Monday, 29 December 2014

Searching for The Grit

The post-Christmas sunshine gave the rare opportunity for a morning walk around the 'green block' - a two mile circular walk from my front door across the border into Hampshire and back into Berkshire.  

Walking creates space to think - and for me, 'thinking' means worrying about making art. I am trying to process all the stuff I have been grappling with during my first semester of the Fine Art MA. My thinking owes a huge debt to course leader Nick Stewart, who has been meditating on this stuff since the seventies and whose ideas have got under my skin.

A flock of Fieldfare flies over, and in the distance a Buzzard is circling.

If making art is about exploring what excites you, what you experience - your authentic voice. Then what is it that I want to say through my art that people don't already know, or don't know how to know, or don't want to know? I'm thinking about this in relation to an interview with Marina Abramovic I read in Third Way magazine over the Christmas break: 

"For me, the purpose of doing anything is to lift the human spirit. It's so easy to put the human spirit down - you can do it in three seconds - and I'm fed up with art that shows how shitty reality is, because we already know how shitty it is. I want to know what I can do change it. Even if it is the smallest contribution, It's still a contribution. And if everybody had this kind of idea, the world would be a different place."

A Dunnock sings from a hedge-top. A Great Spotted Woodpecker flies towards Admiral's Copse; a silent undulating flight.

I try making a mental list of the things I care about, that excite me and that I want my work to be about:

  • uses of power and control that perpetuate inequality
  • ambiguity, interpretation, hermeneutics - fundamentalist belief systems within a complex, nuanced, unstable and diversified society
  • The idea of embracing 'the other'
  • The non-material aspects of existence, of consciousness - the sense of there being 'something more'
  • kindness, generosity, gift, optimism
  • the simple pleasure of enjoying birds in nature
Some or all of those things have been referenced in my recent work but how have people experienced it - and how do I move my work forward? Working mainly with woodcut prints, I find that there is a tension in the stuff I make between art and craft, or between art and design. Concept and representation. 

A Jay flies over - that's the fifth crow species I've seen this morning.

Art needs to break the rules of craft and design - there is power lurking in the spaces at the edge where there is an absence, a lack or a brokenness. Moving forward, I want my art to break the rules. To create 'feedback' like Hendrix playing the Star-Spangled Banner. 

A female Chaffinch hops quietly in a hedge. Blue Tit and House Sparrow flit around a feeder outside a cottage.

Woodcut is such a slow, laborious process - but I love it. Can I make it more raw, immediate, energetic, free and instantaneous? Kiefer's recent show at the RA included messy, energetic woodcuts that were sloppily made but brimmed with vitality. I need to push to find the edges of the woodcut medium within my own practice. 

And I want to push my drawings too - towards a place where I feel they are doing something real.

It's about finding the grit that creates the restless irritation that forms the pearl. 

Watch this space for progress.

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