I make a lot about leaning into the ‘sloppy’ in my work, just look at the name of this blog, but recent investigations have made me realise that my sloppiness, (as well as my humour), require precision and thought. In constructing something for instance, I am not working to any template and each move needs to be true to the process, a process with no previously worn path. In contrast, the crafted, minimalist work that is in fashion in places we won’t mention (here…oops) does not require much thought at all, progressing as it does along well worn paths of execution, made to plans, templates or drawings.
Take for instance a piece I was looking at recently. It is a wall piece, a grid of metal work put together with supposedly mathematical precision. On first glance that is what I saw but on a second or third look I realised the line at the bottom of it was off. Surely it was the way it was hung?But no, it was a welded angle, and what was supposed to be 90 degrees was more like 87 degrees. It was clearly not intentional or in the spirit of the piece. It is the sort of detail that drives me wild. Not in a good way. It is one slip that ruins a whole work. It is the kind of detail if I saw in my own work, I couldn’t countenance even if it meant starting all over again.
I was at another exhibition recently. Again the work was minimalist and in most cases very finely finished and I quite admired it. However one piece, a fine line drawing on high quality, squared and razor edged paper, on close examination, sported a corner that was muted and creased. This had not happened during the work but during transit or hanging and is more of a display issue but if I was that artist I would spend the minute it would’ve taken to square off that drawing even if it meant doing it at the opening.
So am I really that sloppy?From my design days to my painting days my efforts to get everything ‘just right’ sucked the joy out of my work and was one of the reasons I loosened up a lot. But I don’t actually think I became sloppy, just truer to the nature and the scale of my energy. I think blowing up that scale and moving into three dimensions means that I can zoom into the detail far more easily in a way. I still try to do things as well as I possibly can but in a more flexible framework. If I build something that is ‘off’ i.e. it might fall down on someone, then I rebuild it differently or collapse it. I remake the framework, not the artwork.
In writing this I realise that in fact I am trying to build the correction of that which is ‘off’ ,that perfectionism, into the process. The artist who take apart his wall piece to reweld it is trying to hide something as is the artist who shaves a strip of paper off the end of their drawing. And in this, those aforementioned artists have highlighted something. They did not hide the unintentional thing that occurred during the making or display of their work, they let it stand. Albeit unintentionally.
Both ways of working demand precision but the minimalist, crafted work is not about being true to the process, rather eliminating the person, the maker, and being true to an ideal or a concept. It envisions the dream rather than the struggle it takes to achieve it-the destination rather than the journey.
The one who bares all is being true to themselves, to messy reality rather than any ideal or possible future. If this sounds like a cop out, well sometimes I think it is too. I laboured for years trying to get things ‘right’, to adhere to rules made by someone else somewhere else. In the end for me being miserable outweighed any joy I got from the process or end product. Perhaps if was built as a better craftsperson that would not have been so. But I was not good enough at crafting nor did I want to be, it is not my natural way. And when I see others who imitate craft imperfectly it strikes me as being an untruth and as such fake, even if they are lying also to themselves. A perfectly crafted thing is an untruth too but that untruth is ameliorated by the otherworldly beauty created by the artisan who has risen above the glitchiness, messiness, imperfection of human nature. I could never do that and I don’t rate ‘artists’ who try to do that without giving it their all.
We all know the difference between intentions and reality and I think that is what I am trying to do, to show the reality, the process, show all of me, all my decisions and missteps through the time of making and into the time of display. Every moment of now-not then or when-now. Just now and now and now.