While everyone has been baking in the heatwave outside I have been baking the studio for the last two days. It was meant to be for four full days but the college had to close today so I am catching up on my blogging and notebooks.
Much of the studio work for the semester so far has firstly involved concentrating on other modules in order to allow my progress so far to settle and secondly some more research into artist, this time with the intention of picking a few and going deeper into their practice. To that end I have picked up a few books listed below. They are exciting me about my work all over again after some weeks, and months of confusion. While the confusion still exists things are becoming clearer. This has been helped by studio ‘work’ this week. When I say ‘work’, I mean being present in the studio. Often times to non-artists this looks like fannying about-moving things around, cleaning up, making a mess, going out to the library, talking to random people and standing around staring into space. IT sounds like fun but in reality there is panic at the back of it.
‘What am I doing?What will I do?Will I start that idea I was considering?No, that’s a stupid idea!Oh jesus why did I ever think I was an artist?’
This is the part that scares off the pussies. We are not pussies. Or rather we are old enough and have gathered enough knowledge and experience to have a few tools at our disposal.
- We remind ourselves that it’s too late to be anything else.
- We know that all we need to do is-DO something. Even if it’s stupid. especially if it’s stupid.
- Or do nothing and have another cup of tea because either way no one will die. Or we will all die. One day. And nothing matters much at all.
So cheered we proceed.
I had told my tutors that I planned a group of test pieces concentrating in turn on materials, process, representation (or an object), story telling (longer term process), environment (i.e. interaction with space).The first exercise was in process so I decided to choose a material that could be repeated e.g. s short lengths of wood all the same measurement. In this was the emphasis is on what I do with the materials rather than on th materials or the story it might tell.
Immediately things went sideways. Which is good. I had being mulling over my recent piece Chocolate Girl for the assessment and had seen the confusion in it and the desire to include painting in it. I realised how literal I had been and how, typically I was overdoing it, that in fact the process of building, the use of materials, colour etc. reflects my painting roots.That in spelling it out so literally by painting images or patterns I was a) not leaving room for the viewer and b) trying to tell the viewer ‘look, I can still do things “properly”. In other words I am not fully reconciled about leaving painting behind, I am not not fully embracing my forward trajectory. Doesn’t mean of course that I can’t use paint but only when it is demanded. I just need to trust and let go.
The wonderful thing about all this is that its less work for me. Just build. It will come.
At the same time I have crammed in most of the essays from the MIT/Whitechapel publication Materiality which I had been carrying around for two months. At exactly the point I was thinking about paint and possibly building something out of sticks used to stir paint I was reading Robert Morris’s Anti-Form and my beloved Pollock came up (In fact I have been constantly delighted to see Pollock mentioned in a diverse set of essays as a pivotal painter since I returned to college…but I’ll do a brief post on him in a while).
It was Morrises line ‘….the stick that drips paint….’ caught my eye.
‘Only Pollock was able to recover process and hold onto it as an end form to the work.’
‘Pollock invited a profound rethinking of both the materials and the making. He used the fluid quality of the paint. The material quality.’
And so I decided to go for it. I had spent the weekend sorting out my bits of wood into like sizes, shapes and types (consigning some to my Dads fire) so I picked out some pieces and starting messing. I had hoped or thought to gather sticks actually used to stir paint but as its only a test I fired ahead. I had some acrylic but I also bought some cheap tempera paint. I am hoping the paint will create joins between some pieces when it dries to continue the pretence of sticks in motion across time and space but I thought to hell with that and when I build something I can add more paint. We will see what happens with that next week when they have dried…
This actions buoyed me. I began considering Chocolate Girl again and also some new material which was stripped from a palm tree in my Dads garden. I haven’t, weirdly enough, taken any close up photos of it yet,though I thought I had.
Anyway,I found it so compelling I brought it all to the studio. I thought to wrap Chocolate Girl in it and started to do so but I wasn’t sure. Perhaps I would do a pretend dissection of a tree? I am a little afraid of materials with character due to my propensity to overwork things. So I stopped to reconsider. In the mean time artist Angela Fulcher called in. She loved the material and suggested it was enough in itself, thats perhaps just juxtaposing it with something would be enough, confirming my suspicion I should interfere with it as little as possible. Indeed even in a pile on the floor there is something visceral and even violent about it, looking as it does like Orangutan skin and so echoing the human.
In the mean time (as well) my release from the figurative and my research was prompting ideas of creating an environment e.g. a low, ramshackle ceiling-partly inspired, I realised, by these trees I had photographed that morning. Trees seem to be recurring…
..and also my love of provocative artwork ie those that meke one a little sacred or uncomfortable or even delighted. Also as the campus was to close for a day I went to the main college and had a look for a room I could use. This in turn sparked other ideas, one being to build a very quick pod (today?) with whatever I could find-hopefully cardboard. And then perhaps lining it with the ‘hairy stuff’…?
In the mean time here are the artists I am looking at…
Phyllida Barlow I love her work but this is the first time I have a book that covers her earlier career along with interviews. And she has blown me away all over again. Her approach to materials and process is…wonderful. Looking forward to getting into it more deeply. Barlow, Phyllida, Godfrey, Mark, Wood, John, Objects For…And Other Things, 2004 London :Blackdog Publishing
Thomas Hirschorn Was less familiar with his work but loving it. Also absolutely delighted he started as a graphic designer as I did. Graphic artists are looked on with suspicion by ‘real artists’, including myself in fact, and Hirschorn explains exactly why that is-that as a designer you always work to someone elses brief. That may be good work but it ain’t art. Well not as I understand it. Hirschorn wanted to make graphic art that he liked. And then he went wonderfully mad…(I mean artistically not mentally). Buchloh, Benjamin, Gingeras, Alison, Basualdo, Carlos, Thomas Hirschorn, 2004, London : Phaidon
Martin Kippenberger. Love his mess and madness though as yet am not that familiar with his work. The great Andrea Fraser, a much more intellectual artist that I normally like, did a performance in 2001 reproducing word for word-in German-including mannerisms as far as I can remember, a speech that artist Martin Kippenberger had pronounced drunk in 1995. The paintings on the wall are hers too. Genius! Krystof,Doris, Morgan, Jessica, eds., 2006, Martin Kippenberger, London:Tate.
I love Fraser by the way. She seems so middle class and intellectual, her work informed by psychoanalysis and theory but her performances, which are a critique of institutions are wonderfully subversive. But I digress.
One more book I took from the library is Schimmel, Paul & Sorkin, Jenni, eds., Revolution in the Making:Abstract Sculpture by Women 1947 – 2016, 206, New York : Hauser & Wirth. Which looks great.
Watch this space..