I've recently been running some workshops for young people that have involved using mud. The preparation of the space (not by me) has been reminiscent of an alien autopsy lab ..... the floors and tables covered with thick plastic sheeting to 'protect' the room. At the end of each session I've bagged up the slightly soiled plastic sheeting with thoughts of sculptural pieces. Having brought them into the studio I've added dirt to them and began working with it on a large scale, something I don't often have the opportunity to do.
The view from the studio that has inspired so many artists is other-wordly - It's almost unreal. Every time I look up I am taken aback by the picture perfect postcard view of St Ives, every minute a photo opportunity, but is it really the reality of St Ives? I've decided to muddy the view, to cloud the perspective, to dirty up what appears to be so perfect. Echoing a project I did recently with artist Jonty Lees ( https://circuit.tate.org.uk/2015/04/popping-up-in-penzance/) where on the first few days of taking over an empty shop we played with windowlene on the windows, making patterns, doodling with our fingers in the white wash, viewing the street from a hidden perspective I've decided to do the same but with dirt. I feel a set of alternative Dirty Postcards coming on .....
Moving into the beautiful Studio 9 of Porthmeor Studios, St Ives at the very beginning of the Easter Holidays has meant I'm easing in gently. Due to other commitments I am unable to throw myself into getting on with 'work' in the studio just yet. Although at times this makes me feel a little panicky (time here is so precious - I'm only here for 12 weeks) it has also taken the pressure off a little. I'm just familiarising myself with the space, getting it feel 'just right' (sofabed in place, a fridge has been donated to me, an opportunity to relax in here with friends and family).
Re-reading my proposal to be here has been good purely from a reassuring perspective 'an opportunity to recharge and evaluate' lessens the guilt as I sit typing this intermittently staring at the sea. In my proposal I've focused on creating a 'Dirt Lab' - all things dirt. "2015 happens to be the UN Year of the Soil. Although my work is more about the Dirt and Soiled rather than the wholesomeness of soil, the 3 months at Porthmeor will allow me the space and time to explore the matter through reading, investigation and experimentation'
I have no idea what these 12 weeks will bring. I aim to host a 'Dirty Weekend' later on in June with fellow artists who enjoy working with not only soil, but dust, dirt and all materials that could be linked to Soil.
I've had nearly 12 weeks away from my studio practice, concentrating on an exciting studio project with young people which, when I have time will write up. It was time to get back into the studio to prepare works for the Soil Culture exhibition in Peninsula Arts, Plymouth https://www.plymouth.ac.uk/whats-on/soil-culture-exhibitions exhibitions. Having packed away my studio in Marazion I was fortunate enough to be able to book a temporary space at the wonderful CAST building in Helston http://c-a-s-t.org.uk It felt energising to be in a new space - I had been in the studios in Marazion for probably about 7 years and change felt good.
Some pieces going to Peninsula Arts were some of my early works in mud and just needed a little attention before packing up but I had also been asked to send my Dirty Pictures, shown in my last post. I like them - they're works in progress, I knew I had to work on them, live with them a little more before being ready to send them out to a gallery.
So on day 2 of me trying to talk about my work I realise I need to start dismantling everything due to moving out of my studio in Marazion. I've been aware of this for quite a while now, just been in a state of denial, not so much sad to be leaving this space, but more what the hell am I going to do with everything whilst I seek a new studio?!
This studio is damp and cold (whose isn't?) but with that the outside seeps in. Ivy and brambles crawl through the walls and doors and I often walk in to find swallows up in the rafters, or sadly more often then not, dead ones tucked behind all my junk.
I think this studio environment has inspired my work over the years. I'm fascinated with mould growth and the intertwining forms connecting living and dead matter, where ivy grows through a building wall, where dug up roots begin to re-shoot and where fallen trees quickly become covered with crawling plant life.
I have recently been using a combination of synthetic and natural materials to construct hybrid sculptures, this has also involved melting some plastics (not good I know), mainly scraps I've found around the studio, both inside and out. Toxic environments are intriguing, out of decay and destruction life form usually finds a way. I wanted to continue 'growing' this work so it sprawled and hung and took over my studio.
For now at least it has to be all packed away.
A week ago today I met with Caroline Mawdsley Curator of programmes at Plymouth Arts Centre (http://www.plymouthartscentre.org) who thanks to VASW (http://www.vasw.org.uk) has been appointed as my mentor for the next year. I applied for the mentoring opportunity for many different reasons, I am acutely aware I'm in a comfort zone in West Cornwall and I'm not great at pushing myself in terms of creating new opportunities or even talking about my practice.
I work away in the studio, developing ideas, creating work, often not completing works and then they end up being recycled or thrown away. That 'what on earth am I doing all this for?' question rears it's ugly head far too often. Am I really only making work for me to see?
So, Caroline arrived into my cold studio last Wednesday and asked me that dreaded question, "Tell me about your work" . Such a simple question that as an artist 14 years from graduating I really should be able to articulate. It's not easy though and I interestingly found myself immediately responding with what my work wasn't about! However, after a while, and from gentle further questioning from Caroline, I spoke of my interest in Dirt and the soiled (rather that earth and soil) and more recently a love of mould. All matter that is often found repulsive in some way or something to be wiped over, sanitised. Dirt and mould linked with life, growth and death. It's the language we use around these things too, the negative connotations around dirty words and when exactly does the wholesomeness of soil become dirt? The layers of my interests in these aside, I can't help but just be visually inspired by the aesthetics of dirt and mould. I'm currently making some dirty pictures and enjoying the process and the results. I genuinely take pleasure in looking at the 'pictures' in my studio, (I don't often say that about work I make) each time I notice something I hadn't noticed before, during Carolines meeting with me the light changed considerably in the studio and I saw them in a different way again.
It was an interesting experience for me talking about my work and what goals I'd like to set myself for the year with Caroline. I'm not used to that, a lot of the goals I set for myself are usually around my 'paid work' that thankfully I'm passionate about, that of working with young people and engaging them with art, I'm all too aware that side of my work takes precedent and a lot of my energies and focus. Although I have some exciting plans in the pipeline around that work, which I would like to talk through with Caroline, I made of point of steering away as best I could, from that subject in our first meeting knowing full well it would take over (comfort zone).
As part of the Soil Culture Forum (organised by CCANW & Falmouth University) I have been asked to install "Dirty War" in the exhibition that will accompany the conference. This is a strange experience for me, many of the works I have made over the years cease to exist after exhibition, either swept away or broken apart, they were not made to be permanent. Dirty War however, was packed away in boxes, oddly for me, labelled with exactly how many dirty soldiers were in each box? The formation from when I had it installed at Newlyn Gallery was based on a starlings murmuration. My studio is in Marazion and my journey is often treated to the wonderful display of starlings coming home to roost. It seemed fitting at the time of creating Dirty War, to place these soldiers in a irregular pattern that echoed the formations of the starlings coming home. The space in Falmouth University was very different to the gallery, but I still felt a need to install them in this sort of format. It felt good to revisit this old piece and glad to be showing to a different audience. Looking forward to seeing the rest of the works within the exhibition l
I always love a peek into fellow artists studios, seeing work in progress and ideas being played with.