The hiatus after the launch of A Visual Conversation has been somewhat all consuming.
The state of fragility is never far away. I’ve been trying to hold the threads together but they keep fraying. So, I hold on to them even more tightly. At times, I was a trapeze artist, hanging, gliding and flying from one ladder to the next with no safety net. I daren’t see down below in case I see someone I’m close to and I start having self-doubts.
Working with Sumi ink mostly, also some charcoal, graphite, pencils, broken twigs and pens I worked through to unravel the bundle that has begun to grow inside me like a mushroom. I was compelled to unpick them and make sense of what was happening.
‘Unravelling’ took around four days of slow process to emerge out on to the paper. The first stroke of a single line with ink was bold and statement like, and placed itself firmly on the paper. Then I had to leave it for a while and looking at it everyday was like watching a seed grow except no one could see it except me. A couple of days later, two more lines occupied the space around the original line.
Today, I worked on it more and realised that the two lines were talking to each other. There is a dominant line on top that is talking down to the scribbled shapes at the bottom. There’s a vulnerability that is unexplainable and a comfortable space between the two leaves a space that can’t or can be negotiated. That depends on what happens next. I am happy to leave it as it is.
‘Labrinth’ is created using ink, water soluble charcoal, graphite and ink pens.
It was a glorious day by all accounts in Sunderland yesterday what with the sun shining and a great conversation with fellow sisters at the symposium to celebrate International women’s day to celebrate International women’s day.
Fabulous speakers who talked about their art, groundbreaking projects, shared inspiring thoughts and information on the current situation around gender inequality in the arts.
Sylvia Levenson is currently exhibiting at the National Glass Centre and she opened the symposium giving us a great insight into her work. Lynn, my fellow artist from the collective said that she found great parallels with Sylvia’s work. By all means it was a feast to look at the body of work that she has created and shown across the world. Fabulous treat.
Suzanne Burns, an experienced arts practitioner crunched the numbers around gender balance within the participatory arts sector and spewed out extremely useful information for us all. There were some underlying messages that I picked up such as – in terms of gender equality there’s lots more emphasis on artists to make change happen. Many of us could relate to the information about why women don’t go on to take on leadership roles in their career and the life choices they have to make as women in the arts. Her presentation provoked many questions as well as thoughts.
Stella Duffy from Fun Palaces made a very convincing argument about why so many people don’t take part in the arts. In other words, Arts sector is segregated a lot of people out in the manner it has designed itself. The terms of engagement leave out a great majority of people who think that the arts is not for them. I totally agree. The model of Fun Palaces is simple – just come in and enjoy doing what you want to do. And that gets people through the door and engage with the arts as they understand it.
The symposium what not only in lighting but also these questions around how women in the arts can change things further for themselves because nobody will do it for them.
Don’t pull the ladder once you get up there.
A great day for us all and today is the opening of the first exhibition by the Collective.
Really looking forward to that.
It has been a busy week for us – preparing for a talk at the symposium – The F Word – Feminism and Art at the National Glass Centre, Sunderland on 8th March, the opening of our exhibition on 9th March and the International Women’s Day event on 11th March.
Most of the work on A Visual Conversation is complete and today my fellow artists tidied up the gallery. So it felt great to walk into a space surrounded by some amazing mark making and contemporary drawing.
Preparations for the talk are also complete and we’ve now put together a short film that gives a little preview of our work. There has been so many layers to our work which we didn’t realise until we sat down and began taking stock. It’s been a complex process of collaboration, interweaving narratives, managing emotions, challenging own practice, remaining open to new ideas, approaches, techniques and yet send out.
The video has now gone viral and the response has been great so far. All in a good days work.
Mike Collier came to the studio to see the work and very nice it was too to see him after a long time. We had very interesting conversation about the work and he noted that no one had made marks or worked over the figurative drawings. Why?
He wondered if we could fix a camera and take shots as the work would develop focussing on only one area. This would give an idea about how the work had evolved over a period of time.
He particularly liked the marks made with ink but over all he found the entire work to have a spiritual quality to it.
We discussed the model that could be transported to other areas such as education, community relations and health and wellbeing. Groups could work together with the aim to create a piece that is a collective work.
This is an interim work, so it remains to be seen how the work would develop further.
The interim viewing on Saturday, 3rd December was very successful and informative in many ways, especially in terms of feedback and questions about the model of our collaborative approach.
From the outset we agreed not to have any boundaries or rules. The only agreement on which the collective was based was that we were all free to work wherever we liked. Now, that is a whole different ballgame. We never talked about our work to each other. No ideas were exchanged and no one knew what others would do. For a long time we didn’t even see each other. I would arrive at the studio and find some marks had been made, areas had been worked on, colours added to the areas previously blank. Of course, there were periods when I was upset if my work has been painted on in a manner that I didn’t like and I had to remind myself of the fundamental agreement in principle – no rules.
On the day of the viewing, the biggest question the visitors had was, ‘Are you still talking to each other?’
The site specific nature of this work brought an extra dimension to this work. The paper on which the artwork was made followed the curves and the edges of the rooms, thus, almost compelling the viewer to continue to carry on viewing. One of the viewers said that they hadn’t seen this kind of work even in galleries in London.
We are only half way through this project and the work seemed quite developed in places. So, that begs a question about the next stage and how should we address it. Other questions arise, such as
Would this model of collaboration be successful all the time?
What if others are not sensitive to my work and create new work on top of it?
How do I tell that I am unhappy from other’s practice?
How do I tell that the art work is not working and others don’t agree with that?
Could we standardise this with a framework so that we could replicate it?
It also raises the question about breaking our own agreement of having no rules and introduce boundaries.
What kind of boundaries?