I've been taking photos around my studio recently, which is something I do from time to time, documenting my various work spaces as a kind of date stamped stocktake of progress. In going through these, it's noticeable that there is a personal, idiosyncratic continuity in the work I keep around the place, things that look like they're vaguely going in the same general direction, or heading toward some vaguely defined thematic whole. One can see that all these separate things go together somehow - aside from them being in the same location - that they do belong together despite their differences, as if they share some kind of common language, that they're parts of a whole.
These are my visual notes; disparate yet somehow congruent notes, moving towards a larger purpose. A more considered and highly personal, emotional side; my 'serious' work. Images that have resonated so strongly and recurrently over so many years that they never really leave the front of my mind.
A lot of the stuff you see here on artworkerprojects is recreational; occupational therapy that keeps my need to make satisfied, or commercially afloat. I accept commissions and work within exterior briefs, but the sense of an overriding demon is always present somewhere, whether through medium, technique or even colour. It all comes from the same core: me. You get me and my take on the issue at hand, but with my back-story, my demons and my explanations.
In my menagerie, separate images can spin around but there always remains this need for them to be grouped, to be partnered together somehow, as if that would make sense of them and connect them up like words or phrases in a conversation, if only I could order the layers just so. The grouping of images, patterns, colours, techniques and media that seem to hint at some greater sum, a way forward...that all of this could come together if only I could figure it out.
This is the imperative that drives my making and why I'm happy to create in such a mash up of disciplines, why my work is spread across a mad diversity of media and method; because if I keep working & have more than one piece on the go and if I just keep doing...sometimes I find things have made themselves. And they sing.
Sometimes I get back great, aesthetically pleasing images but still haven't worked out some essential, crucial something that adds up in a way I can only perceive instinctively.
Sometimes I find I've made a new thing that has come from the old things but with the extra insight & value that comes from time. Sometimes it’s a new slant on a singular concept, or a fuller realisation, and I feel the immediate recognition of an image being truer; a better representation within an old, familiar and deeply felt narrative.
As a natural consequence of time & experience, surfaces grow richer, there’s more depth to the layers, vocabulary is honed and more depth accumulates; momentum increases, I’m making more connections, finding more satisfying solutions and feeling my sense of purpose becoming more convincing.
I'm after the perfect series of layers from this recurring cache, this emotional collage of images; an explanation, a sentence made from time & memory resolved in a series of perfect parts.
Sometimes, like a pay-off for time served, I make something new that sings.
It’s as if the most powerful works can’t be made 'on purpose', they can’t be worked on directly, they have to occur naturally, of their own volition; again, they make themselves in the wake of other, less threatening, more undemanding work and the emotional weight they shoulder, the power of possibilities they possess makes them - to me - the most personally exciting & satisfying.
This is the Big Concept stuff: loss, the unknown and the unutterable. A dark nostalgia. A slightly threatening atmosphere, beauty, a dedication to craft and self-defined aesthetics. The space between experience and reality; a misbelonging. Borrowed, half remembered histories and ominous yet familiar constructions that seek to both reveal and obscure some vital, prophetic dialogue. Redemption, salvation even. An earnest self-referencing narrative, highly strung and cobbled together from memories and fears but falling just short of completion. My perfect whole.
I'm always conscious of needing three things to make a composition whole. I don't know if this is a rule I was taught, origin forgotten, or a subliminal - and most likely Catholic - archetype arrangement: man, woman and Other. It is the way things seem to balance best for me, somehow. I can identify three central imageries in my work and this is borne out again and again in all these images. There’s my PNG crocodile mask, (my Jungian Shadow); landscape, dark and rich; and pattern. All these elements are often caught up, framed or shaped, informed, deified by an architectural shape.
Having all of these elements coming together would seem to be the penultimate point to my work, but as is clear now, here, I’m…not there yet.
Trying to figure out life as I go, I work and rework again & again within my self-defined limited palette, weighing up the possibilities, trying things out and finding out what sings back.
When the extraordinary appears, when images emerge that ring true, its as if light has split open and I can look ahead only to realise that the path is endless; its cyclical. And that’s ok, it makes sense.
Around and around it goes and I still need to keep pursuing after what? I need to write a reason? This is what matters to me, relentlessly working, either profligate producer or flat lining spectator, I’m not done yet and nor will I ever be maybe but I do know that there’s things I have to make. And that I need to let it play out.
Time. I do know that pay-off is an infrequent occurrence; I have to be turning over a great deal of peripheral artwork to generate these pivotal pieces. That’s the way art making happens for me & why – given my vast back catalogue – it’s clear that the best work is about time, both real and conceptual.
In putting this chapter of words & pictures together, I can see how helpful it is to consolidate & consider the whole. Reflect on progress, if any; considering the sum of the parts. But I'm going to retro-document my trajectory in further, separate chapters & frame each of the dominant elements uniquely. I’m betting this will uncover even more possibilities, work begets work, etc and for me, making artwork is deeply worthwhile. The web at large is obviously welcome to look on & weigh in. Is there anyone out there? Seriously, please, let me know, leave a comment! I welcome critiques.
If I add more image files onto this post it'll take half an hour to load and that can be a drag; believe me, this is but an abbreviated smidge. Best to go forward carefully I think, and proceed in an orderly fashion: further exercises in Big Concept Stuff to come next post.
For now, returning to where I started, the studio. My world.