I've been poorly this week - so haven't been in the studio as much as I would have liked to be. If anything, this week off has made me realise how important it is for me to keep creating. Sitting at home, doing nothing but coughing, sleeping, researching artists online and watching Netflix has left me itching to get back into the studio. So as I was feeling a little better today I decided to head in for a few hours. Being a Saturday, the studio was completely empty and eerily quiet, but the silence gave me a chance to really focus and get my head down.
Earlier in the week, before my illness really took it's toll, I took part in a studio practice workshop focused on writing. It seems a little strange, 'visual' Fine Art students attending a compulsory workshop mainly to do with writing. The workshop, held by Neil McLeod, explored "an experimental approach to writing and drawing as a means of generating studio practice". On first impression, I was dreading the workshop. When I write, I consider very carefully where I place the words on the page. I look up synonyms to discover new words. I revise, I change, I manipulate, I constantly edit what I'm writing. I very rarely write instinctively or with any sort of spontaneity, so the idea of the workshop made me slightly nervous...
Writing has always held a special place in my heart. It's an escape, a release from life that I so often used to indulge in before the intensity of A Level studies got in the way. Coming to Falmouth, I'm actually here to discover what my calling in life is. I'm encouraged to make time and spend that time trialling, experimenting, re-visiting old loves and re-kindling my passion for various art forms.
The workshop forced me to stop thinking about what it was that I was writing and just enjoy that form of self-expression. After a few hectic, emotive weeks - I found that the various 'rules' we were given for each 5 minutes of unconscious streaming of words (write small, write backwards, write three words on each line, write over one line consistently, etc) really helped me to get these deeper feelings out. It was a really valuable session. I got more creativity out of that 7 hour workshop writing session than I would have got from sitting in the studio just making. Sometimes taking time away to focus on other disciplines really can help to move your work in the right direction.
My all-time favourite poetry collection, the first poetry book I ever bought for myself, is Ted Hughes' 'Birthday Letters'; his collection of poems about his complex relationship and marriage with Sylvia Plath. I watched a documentary on Hughes the other day and discovered that "He was working on 'Birthday Letters' for about 30 years, as a notebook...there are literally hundreds of poems, many of which weren't included in the finished collection itself. An endless process of writing, re-writing, spending his whole life working on this project.... Even once he's typed it, he then goes over again and again; scrawling lines out, adding words in an extraordinary process of constant revision."
In a way, that 'extraordinary process of constant revision' is what I'm seeing happening in my own studio practice, similar to Hughes' writing process; I'm constantly creating layers so that the surface information of the painting comes from the layers that have been built up from beneath. The piece shape-shifts, if you like, morphing into an unrecognisable new piece as the layers progress.
I'm currently considering how to bring these pieces forward, to the next level. Whether I include other mediums such as collage, photography, embroidery or pastels I'm not yet sure - but I do know I'd like to explore how paint works beyond the rollers and masking tape. Perhaps pairing brush strokes with the textural outcomes of using the rollers would be interesting and create a greater sense of depth; a differentiation between the foreground and background which is quite blurred and ambiguous at the moment. I really feel like I'm getting somewhere with this way of working, though, and that feels so good. The pieces feel like my own, not an unconscious spin-off of a piece I've been inspired by, and I think that's why I'm so excited to progress with them.