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13 May 2012

Don't be a spanner!

So much has been happening the last few weeks that it has meant that a few posts might be coming this way a little bit in retrospect, but that's all good because its meant that its also been an exciting couple of weeks! I wanted to use this post this week to talk and reflect a bit on my own practice (quelle surprise!) as, whilst I write a lot on the blog about what inspires my practice and what I enjoy seeing in other people's work, I don't think I ever talk much about what I'm actually making. So, let this be a first and a new chapter in the history of this blog as I attempt to present to you a much condensed version of my recent artistic plights!
If I may set the scene... Interim assessment for the MA Fine Art was rapidly approaching at the end of April. Previous attempts to secure a gallery space we (the other MA students) can all use have come to no avail. Enter, the illustrious, sizable, elegant and affordable, Crescent Contemporary in Taunton. Throw in a  very good friend of mine who also happens to own it, plus a whole bunch of determination and enthusiasm (comes as standard). And the result? A one day only, pop-up gallery space opportunity in my home town, that I'd have to be an idiot to turn down (or indeed a spanner).  
The invite that I very cheekily sent round very last minute to people inviting them to come to see my work. Really pleasantly surprised at the turn out, big thank you to all who came!

(above) First wall of work that greeted you in the, 'small but perfectly formed' gallery space. Two label pieces on the left and some carbon paper drawings on the right. Large drawing in the centre being made with carbon and a hammer(explanation to follow). So, my previous tool attempts have been of the very visual nature, i.e. concentrating mostly on what tools look like/shape/form etc. Now is the time to try new approaches and see what else can be done with tools. Previously never explored a bodily related approach to using tools/tool use so wanted to create a drawing using a tool, in this case namely a hammer....drawing as an embodied experience vs. using a hammer as an embodied experience...the created affect from hammering away at a pile of carbon based coal on a sheet of paper for five hours is, what you would expect: a lot of circular hammered marks radiating out from the centre getting lighter the further away from the centre you get. However, I soon started to make connection between the abstract image that was appearing and the likeness it had (at least in my mind) to something cellular/organic. Wanted to take this idea further and draw into my drawing/make it more obviously readable as being something cellular/or bodily so took an image of a cross-section of inside the human lungs to draw from.  I then adapted the hammer into a drawing tool even further by turning it into an eraser (fixing rubber onto the head of the hammer) which I could use to draw back into my already hammered drawing. Further links with carbon used in drawing and carbon in the human body and carbon, as in CO2, associated with the lungs and breathing being additional ties that were my attempts to link the work together conceptually. Whether how much of that is actually reflected back into the work is what I wanted to find out during this opportunity to have the work in front of a different audience. As a result of that feedback I think it might be trying too hard to say too much, when actually exploring different kinds of drawing with different tools (and not trying to make it 'look' like anything) might be a more simple and direct way of getting the same idea across. Well, that's certainly what I am planning on pursuing next anyway.

(above) In my mission to explore different ways and means of answering the question, 'what is a tool?' I looked at taking a very categorised approach and made labels (in the form of drawings/close-up photocopies/text/stains etc.) of every hand tool in my house. Think there were more than 75 different tools, each with around four or five labels showing different visual aspects of the tool. Yep, definitely ticked the 'obsessive' box but was a little too systematic for my liking and touched upon the 'visual' aspect of tools but told little in the way of the 'lived experience' of how it feels to actually use a tool. So useful but left me wondering how to resolve it more.

Tools on a wall. Tool prints on a wall, courtesy a la Lisa Milroy's paintings of everyday objects which she keeps inside the rectangle of the canvas frame and groups together in sets giving the impression of shop windows/cupboards. Well, there's a lot one could question here regarding colour etc. to which I could only reply with the honest answer that I was using colours which I had previously not printed with (i.e. brown) and that appealed to my mood/state of mind at the time. Hrmm...I should probably have thought things through more, but think that all this thinking is actually a bit sickening sometimes and the only escape is to just do it without thinking and then face the consequences after.

(above) Its a tool chest! (I could say more, but I'm not going to)

(above) More proof of the label making madness that consumed me for two months. Of all things I regret the amount of time invested in these things which although worked out how I planned in their design, didn't really have the resonance I wanted once I made them or they weren't really saying what I wanted them to say (if that makes any sense?). I wanted them to be more individual and interesting rather than a mass of stuff and information which it turned out to be(coincidentally I edited the labels down into the box framed pieces you saw above, but even then I wasn't completely satisfied) I've never been the person to endeavour and attempt to reassess and revisit my work once its finished. I've always preferred to learn from it and move away and never have to visit it again. Aware that this might not be the ideal way of working but still feeling too stubborn to change and have too many new ideas that I want to try before having to revisit old work.

All in all a useful and reflective bit of enterprise. Thoroughly grateful to have had such a professional, clean gallery space to work in and  opportunity that particularly allowed the benefit of having feedback from the artists and people whose opinions I respect in Somerset being able to see it. Slightly frustrating though too, as I feel myself being pulled in two with what I know to be 'right' on one side to progress and fulfil the academic aims I have set myself and on the other all the weird and joyous things I know I will have to make even though they have no baring or merit to anything that is grounded in purpose other than my own self indulgence. Its an artistically dangerous dualism to have right now, but one I am going to none-the-less continue to embark upon defiantly and see where it takes me. So what else is new?

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