Friday, June 25, 2010
Last night I had the wonderful pleasure of attending an evening with Antony Gormley at the Museum of London.
It is quite impossible to be aware of the art world and not have at least heard his name on the periphery. He is one of the world's most prolific sculptors. Works like Event Horizon, originally presented in London and now on display in New York, are difficult to miss. In the interview last night the fact that his work has been called 'viral' was brought up for discussion.
He certainly has managed to place his work in all manner of spaces and places, from mountains and deserts to cities and even the ocean. I can't say I looked at any of his art with a strong understanding. I could see it was a challenge for where art may be viewed and how it relates to the landscapes around us, but last night I learned a new depth to the brilliant human being behind these pieces.
Antony Gormley wore a white shirt, white trousers and brown hiking boots. I noticed the stripey socks poking out from under the cuff of his pant leg. He spoke with a gentle voice, reflecting on how he creates and his achievements thus far. It was when he described the making of Field that I found myself drawn in closer to his methodical and warm tones. As he described the way in which he brought other people in to work on something, the way in which he employed them to create a piece in a mindful way, I found myself filling up with this sense of absolute joy. He told us about the process and the 'rules' he placed, of which there were very few: take a handful of clay, shape it, give it eyes, don't think about it, just feel it.
Just feel it. Just create something based on a feeling, without applying detail and thought. It was beautiful and it was then I realised something I hadn't known about Antony Gormley. He too is a Buddhist.
He didn't really speak the words as such throughout the interview, but he did begin using more Buddhist terminology and he shared his experience of being a young man and facing the choice to become a monk or to become a sculptor. His words were so captivating. As I sat there I found myself smiling wider and wider. All these ideas about giving art to people. About providing an environment in which anyone could see that we are all artists and we are all connected. We are limitless energy and ideas. We are pure potential personified and the only restrictions are the ones we choose to create and confine ourselves to. If we stand on top of a building, high above the caverns we've created below, we can see the horizon. If we take a moment to stand on a plinth, to present our bodies as art, as impermanent, moldable things, we can see our potential. We can "be the subject of the field" and we can each make our worlds bigger by sharing our experience, our observations, our discoveries.
Perhaps a cold metal statue in a barren tundra is not representative of man vs. nature, but how man is nature. We are each of us connected entirely through our human experience and our shared planet. I am as much a part of the vast landscapes of countries I've not yet been to as they are a part of me.
I sat in that uncomfortable plastic chair and looked in awe at someone so humble about what he was doing because he knew he was merely a vessel for the creativity that was already there. He is a Bodhisattva warrior, using artwork to challenge us to question who we are, how we fit, where we belong and how we choose to define ourselves based on the space in which we exist. I think the description of materials used for Vehicle says it all: lead, fibreglass, wood, steel, air.
Air is as much a part of what we create, what we experience and who we are as anything else. It is just as tangible. It is also impermanent and changeable, like all else.
When the last questions was asked and answered I felt this sense of great connectivity with everyone in that room. I would have happily sat for hours if I'd been able to ask more, to crate dialogue, to converse easily and dive even more into the world he shared. He really did make my world bigger last night.
For that I am ever grateful.
Tuesday, June 22, 2010
As I recently put new music on my iPod and as I had my nifty iPhone handy (Technology is so magnificent, isn't it?) I felt set to embark on a spontaneous walking adventure.
I love walking. Since I was a kid I have enjoyed long wandering travels through unexplored wilderness or the well-loved bike paths in the city. I have never shied away from getting around on foot and whilst cycling is quite fun as well, there is something about the pace of walking that gives me so much to reflect on.
I decided to head along the Thames, as I have a fondness for rivers and all the wonders one might behold upon their banks. The first such delight I discovered were majestic houseboats, mansions of their breed, tucked in behind riverside warehouses. The location wasn't grand but the homes certainly were. They had more plants than some of the gardens that extend out of the Victorian properties where I live. Through half pulled curtains I could see spiral staircases and long oak tables, shining kitchens with stainless steel counter tops and all the luxuries of a swank apartment. It was juxtaposed by the mucky river bed that cradled the hulls and smelled slightly of fish.
The concrete path wound away from this bizarre living complex and I followed the Thames River Path arrows through back roads lined by factories. The concrete let off as much heat below my feet as the sun did from above. I crept along the shadows of high fencing covered in advertisements, hoping I wouldn't burn but also gloriously thankful for the bright orb in the sky and all it's warmth and majesty. I was just thinking that the bustle of the road to my left and the stink of factories to my right was not the best place to fully appreciate the sun. Fourtunately I was not far off one of those delightful places that London holds so dear...a green space.
Battersea Park greeted me with the smell of roses, as just inside this gate I discovered droves of them. They were probably in their prime only a few days ago, as many of the petals were starting to show brown, but the smell was still magnificent. It permeated the air and broke through the baking heat, adding a scent of fresh, wild beauty to the lush green park grounds.
I followed the path that wound around stunning flower displays to find the lake at the middle. Wild birds swam back and forth, chasing bugs and hoping for someone elderly to bring crumbs. A few chicks, not quite fully grown fuzzy versions of the adults they would soon be, splashed and darted nearer the shore. I paused to watch their antics.
Where I stood was a large piece of art, testimony to the fact that London really is a public Gallery. Certainly, the elephants are delightful, but they're a special guest exhibit. The permanent pieces are just as abundant and are not limited to one particular style. I inspected the oddity I had stumbled upon and wondered about the dedication.
I often think I should try sculpting something on a larger scale. I know that larger canvases are more conducive to my work. It stands to reason that I would do well to make some Henry Moore sized sculpture.
I walked along a quaint road lined with countless shops selling everything from greasy food to hair removal, knitting to fireplaces. I wondered how many people visiting this city would find this street and how many people who lived here their whole lives had never been to Battersea Park. It seems you can miss just as much living somewhere as you can when you visit in a whirlwind and have limited time.
Monday, June 21, 2010
Wednesday, June 16, 2010
At first I thought it was a bit creepy looking. It seemed like it had a skin disease. Then I spotted the title and deduced that they were little windows for looking into, so I did.
I can't say this is my favourite elephant, but it's probably in my top five (Keeping in mind that there are over two-hundred of them and I've seen about fifty). You can take a look at my previous elephant hunting photos and see why it's difficult to choose just one, or even a top five actually.
To add to my art-tastic experience I made a return trip to the Tate Modern. It hasn't changed too much since my last visit, but there were a few new installations and it was fun to re-visit the old.
It is an immense building that requires a lot of walking so by the time I got home I was knackered. This didn't stop me from spouting absolute *glee* at finding a package waiting for me in the doorstep. My plaster cast has arrived! This means I can start making masks again. I already have a commission for a hare mask, which I may be able to start this weekend. Besides that, having plastic cast means I can add sculpture to my paintings, which I've done successfully once before and would love to try again.
Even though you can't see it, trust me that I'm rubbing my hands in anticipation.
Monday, June 14, 2010
This is Gertrude.
She's very earnest. She's also a lover of food and dispenser of affection.
She's a bit mad, a bit loud and a bit more like an owl-monkey-ewok-puppy than a cat, but she's good at giving kisses and she knows when you need a cuddle.
I think we can learn a lot from animals. They, just like us, want to be loved, to be happy, to be warm, sheltered and feel safe. They also can't help but be what they are meant to be. A cat catches birds, rolls in dirt and chews grass because that is what cats do. They're very good at living their life as they are meant to and I don't think anyone can argue that cats just don't seem to worry an awful lot.
I'm a very good worrier. I've perfected it, which isn't something to brag about. It means I'm really good at thinking of all the potential things that could go wrong, all the things that I perceive as currently going wrong and all the things that have gone wrong before. I know this is foolish because I know the following things:
1. Change is constant, therefore nothing lasts, good, bad or otherwise.
2. We are always in transition because change is constant, therefore nothing will ever 'settle-down' and it is foolish to expect it to.
3. I am the master of my own destiny and I have the ability to focus my mind, therefore I must give myself time and compassion and remember to meditate.
It's really easy to forget that we're very much in charge of our own lives when so many things seem to be out of our control. I don't think I could possibly improve upon how this fact was put in the serenity prayer.
To accept the things I cannot change;
Courage to change the things I can;
And wisdom to know the difference"
Whether you believe in a god or goddess, the universe, Buddha, Allah or none of the above, we all have the ability to accept the things we cannot change, courage to change the things we can and the wisdom to know the difference. Interestingly enough I've found it takes more courage to change the way I think about something and the way I choose to feel than it took to decide to move to London. It takes far more chutzpah to tackle my own bad habits of thought pattern than to tackle the challenge of creating a not for profit organisation. It definitely took a lot to accept that, if I'm going bean artist and I'm going to get published, I must be my own biggest fan, greatest support and strongest voice.
Thankfully I have three lovely furry examples. Mabel reminds me to take time to rest and to rest fully in the moment, letting go of all those negative thoughts. Gertrude reminds me about having compassion for myself and therefore for everyone around me, including the trouble-makers. Delirium reminds me to play, to be a bit mad, and to talk when I need to. And as they are cats, all three remind me that it's important to be alone for a while and to take a moment for self reflection.
Sunday, June 13, 2010
I'd begun this blog at that point but I was making a staunch effort to keep it Just About Art. It was stale and I didn't like writing in it because it felt so scripted. My psychologist (bless her) pushed me to use it more, explaining the benefits of it as a social media tool for ones personal business. I paraded out excuses for not wanting to partake but she always had a block for them.
Eventually I gave in and I'm so glad that I did. I've discovered the benefits of them in their full force. I find advice between the lines; direction, tips and tutoring from fellow artists; amusing anecdotes and wonderful opportunities. Blogs opened up so much to me so quickly and every week I find myself visiting the same few. I'm working on it, working on maintaining my own in a healthy way, but also working on how the ones I follow can feed my creativity and business sense.
I've got loads of blogs saved to my RSS feed, but today I began copying those links to my own blog. I know how important this exchange can be and for anyone who has ever felt that no one would want to read what they have to write, remember that there is a huge audience out there. You need only find yours.
Saturday, June 12, 2010
The thing is, nowadays when someone thinks of an apprenticeship, they think of the trades. They want builders, carpenters, electricians. They want to be teaching these skills to willing and able "youth". As I'm now 25 the term "youth" no longer applies and since I'm a fine artist and a writer, there aren't any true apprenticeship opportunities available to me.
There was a time when you couldn't be an artist without having an apprenticeship. The masters had droves of students; they would be stretching their canvases, mixing their paints, managing their sales. Without an apprenticeship you couldn't get anywhere.
Of course the wonderful benefit of being alive today is that you can market yourself. I continue to establish my role through my blog, my website and my twitter feed. I can make my own business cards with some photo paper and a decent printer. I can organise a gallery showing in my own home and expect a wonderful attendance. If I really wanted to I could drop a load of money and go to school, where I'd learn art history and get to play with different materials and experiment to my hearts content.
But there's something to be said about that one on one experience. There's something so essential to having a teacher who not only shows you the craft, but also has you running the business so you get a true life experience of what it's like to be a professional. At the moment I consider myself semi-professional. My artwork is not available for free but it isn't yet selling at a rate which means I don't require a second job.
I still find myself perusing the interweb, searching for artists in London who might want me to attend to their studios, assist with their gallery showings, clean their brushes and at the same time, observe the career they've built. I don't know if I'll ever find such a person but I'm keeping my eyes open.
Friday, June 11, 2010
Wednesday, June 9, 2010
We were discussing dreams and the idea of ripples; those little things that wriggle into our lives when we're least expecting them. Sometimes they're subtle, like a small pebble being dropped. Sometimes it's as if a large stone has been heaved in, causing a monumental splash and ripples that echo off of each other as they reach the shore.
What I appreciated most about this exchange was her description of an individual as a pond with things hidden below the surface and the way things show above as to what is below. It stayed with me and I have found myself journalling on the matter, the idea of ripples filling my head.
Art is a reflection of self and I think the reason I may have been struggling lately is because I've been approaching my work from a purely technical perspective. I've forgotten about using it to express all the things running through my head. It's merely about technique and style, not about the heart of the artist behind it.
I like that I've got four canvases in different stages of completion. I especially like how different each one is and that, when I get home from temping, I don't mind that I only have an hour or so to paint. Any time to paint is enough if only because I get to spend some time converting those thoughts in my head into brush strokes and colour.
Sunday, June 6, 2010
Saturday, June 5, 2010
"You're playing a dangerous game," he replied, as if reading from a script. He's been to the school of how to get people to buy something outrageously expensive. Three months earlier I was in the same shop and he'd insisted that both pairs of boots I'd tried would no longer exist by now. Both are still on display.
Now he is playing a dangerous game. He has told me, lover of all shoes bright and beautiful, that these gorgeous things can be secured with a small payment, until I'm financial comfortable to purchase them.
"Yeah, alright," I set them on the counter, swinging my bag around and pulling out my wallet. Deposit down, I head out into the sun. My destination is a Costa Coffee. I make my way through the crowds of tourists, tattooists, merchants and teenagers that fill the sidewalks along Camden Market. The thought of those boots is in the back of my mind.
I am by no means frivolous. I am sensible and careful with money to such an extreme that I will go without things that qualify as needs simply because I can't bring myself to justify expenditure on say, a bra over food. But I'm learning to trust that I am really good with my finances and that it's O.K. to pay for the things you want as long as you remember that they do not equate happiness, nor do they ensure your survival. It doesn't make it 'bad' or 'wrong' to want as long as you are aware of why.