This month I am featured on the Sketchbook Circle blog as the Featured Artist. You can view the blog and the post here:
Liminal: adj, technical, i) of, or relating to a transitional or initial stage; ii) at a boundary or threshold (Oxford Concise English Dictionary).
This is a word I have come across fairly frequently of late; it appears quite a lot in artists’ statements in degree shows and galleries, and I’d read it a few times before I happened across it in this post by Andrea Liu. I looked it up, forgot about it, forgot what it meant, and then it cropped up again a couple of days ago on the WordPress inspiration site, The Daily Post. So I looked it up again. This time the word resonated; I don’t think I’ll be adding it to my artist statement any time soon, as my style is a bit more down-to-earth that that, but I’m definitely at a transitional phase in my personal and professional journey as an artist.
It’s also another transitional phase in the Sketchbook Circle cycle; I have made my last contributions to the book I have shared this year with Louise, and will be sending it back for her to put in her own final additions; and Ben’s book will soon be on it’s way back to me for the final time. I’ve signed up for another year’s collaboration, and am hoping this time to push myself out of my comfort zone and enter into a digital collaboration as well as a sketchbook partnership. Sketchbook Circle has and continues to be a pivotal experience in my artistic and professional life; the group is vibrant, creative and supportive, and I have connected with some amazingly talented individuals. It has inspired me to take my work in new directions, and combined with this year’s experience on the Artist Teacher Scheme, I have been motivated to take my practice out of a sketchbook and work in new, and sometimes surprising ways. This excites me and scares me in equal measure, but I continue to put myself in situations which challenge me. I have been inspired to leave my regular job in order to pursue a freelance career, and I am making connections and discussing projects with new people. I look back on my first hesitant pages in my first shared sketchbook two years ago and reflect on how far I have come.
Yesterday was the ATS Saturday; we visited the Art Yard in Cradley Heath, a small gallery and workshop run by Louise and her business partner Warren. Louise is on the ATS too, and runs community classes and workshops from her studio here. In January, Louise, Sarah and I, and hopefully Courtney, will be exhibiting here in the gallery space for a week. We discussed what we had that we could exhibit at this stage in the course, and all agreed that we had very little which we felt was fit for an exhibition; we retired to the workshop to drink coffee by the gas fire and do some monoprinting.
I love printing and am inspired by its possibilities; I love the endless tweaking and making of ghost images; it fits comfortably alongside my fascination with the countless possibilities offered by a single image. I made some simple monoprints onto cartridge paper and newspaper, and took some photographs for later manipulation with photo editing software (see above).
I have been fiddling around at home making prints this morning, with less success; I think I need to buy some proper block printing medium to get the paint to the right consistency. However, it wasn’t a completely wasted morning – I can see possibilities with what I’ve made if I work into the images with carbon paper and inks. I will also photograph the pieces as they are and play with the photos. It’s a starting point.
So now I am wondering about what to put in an exhibition; I am wondering about mounting and framing, and am planning a trip to a local charity shop which usually has a good selection of picture frames. I am wondering about how to price things and whether I need to write anything about my work and practice. I am feeling a bit nervous – I have never exhibited before, and wonder how my work will be received – putting things on social media is one thing, but an actual exhibition with actual, physical people is quite another. I am outside my comfort zone, but I am feeling excited about the possibilities that are opening up before me.
This weekend I have been cleaning. Every so often I get a bee in my bonnet and go through the flat like a dose of salts; I have filled the communal bins outside with bags full of rubbish, broken toys, bits of sets which have become separated from the rest – and my beloved woollen rug, which met its demise at the hands (teeth?) of a suspected carpet moth. Or several carpet moths. Yesterday’s daily writing prompt on WordPress was hyperbole, or obvious or intentional exaggeration. This weekend I have cleaned our flat ‘from top to bottom’.
So I am now totally fed up of cleaning. In order to relax after my weekend spent up to my elbows in bleachy water, I sat for an hour on my sitting room floor with a box I am covering with decoupage. It’s an idea I’ve got in the back of my mind for next year’s Sketchbook Circle, so I’ll see how it turns out and then develop it from there. I felt like a child again, getting my hands covered in glue and enjoying the feeling of the paper yielding as it became damp. I’ve used old newspapers and pages from old books with images and designs which appeal to me. I love to work with recycled materials – cardboard, old books, newspapers – things with a history and a narrative, things which have been passed over, overlooked, discarded. Traces of the past. And what goes inside it will tell its own story, give a window into the minds of the artists who create it.
It has occurred to me that that was what I liked most about the Eva Rothschild exhibition at New Art Gallery Walsall; all of the elements in the exhibition pieces were once part of different pieces and combinations. I have been repurposing much of my art work recently; my paper tubes were made from torn up drawings (you can see them here and here) and I like the idea that a piece of art is an organic thing which changes and is reused and repurposed – almost infinite variations on a single idea.
Like myself; all the countless versions of my past self and my possible future selves, constantly changing, and yet paradoxically still the same. Identity, like art, is an ongoing process.
I’ve recently found the email courses on the WordPress Daily Post blog, which you can visit here; I started this blog at the end of last year, and I’ve managed to keep it updated weekly for a whole year! Writing and blogging has actually become something of a minor obsession for me; I have always been a compulsive list maker, and can even admit to having copied lists out again when they got too crossed out and scribbled on (I call it ‘updating’); and I am completely obsessed with stationery, being unable to walk into any shop without browsing (buying) notebooks, pens, pencils etc.
But when I started exploring my own ideas and practice in more depth on the Artist Teacher Scheme, I suddenly felt compelled to start writing again; I mean proper writing, like I did as a teenager at school and university, working on essays and keeping a diary and doodling in the margin. Pencils (pencils!) and notebooks and highlighter pens. I think that at the moment I am going through such a massive period of growth both professionally and personally that the only way to stop my head from exploding is to let some of it out onto paper, write it down so I don’t forget it and I can come back to it, write it down so I know it isn’t lost forever.
I love the physical act of writing longhand; I am mesmerised by the regular rhythmic movement of my hand as it progresses across the page; I love the shapes of the words and I marvel that my brain and hand working together can produce these same shapes again and again and again. I recall how my handwriting has changed and evolved over the years as I have grown and matured. I am obsessed with the physical process; I have filmed my hand writing and made audio recordings of the sound of the pencil moving across the page.
My art work takes its starting points from memory, personal narrative, the persistence of identity; I am fascinated by the philosophical paradox of self – what makes me uniquely me? how come I am still the same person that I was 20 years ago? how is it that physically, my brain looks much like everyone else’s, but my thoughts, dreams, likes, dislikes etc are uniquely mine? I attempt to express the processes, both mental and physical, that I am exploring and trying to capture. Writing has become part of that process of self-exploration and self-discovery.
I write only because
There is a voice within me
That will not be still.