggle to identify any one place as home. For that reason I’m deeply interested in the concept of Home – with all its associations, the idealisms verses the realities.
Ironically, in all the moving between houses, the one place I really do (still) associate with and consider ‘home’ was attacked and burnt down in a religious war.
I’ve been deeply affected and even defined by my childhood experiences, particularly those of grieving the idealisms of home. Sometimes I find myself in a cross-cultural tension which arises from spending my formative years in a country with different way of doing life.
As a kid, plastic mass-produced, disposable-ness never meant much to me. Now I’m not sure what it should mean to me. You, the people around me, look across to a place without plastic-ness. It’s a life characterised by scarcity and simplicity. Not my life, but their lives. I don’t think you really understand it and you can’t be blamed. I imagine that it looks a bit empty to you, possibly even boring. Usually I feel like you think something is missing. I want to tell you otherwise. I want to take the old, worn, ragged walls that would have disposed of long ago and show you that they can be beautiful. I want to take what’s authentic and flaunt it in the face of all that is plastic and mass-produced. I want to pay tribute to them; I wish they were my people.
My art practice aims to confront the questions and issues that my life has raised – often questions without answers.
The project was successful and I was sure that there was still scope for me to develop my work, taking the brick-modrock material as a new starting point. Nevertheless, regretfully, I didn't trust myself not to fall into the trap of trying to recreate a minor success and was afraid of becoming stale and repetitive. Instead of taking that risk as I progressed into third year I built a new project entirely.
I began with the brick motif again, using different materials to take 'casts' from the surface:
PVA and mosquito netting
Newspaper sample, bricks
This is the first sample I produced. It's made from pulped newspaper.
The sample is fairly stiff and has very different properties from the home made modrock surface from my project at university. I liked it less, although do quite like the edges and the hole that accidently occured in the middle of it.
Taking a cardboard cast of brick surface
I decided to experiment with cardboard as well as the newspaper. I liked the brown/earthy colour.
This picture shows the process of taking a cast of the surface of the bricks. One problem I encoutered was drying time. The cardboard (and newspaper), unlike the home made modrock where the plaster set fairly quickly, took days to dry. Furthermore, it was barely possibly to lift the cast from the sufrace without it falling apart.
The home made modrock had very material like properties, but the newspaper and cardboard retained their paper qualities and were much less useful. For example, I wouldn't be able to curve them around corners in the same way.
This is an example of the cardboard cast which disintigrated whilst trying to release it from the brick surface.
Friday, 6 March 2009
I had barely anticipated half of the challenges I have confronted since leaving a learning institution and regret how little value I consciously placed on my peers and on working in a shared studio environment whislt at University. I recollect being less than easy to get along with much of the time, driven by a competitivenses that is hard for me to shake and the uncomfrotable feelings of vulnerability and being exposed in the public-ness of a shared studio. I find it ironic that I once longed to escape the group studio (for all it's vulnerability and the relational struggles the followed me in that) and yet now, less than 9 months after leaving, I crave the artistic nourishment that came with working amongst my peers as well as the motivation to work which came from watching their work evolve infront of me. Apparently it's a 'normal' struggle, that new graduates face; that is 'sustaining [one's] practice in comparative isolation.' (Lucy Day, Art Consultant) Still, despite all it's heart-ache and struggle, I intensley miss the shared studios.
I've subscribed to A-N magazine, which has been an incredible resource to me, and has helped me feel less isolated and alone in my little making world.
I've had a bit of an adimn-y week this week, considering what it means to be a professional - and in that have had one of my semi-regular rearranging and reordering of the studio sessions. The words of Lucy Day have been ringing in my ears throughout the last week: 'Like many I know I was easily distracted into endlessly rearranging my studio, tidying up in preparation for the great plan.' I don't, however, think rearranging space is neccessarily a form of distraction -- though admit that at times it is a welcome and legitmate (at least more legitimate than facebook) distraction from confronting the Making Giant. In re-ordering, re-hanging and re-positioning documented ideas, drawings, testers, experiments, pieces etc I find I draw different assosiations between each strand of thought and see my ideas and experiments in a different light. There certainly is a value in that.
Yesterday felt like a good day. After a week away from making (I've been researching, reading, attempting to network, organising, re-ordering, thinking etc), I feel positive about my practice and am excited to work this afternoon. Yesterday Claire, one of the art teachers at the school, came down to my studio with me to help me process where I'm at and what I'm doing. As per usual, her fresh look at what I'm doing and her ability to relate to the creative proccess was invaluable and she has facilliated me with some new ideas and approaches for tackling my ideas.
...And soon, I promise, I'll finally get some of my ideas up on here. :)
Monday, 2 March 2009
For that reason, I thought it appropriate to share a 'note' I wrote a few months ago, which will hopefully offer some context to the title of my blog and my transition from Art Student to Aspiring Artist.
I was looking through all sorts of notes on facebook the other day and stumbled across one of my own from a few months ago. I read it and remembered the struggles and frustration of one journey coming to an end (uni, and my degree in fine art) and not knowing what the next journey could possibly be. I've heard someone talk about the end of university being like the end of a conveyor belt and I remember feeling exactly like that. The anticipation of everything ending abruptly, with no plans for the future, in a career driven world, was daunting to say the least. The note I was re-reading was about finding peace for the journies ahead. I became addicted to Stephen Curtis Chapman's song, 'Great Expectations'. I set to ground my heart and mind in a promise from God which unfolded through the song words: 'I've been invited to come and believe the unbelievable, receive the inconcievable and see beyond my wildest imagination...'
And so in response to the song words I wrote this: The peace has been found in noting a promise for a hope beyond my wildest imagination. I'm ready to not go hunting for and try and win for myself the inconcieveable, but instead to receieve it. I need to learn a slightly more passive, trust rather than my panic-grabing at dirty strands of freedom and purpose and stability which I know won't satisfy.
Now I'm writing to tell you the next part of the story with the benefit of a newly aquired ounce of retrospect. I remember, in the face of leaving university, striving to 'trust' and not to worry about the future and what it may hold. In the end I resolved to enjoy the last few months in Lancaster and make my peace with not having everything lined up for the next step by the time I graduated.
One of the (many) days I was marching through the art department feeling busy I noticed an advert pinned on the notice board for a position as a resident artist at an all girls private school in Rickmansworth. I was amazed to read the advert, Rickmansworth being only 25 mins away from my family home and on the tube line for London. So I prepared and sent off an application.
Around that time I was toying with the idea of staying in and around Lancaster. I didn't want to leave friends and anticipated it would keep me nearer to Mike (my long term boyfriend). I started playing around with the idea of working at a local sixth form art college for people with complex needs. I was even handed a cut out for a job vacancy at the college; work was available, it seemed. And yet for some reason it felt right to wait and see what happened with my application to the artist-in-residence position, and I decided to not even apply else where. A totally differnet mentality from previous months where I'd spent hours reseraching potential work and filling out application forms - 'trying to keep as many doors open as possible'.
After a while I wrote to ask for some feedback on my application to the residency, which I presumed to be unsuccessful. The rest of the story may be obvious. My application hadn't be unsucessful and I was offered an interview. When I came for interview I was blown away by the place; what was infront of me was so far beyond my wildest imaginations and my highest expecations.
I got the position. SO far from my wildest expecation, my first year out of art school and I'm living independently and working as an 'artist'! Who actually gets to do that? I have 24 hour access to my art studio, which is at least 4x the size of something I could have hoped for. Probably more like 5 times the size I'd get on an MA course. I'm hooked up with my own office, free internet, computer and printer, a lush flat and all my meals are provided. My family (and friends from home) are only 25 minutes down the road.
I can't imagine any situation or place in the country more suited to me at moment. It only occured to me to write when I was looking back over notes from old and read that I had wanted to trust that God would exceed my wildest imaginations and that I would receive the inconcievable. I never dreamt it could have been this big, this far beyond my wildest imagination etc.
And now, of course, that I'm here.... I'm overwhelmed and daunted and plagued by seeds of self doubt (sometimes). But it's good for me to remember how I got here and expect that there is a purpose and a significance in it. I feel like I'm embarking on a VERY steep learning curve and though I'm excited, I do feel really timid in it too.
Anyhow, I just wanted to share my story with you. I hope it comes out as I meant it too. I'm desperate to empahsise that in my 'panic-grabing at dirty strands of freedom and purpose and stability' I got no where. I have a genuine faith in God and believe he showed me that he wanted me to recieve something and this is the undeserved, uber exciting, totally stretching and overwhelming, but utterly amazing deal I recieved!
An avid amateur writer as it is, with over 50 complete journals from my teenage years boxed up for preservation, keeping a public 'artist's blog' seems a natural response to some of the advice I've been processing.
As an aspiring artist, I'm often criticised for being an over-thinker/theorizer. Though I've not yet reconcilled whether the criticism is fair (why shouldn't an artist think as much as a theorist, providing she still makes?), I hope this blog won't just become an outlet for my mullings over the meaning and purpose of art (and indeed life), but rather it will become an outline and record of my evolving practice and an insight into the perculiar world I occupy in my pursuit of the Inconceivable.