Words Speak To Me

Given that I would consider this blog post to be almost a continuation of my previous one, I would advise you  to read my most recent post on imagery and the Self-Portrait prior to reading the write up below. Click here to view the previous article.

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13687179_1140432052704433_1840139293_n1As well as recently thinking about the ‘necessity’ of images, both in life and on my blog (particularly alongside larger chunks of text), I have also been thinking about the lack of their necessity. About how the text in itself can become an entity through it’s strength. About how presently, I am more drawn to writing and to reading than to the creation of visuals. This is a shift which has occurred quite naturally, it has not in any way been a conscious decision. However, over summer I found myself merely dabbling in the making of artwork and instead ripping through several books as I devoured the words on the pages hungrily. I think this is an interesting transformation of interest, as I have always been immersed in the making of art and the documentation surrounding the process. However, I am now content to retreat and instead observe the process from afar. Watch others conceive and create. Take a practical sabbatical if you can call it that.

13741013_554567611334947_978616461_nWords have become my substitute for the studio. They have become my addiction. I think working so conceptually over the past three years is much to blame for this. Often, my notebooks were more precious than my sketchbooks. All of my thoughts and ideas that were so hastily sketched out as they entered my head, soon became a sacred collection for my own creative reference. Sol Le Witt and Eva Hesse were huge inspirations to me in their reliance on writing in relation to their studio practice. Sol Le Witt because he was a conceptual artist and his work would not exist without his words. Hesse because her diaries were her own backdrop to her work; her words were her refuge and respite from what could at times be quite a consuming mode of art making. Artists never stop. Their minds never turn off. They are always thinking, seeing, looking, observing. It is only natural therefore, that words on a page can become an escape and a freedom from the frantic energy of being an artist. I know that I myself feel unburdened when I write. That once my thoughts and feelings are down on paper they no longer physically inhabit my body. I believe Hesse must have felt the same.

14350434_198530390560672_4054096995940302848_n1Following her tragic death from a brain tumour at the premature age of 34, her diaries were published. I am very conflicted over this action. On the one hand, I am sure it is amazing to have specific insight to her work and thought process. On the other, it is an invasion of privacy which reduces her work given the direct translations and observations the diaries provide. For Hesse, the diaries were a document of art and life. To her, the two were inseparable. However, I feel it is slightly tragic that her work is always read with this trajectory. In some cases her death and diaries inform her pieces almost more than the materials, colours and spatial relations do. Which of course is wrong, as no art piece should be spoon fed to its viewer. I could never read her diaries. It is my belief that they belong to her, were for her own sake and so I should find my own way of interpreting her life and work. I think this stance is probably because I sometimes keep a diary myself. Not often, just when I feel like it and need some form of release. Or I have had such a brilliant day that only words will do the justice of documenting properly. Either way, the diary is a personal entity which I feel should remain that way.

13768303_181033652308440_1820311018_nRecently I have had an urge to write in my diary again, mainly because I am feeling slightly lost. Although I am happy about my accelerated interest in the theory of art as opposed to the practicing of it, I am also left feeling slightly guilty. For someone who has been making art for as long as they can remember, it is strange to suddenly be left without the urge to make. I would go as far as to say I have an artist’s guilty conscience; that moment where you are not creating in your studio, mainly due to an inspiration dry spell, resonates with how I feel right now. I suppose however it is just a shift in focus for the time being. I am currently starting a Masters at Edinburgh University in Modern and Contemporary Art: History, Curation and Criticism. So being more drawn to reading, like bees to honey, is only a natural consequence of this. I think it is just strange for me, yet another thing I am unfamiliar with at the moment. However, instead of having the urge to draw and drip paint from giant canvases in a studio, I just need to adjust. I will now dedicate my time to reading my theories and prose in a quiet little Edinburgh cafe or the gardens and fully absorbing the context to contemporary art making, knowing that in time I will start making again.

 

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Berlin Berger Style

Recently I have been reading the art critic John Berger’s two books ‘Ways of Seeing‘ and ‘About Looking‘. Both are truly inspiring reads; Berger’s insights highlight things you think or notice on a subconscious level, but had never fully come to realise yourself. He is like the stepping stone to realization. He draws out your way of thinking and forces you into a mode of questioning that can be applied to everything from that point onwards. ‘Ways of Seeing’ was particularly eye-opening for me; the way in which I read paintings, their composition and their form has forever changed for me following these two poignant books.

What I particularly liked about ‘Ways of Seeing’ was it’s composition; it is split into concise sections which are well structured and coherent in their point. Yet between each of these sections is a visual essay, an essay composed entirely of images. This was unlike anything I have ever seen before. Each visual essay acted as an introduction to the subsequent written essay. This forces you to try and decipher the images themselves in isolation from the written word, before having Berger go on to elaborate their context in the next chapter. I thought this was an incredibly interesting way of conveying an idea and I was delighted when I was able to comprehend most of the visual essays. Recently I have been drawn more to visuals than writing, particularly with all of the interesting content I follow on Instagram in the form of various galleries and art collectives. So reading the Berger books and discovering the visual essay came at the perfect time for me. In Berlin I was looking, sketching and trying to capture what I saw. I needed a more instant way of absorbing the city which writing did not quite satisfy and so visuals became my supplement tool. Following all of this visual inspiration, I thought I would have a go at compiling a visual essay/visual summary myself of our time in Berlin and how I saw and perceive the city.

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Photo credits also to Jamie Strathearn.

A Time of Reflection

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I’ve been away from the blog for a while as I felt I needed some reflection time. Time to stop and contemplate. Time to consider and reflect. I wanted to take a step back from everything following the pace of life during degree show period. Both my creative and mental energy had been wholeheartedly consumed and I therefore decided to withdraw from participating in physical elements in favour of simply reading some theory. The fact I am now studio-less has partly contributed to this shift in thinking. Not that I’m saying you need a studio to make art, I’m just saying I am currently in the adjustment phase and therefore having a break. Yet when I say that and taking time out, I’m lying. I am not a person who takes time out and does nothing – that’s just not in my nature. I get twitchy and start doing the washing up or something. For me taking time out is putting a pause on the practical. Performance for the time being is not on the cards. But my creativity is still bubbling away as I have been dabbling in light painting activities and a little bit of photography. Yet these activities in themselves have been scarce as I’ll be consumed in a doodle mood one minute and then the next my sketchbook goes untouched for days. Books instead have become my predominant creative outlet for the time being.

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Have you ever read a book that changed your life? Or that you feel will stay with you for a very very long time? Well, that happened to me the other day with Hand Ulrich Obrist’s ‘Ways of Curating’. What a read! I have not ripped through a book so quickly in a long time. Having said that, I didn’t really have a spare minute over deadline and degree show time.  Yet now that I have finished my degree, I have been sat reading in cafes and in the garden, watching people go by and observing daily life. Contemplating. Thinking. I’ve come to realise that my mind is very much designed for research; for absorbing information, words and visuals. I will be moving to Edinburgh next month to embark on an MSc in Modern and Contemporary Art: History, Curation and Criticism (I am aware that is quite a mouthful!) I could not be more excited as I feel Edinburgh is the perfect transition from Newcastle. In the interim period however I have been in Aberdeen, which is the city of death for anyone or anything creative in my opinion. I’m not saying that’s the case in every instance, but the lack of gallery visits is starting to agitate me. All the more reason that books have become my seducer.

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‘Ways of Curating’ by Obrist has left quite the impression on me. Obrist is a world-renowned curator, critic and art historian. He is currently director at the Serpentine Galleries in London, has published a wide array of books, conducted endless artist interviews and revolutionized the way in which we think of curation. Needless to say, I found him and his professional exploits quite inspiring. Prior to reading this book, I had always viewing curating as quite a static activity. Arranging and rearranging the works of an artist in a room. Conversing with said artist to gauge their artistic needs. Engaging public with the final displayed work, etc. etc. How wrong I was! Obrist entirely transforms my way of thinking about curation with his discussions of shifting and temporal artistic platforms, the idea of curation as an artistic practice itself, the importance of stimulating conversations and the methodologies which surround and extend and exhibition beyond itself and into forms such as 24hr conversation marathons. For the first time, curating actually appeals to me as it is so much more than arranging art in a room. It is about bringing people together. About exchanging ideas and bridging cultures. It is about travelling and exploring. It is a journey of creation.

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It’s been a strange few weeks for me as I go from being a full time art student with a public show and a studio in the vibrant city of Newcastle, to being a graduate living in the granite grey city of Aberdeen over summer. Quite the shift. Yet it’s been a transformative one. I feel I have learnt from my period of non-production. I almost feel it has taught me more than when I am fully absorbed in my artwork. Somewhat ironic I know, but in those moments as I am fully aware of myself as a creative and an artist, yet it’s only really after all this reading and reflecting that I realise how much of a thinker I am. You might wonder why I have not turned to writing more given this has become the case. I’m not sure myself really, I just did not feel compelled. I suppose even that felt too creative. I wanted simply to sit back and read about others being creative and harness my energy through them. And I think it’s been a good idea as I am now inspired and itching to create again, in one way or another. I’m definitely hoping for a residency at some point. I am off to Berlin not long from now and for me that is just as much a research trip as a holiday with all of the beautiful art galleries and historical museums I’ll be visiting!

Critical Writing for Vane Gallery

Recently I have been trying really hard to work on and expand my writing skills; as much as I love blogging and using colloquial language, I also enjoy writing in more formal and critical terms. Recently therefore I submitted two pieces of critical writing Vane Gallery and I am delighted to have found that they have both been published. Feel free to have a read on the links below:

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‘The Beauty in Grotesque’, a critical review of Jock Mooney’s exhibition ‘Who Are You and What Do You Want?’ at Vane Gallery. Click here to read. 

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‘Layers of Meaning’, a critical review of Oliver Braid’s exhibition ‘The Nude Ignity’ at Vane Gallery. Click here to read.