Abstract Memory Remnant A to B
Bank Street Arts, Sheffield.
January 16th - February 4th 2017.
Problem creating, problem addressing process.
Close examinations avoiding closure.
Physical engagement with materials is a form of cognition, of learning.
There is this fairly constant internal debate I have about process / experimentation / materials VS what actually is this ‘stuff’ I'm working on…
Why am I doing it?
What am I hoping to to communicate?
Who and what is it actually for?
I think because I refuse to ‘illustrate’ a place or write ‘songs’ about a place, but instead try to evoke something else about ‘places’ there is also the ‘danger’ that the drawings and audio will possibly become mannered, repetitive - rely on a formulaic approach and response. I don't necessarily mean certain shapes, motifs, riffs, beats or marks either - I mean more about a mindset and ‘playing it safe’. Avoiding the risk of ‘failing’.
I was recently reading Stefan Sagmeister’s ‘Everything I have learnt in my life so far’ and a particular ‘chapter’ called ‘If I want to explore a new direction professionally, it is helpful to try it out for myself first’.
There was reference to an article about American artist Robert Rauschenberg;
‘…He stated that he never tried to come into the studio with an idea. If he has an idea, he goes for a walk to get rid of it. He says that if he does start with an idea, chances are he’ll only come up with stuff that he or somebody else has done before him. He wants all the insecurities and doubts of the working process to become part of the final piece’.
This really chimed with where my studio practise is currently. Practically speaking, I walk to and from the studio each day and the ‘stuff’ from that walk informs the drawing, painting, audio, sculpture, writing… What I see, hear, feel, smell.
I found it quite amusing that I would be thinking about where I had been with a particular piece of work the day before and the ‘notes to self’ or doodles I’d pinned / stuck to it ready for the next day… and how on an unproductive, ‘avoiding the risk’ day I simply do as they say and ‘cut out the planned shape’ or ‘play the proposed riff’. But on a more radical and productive day I totally disregarded them on return because I'm seeing or hearing the work fresh, with new ‘stuff’ from the most recent walk to influence the creative process.
So I decided to set subtly different parameters to the studio work. Using drawing and audio in tandem. Working between each medium, allowing one to ‘influence’ the other. Don't get me wrong, I'm not making random marks whilst the music is playing, this isn't ‘interpreting sound through drawing’ or anything as potentially cliched as that.
Its far more ‘concrete’ than that.
The current drawings are very large - a little over eight feet wide and five feet high.
It is physically demanding to make and move about. In fact it is almost ridiculous, but this takes me out of my comfort zone.
The audio starts as recognisable ‘riffs’ from a bass or tuned percussion or even a voice but become ‘deconstructed’ via a desktop sampler. Chopped up, tuned up or down, looped, reversed, made more ‘granular’.
Both elements are constantly egging the other on to deconstruct, to choose the less obvious.
To enable ‘all the insecurities and doubts of the working process’ to show themselves.
The studio is also becoming more intrinsically ‘part’ of the work. The audio samples are taken live through a microphone and as a consequence the audio detritus of adjoining industrial workshops, adjacent houses, aircraft flying over, etc, are integrated. Likewise the floor, walls, workbench introduce graphic glitches into the drawing process as I cut, rub, spray, scratch, rip and reassemble the paper.
In Eric Kessel’s recent book ‘Failed it! He discusses celebrating the act of the accident, quoting Samuel Beckett along the way;
‘Ever tried, ever failed, no matter. Try again, fail again, fail better’.
And in ‘Thinking is making - presence and absence in contemporary sculpture’ I found the idea of Failure Aesthetics; ’An anti heroic condition of being debased but tentatively alive, patched together and flaunting the scars of its own making’. Im holding those two quotes close to my studio practise.
Perhaps to answer my questions at the beginning of this piece I need to acknowledge my initial intentions nearly four years ago when drawing returned as the main focus of my studio practise and a key statement from Irene Barberis in ‘The Good Drawing’ (CCW graduate school publications);
‘There are no rules; drawing can be as minimal as a breath and as complex as the wave structures and recordings of the ocean. Drawing is kinaesthetic; a movement between points, a connection, recognition and gesture of any idea, mark, trace, line, symbol, shape, medium, space or surface’.