Artist’s studios.

One thing that crops up fairly regularly in my work and thinking is the artists studio. What it is, what it does, what goes on within it, how it’s presented to the outside world, and interpreted. I happened to go to this lucky person’s studio last night. What can I say? Having been attempting to work in a 3x2m area for the last few months, I was pretty jealous! Finally the solution became apparent to constantly having to battle with the ebb and flow of bits and pieces I hoard with the intention of using them for something at some point once their function becomes clear – get myself a warehouse. A heated one at that.

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To flounder…

… is by one definition “to have a lot of difficulty trying to move in water or mud”. For the benefit of exactly zero people reading this blog (stats which i take no umbrage with) I am presently studying the finest of arts in Amsterdam at the Gerrit Rietveld Academie as part exchange of an exchange program offered by my home college Central Saint Martins in London town. Aside from the visit back to London shores mentioned a few posts back, I’ve been here for over two and a half months. Let it be said I have many positives to take from my time here specifically, and time just being away. I’ve seen more art in this time than I would in a year in London. I’ve had teaching on the ways of art that has joined a lot of dots that were previously floating. I’ve thought more about what I do/have been doing/making. Making work is sadly not one of the positives. There are obvious things you can counter this situation with, namely the stresses and strains of living in a foreign land, being cajoled and distracted by the change of wider environment, and the methods and mechanics of being in an alien educational environment etc etc. I don’t ever recall a time when cycling home (some things remain constant despite the relocation) as I did tonight my scheming has turned to thoughts of crawling to the end of my degree and then stepping back and taking stock of whether to take this any further. Previously I might have worried about the direction I was headed, and the unknown-ness that my choice of calling (can you have a choice of calling?) brings, but never have I thought about getting to the end and then just stopping. Ok, admittedly, this thought was tempered with a corresponding thought of re-starting at some juncture. But all the same its a world away from the imagined end of this period of my life that ran something like: forthcoming dissertation brings a modicum of enforced clarity to what you do and why you do it, final year geared towards graduation show produces very little of substance but something by way of an accident that you feel represents what you are about as much as you know or want to know, nobody or nobody that important takes much notice, dribs and drabs of things happen/come your way/are brought about by yourself after graduation and leaving the relative comfort of academia, perhaps things start to happen, perhaps they don’t, if not repeat previous step until something does or doesn’t happen after an unspecified duration of time. That makes it sound like recognition is the be all and end all. Its not. As much as I have difficulty being around others, I’m now starting to see that you need a network of people you have trust in (much like the artificial environment within an art school studio) to tell you what they think. These people might be thin on the ground, and located in the strangest of spaces (with exceptions, for me they’re not necessarily located within the art school studio) but you need them, and they need you. This is more important than being lauded by people who might want to laud you one moment, then blank you the next, and is all the recognition you really need to keep chugging along for the forseeable future.

But anyhow, to return to my point of today’s thinking. To imagine getting to the end only to publicly give up (privately, this may not be the case) is new territory. Quite liberating in some senses, and something that could be very conducive to the production of art if carried out correctly, but also quite daunting.

There is always a but. My but this time would be, as mentioned, that I haven’t been producing very much. I’m normally quite productive, but actually my output seems to have been slipping not just over the last few months, but over the last year and a half. Once again, there are positives you can take from this, but it just feels weird, and a little wrong. It’s not for the want of trying. Perhaps I’m just quicker to reject things that are starting because I have a bit of a better understanding of what context they might sit in, and who is doing things in that ballpark (invariably someone with more recognition, therefore by some measure more successful, and with more money, more support and so on and so on) and lose faith in what I am doing. Thing is, I know and accept that everything has been done already, and if it hasn’t, there’s probably someone else doing it the same time as you, but somewhere different, be they on the other side of the world or in the studio next door to you, but that doesn’t seem to prevent me losing interest too quickly. I’m surrounded by pony’s trying to nail their one trick, and I have no issue with that, it just doesn’t sit that comfortably with me, and therefore I make life that bit trickier for myself.

So, quick bitching starts (and stops a respectably short time after), two things: Tutors, and art students. These are my bones of contention (right now). Art itself I have no issue with. I want to slap it about a bit now and again, take it off its pedestal, show it the outside world, wonder what it could do if it wasn’t running round in ever decreasing circles whilst every other medium/method encroaches on its territory and it just stands there looking more and more obtuse until it becomes a non angle angle (viewpoint), which is no place for anything to be, unless perhaps its aiming for a primetime slot on ITV. Art schools is a whole bigger subject, for another time, a slightly more balanced one. But tutors, tutors who have no have no relevance to anything going on right now, or if they do, are unable or unwilling to convey it to their tutees, or tuted, if they are words. And tutees, namely art students, who have no interest or understanding of what is going on, and are belligerently stuck in their own personal hole (not in itself a bad thing) and want to inflict their hole borne views upon the wider group. Two things that are not making my life any easier at the moment. I could go on, but I’m tired, as my dad remarked to me the other day I often am, sigh, and I want to draw this sorry day to a close. Right now, I just want to go home with something I’d be pleased to show and tell as I am expected to, and that seems to be nigh on impossible.

Open Studio.

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The discipline of writing about work I make is presently being drilled into me. Here’s what I have to say about this piece.

The work is a series of 9 photographs, arranged as a 3 x 3 block, existing as a digital file (to be printed from as and when necessary). They document the outcome of a short period of activity within a rickety frame structure representing an arena for creation and performance. The structure was made of plastic tubing, wooden offcuts and tape. Within it, on a table, and the floor, as well as the adjacent wall, are small pieces made of found objects combined with cheap and gaudy 99 cent store materials. These pieces were conceived concurrently, parts of each interchanged with parts from others during the period of creation. Unused materials are also arranged within the space, given equal prominence alongside used materials. All the items within the arena together are greater than the sum of its parts. In the framing of the photos, the arrangement of the pieces, objects, things, bits in relation to each other (be it intentional or accidental) produce new forms and spatial markers.

The piece is dealing with the traditional notion that artwork has to have a physical ‘end product’. I am interested in the idea that perhaps what happens within the studio is of more interest than what eventually comes out of it. The collapsing of distinctions of gallery space and artists studio opens up this traditionally closed environment for discussion on its own merits.

That the final work is a digital photographic file, intended to be distributed via the internet and reproduced as necessary, raises questions about how art is conceived to be experienced upon the internet. In relation to art of a physical nature, specifically sculpture, what strategies an artist can adopt if this is the intended ‘end product’ from the outset, as opposed to simply making available photographs of art on the internet. Walter Benjamin’s 1936 essay ‘The work of art in the age of mechanical reproduction’ continues to be a benchmark by which to deconstruct the idea of preciousness of the artwork in the digital age:

“The greater the decrease in the social significance of an art form, the sharper the distinction between criticism and enjoyment by the public. The conventional is uncritically enjoyed, and the truly new is criticized with aversion.“

Is it getting somewhere?

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After a month and a half in Amsterdam I’m off home to London for ten days. Its been an interesting ride, but of late I sporadically feel like things are coming together. My head has been crammed so full of theory and thinking about things I’ve not made much of any substance, but perhaps that can be viewed as a good thing in this instance. I think I’ve got a few leads to follow upon my return.