Year 2: Reflections

If Year One was exhausting and overwhelming (I finished up the year with an acute case of Shingles), Year Two became frustrating very quickly. I found the feedback from the end of year one confusing at times, especially comments about my overemphasis on being “commercial”. The kick off workshop in Barnsley was good. It was great to meet the students, and I felt it was very important to meet the tutors. I have no idea how I’m perceived over the Skype and email chats. In the work environment I’ve typically done well in building relationships through virtual means, but these studies expose our vulnerabilities (as I believe good artmaking should). In Barnsley I made my first ever sound artwork. I was pleased with the outcome and will sit with the knowledge that this is a possible medium for me. Sound may become important in my tableau installations.

I moved into a studio space and it feels good to have both this workspace, and the sense of being “a real studio artist” again. This will assist me on some of my aims this year, in particular to return to painting. I want to return to painting in order to evaluate where it might fit into my practice going forward. Why? Because I enjoy painting.

I struggled with my motivation during the first unit. I chose a project that I didn’t really find interesting and I struggled to make time in the studio. This could be because the studio isn’t suiting me as a creative space, or this could be because I’m just burnt out from last year. Regardless, I found my groove again in this project when I made some collage-based stop motion animation. I also realize now that the suitcase (my nemesis in the first unit) did start my current thoughts around the idea of some kind of contained space (portable or not), being a “space” for experiencing a time based work. The video of the collage cut outs moving around in the suitcase may have been the genesis of that idea. This notion is now somehow connected to the idea of tableau as also being a created space for experience. I also started to reach out towards colleagues and friends in the VSF and video gaming industries. I have always been interested in these creative worlds, and over the years I’ve been surrounded by these industries, while not really directly participating. (Although I have worked on three feature films.)

In March, a Vancouver-based collector and independent curator approached me about doing a week long show in a pop-up gallery space he would be running in July and August. This gave me the motivation to pull together a cohesive body of work are part of the second unit during this year “Studio Practice”. I focused on creating expanded paintings as way to express my idea of “tableau”. I also knew that I wanted to work with cutouts and with creating sculptural forms from paintings. I limited my production to painting as a way to focus my efforts. The result was akin to a research project, and The Aviary opened in July 2013 with a fabulous party. The experience of painting in an expressive manner was very enjoyable and playful. The body of work also had a playful feeling. I realized during the exhibition that I very much enjoy hearing the stories that others tell about their interpretation and their experience of the installation. This is an interest I believe it connects to both storytelling and something about spectacle. I also realized that making a body of work for the purpose of manifesting some kind of narrative is appealing to me (as opposed to, for example, making a series of paintings developing some compositional structure of exploring colour theory). I also realized that I could introduced stop-motion animation into a body of work like The Aviary through projections onto the expanded paintings. I also have a sense of how photographic stills and sound could also be a part of a cohesive body of work. In many ways I was operating like a set or production designer for a film or for the theatre. My viewer was not just the audience, but also a member of the cast in some way. I think that The Aviary was successful creating metaphor, thus being open to layers of interpretation rather than literally narrating a story.

The work in The Aviary was purposefully colourful and playful. I hadn’t made work like this in a very long time, and this did make me uncomfortable about possible reactions to the work. I do know however, that I want to retain some elements of play and humour in my work going forward.

My year end essay attempted to explain current thoughts about “tableau” and how this could help me define my practice and make decisions about what works to make. I also realize that I am a storyteller. Additionally, the gratifying of experience of making paintings freely and enjoying the nature of painting again put the phrase “ca me plait” in my mind. Basically, this means to return to the simple motivation of making work that pleases me. In and amongst making work for the MA Program, this has been lost at times.

This year I made a purposeful turn to the left, from last year. This tangent took me back to exploring painting, and one side of the continuum in which I believe my practice is rooted. I believe that I am a photographer and a painter who makes videos and installations.

My intention next year is to focus back on stop-motion animation as a way of taking photography into the dimension of time. Then to use expanded painting in combination with time-based works to create tableau like installations. I will also more thoroughly investigate the influence of film, CGI and video gaming on my aesthetic. I know however that I need to also consider my content – my narratives in order to not just be a process-based artist. What drives me to actually make this work? What dialogue do I want to have with my audience?

Themes in my artwork and practice:

  • Non-linear narrative
  • Environment and installation (immersion into the artwork)
  • Tableau and theatricality
  • Gesture and the object
  • Psychological landscapes
  • Expanded painting

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