exploring

Dungeness inspirations

This spring I spent a few days on a kind of art retreat in Dungeness, staying in one of the original cottages at the tip of the ness, and focussing on simply walking, looking, experiencing, seeing what made my whiskers twitch, and then drawing, writing and photographing.

Here's a selection to show you some of the things that have stuck with me most and have been inspiring some new work that I will share with you in the next post.

The scattering of self-built houses and sheds

Trackways across the shingle

Debris equally and equivalently scattered with irregular shapes and fascinating finishes

the everpresent hum of power station looming above it all

Thinking things through with Tacita Dean

I was pleased to catch the Imagine episode about Tacita Dean last night.

tacita dean.jpg

I was particularly struck by her comments on film as a medium with a process that has a gestation period, allowing time to think. It's easy with ceramics to get frustrated by how long everything takes and the dragging of time between starting and thinking, but I realise now that's another medium with a gestation period. Particularly with my newer more creative work, that reflecting & mulling & pondering what to do next time is turning out to be really valuable. I just needed to adjust my perspective to notice.

She also mentioned finding that she needed not to know the outcome of a project before it finished, to be 'blind' to the results until she had completed the journey. I have a tendency to live either in the future, in planning, and to imagine that I can work projects through entirely in my mind before I start - although I then have no interest in actually doing the work. Perhaps I too need that element of open exploration where the project develops it's own direction of steer as it progresses.

Thanks for the insights Tacita Dean! The programme is worth watching if you're able to.

Garden design by Burle Marx

As spring progresses we have become more aware of the state of our new back garden and how much better it could be. A chance sighting of Brazilian designer Burle Marx's work on tv has been inspiring. Initially an artist he brought an artistic vision to his work as well as a committment to the place he was working, using native flora and style rather than harking back to a European tradition. What I particularly relished was his use of structure - in a way that was not formal ( a big eye-opener that has set my mind whirring!), rhythm, repetition and block planting to draw attention to the characteristics of one plant. I also enjoyed his focus on the character of a plant as a whole rather then being tightly focussed on flowers as so often happens in English gardens to rather ditzy effect.

Here are some pictures of his own garden that I found on the internet...

Exploring: On being an artist, Michael Craig Martin

This year I am launching a new strand of blog posts, entitled 'Exploring'. They will be a very mixed bag, noting new discoveries in any and all fields of interest. I love finding interesting new things/places/ideas/people etc and look forward to sharing them with you.

I kick off with Michael Craig Martin's memoir/life lessons which was reccomended to me last autumn.

I found it a really interesting read, both as an overview of an artist I was not that familiar with and particularly for his insights into the practice of making art and maintaining a career as a working artist.

Two points stuck out strongly for me.

Chapter 4 "On being vulnerable to the world" called attention to a phenomena that I was vaguely aware of: that I seemed to notice & be impacted upon by the world around more than other people seem to be. This has been both positive and negative for me so his notion of vulnerability resonated.

"There is nothing that happens in an artist's life - whether good or bad, no matter how dramatically important or apparently trivial - that cannot be turned to effective use in their art. Any crummy part time job, any minor incident, any childhood memory. Other people can read a book for pleasure or enlightenment. An artist may read a book and it can alter the whole course of their life's work. Artists are unusually vulnerable to the worl this way. And they, in turn, use their work to seduce others into valuing what they value."

Chapter 59 lays out what he sees as the three stages of 20th century art, a series of phases radicalising the possible style, medium and then content of an art work. His career spanned the latter two and he argues persuasively of the need to be engaged with the 'burning question' of the day.

At that time, the nature of that 'burning question' was perhaps obvious. Thinking about how to engage now however it is not clear to me what the question of today - for art or for ceramics - actually is! Perhaps that is the engagement that is now needed?! How to engage and make work in a contemporary way when any style, material or content is already possible...