It has been six weeks since I was sitting in a car with the majority of my life possessions heading back to my family home in Bedfordshire for the summer.
I took a necessary break away in order to let my ideas from last semester settle and make way for newer things. I expected to take a little hiatus from consistent painting practice after coming home for the summer but, in all honestly, the break has been longer than I had anticipated. I have made a few paintings and drawings here and there, trying to find my feet, but it's been a slow transition.
That doesn't mean I haven't been working, though. I have been writing, researching, visiting galleries and making pages upon pages of notes on the books I have been reading in a bid to contextualise my work. I must have started this blog post around five times over the last few weeks but struggled to find a way to articulate the myriad of ideas, theologies and concepts spinning round in my head.
So instead of going headfirst into a blog post I had no idea how to begin, I have been doing a lot of thinking in anticipation of second year. I want to start uni again in September with a crystal clear idea in my head of where I want to take my practice. First year was all about finding my feet, especially since I didn't do a foundation year at college but went straight to degree level after sixth form.
I have been journalling in a private notebook every morning whilst I drink my coffee and have my breakfast - giving myself to-do lists, things I want to read, think about and make. I spoke with my tutor before I left Falmouth and the emphasis of our discussion, regarding things I could improve upon, was on the introduction of a private, everyday journalling practice.
Only putting my thoughts down here on this blog, in a public space, I was unconsciously vetting everything I was writing. My physical journal is spontaneous, in the moment, unedited and raw. Here will be my refined thoughts. Things about my process that I share with the world when they finally make sense in my own head. Also, I have surprisingly found it to be a comfort having a journal/sketchbook with me at all times. If a certain moment I want to remember arises I can capture it immediately, without relying on my dodgy iPhone battery for documentation or having to retain information in my head until I can get to my computer to draft a blog post.
I am heavily interested in the concept of mapping; in particular the theoretical idea of ‘deep mapping’ which is the conceptual art of cartography. I delved into this a little at the start of first year, but I want to return to this concept in greater depth. For my 19th birthday I received a hefty load of theoretical books concerning psychogeography, mapping, walking, documentation and cartography. Consequently, I have been doing a lot of reading in order to stimulate my thinking and my interest in these areas.
I have recently finished reading 'Psychogeography' by Merlin Coverley and became hooked on the concept; the point where psychology and geography meet to analyse the emotional impact of a place on its human inhabitants. The book measures this relationship in two ways; firstly through an imaginative response, secondly on foot through walking the place. This reading of historical psychogeographic ideas and the artist's role as a walker, writer and cartographer has sparked a new direction for my artistic practice.
Visiting a new place and responding to the landscape and the way being in that place makes me feel has been my main focus in first year, which stemmed from my initial exploration of my new home in Cornwall last September. However, I want to move away from painting figurative landscapes and make more conceptual work, particularly now that I am coming to terms with the origins of psychogeography. Documentation of a sense of place, as opposed to a visual replication. Immersing myself in walking, making journeys, travelling and recording moments in time will play an important role. As I develop as an artist it is becoming obvious to me that travelling allows me to make my best, informed work. Even if it’s not very far, just going to a new place for coffee, making a left turn on a walk where I’d usually take a right, breaking a habit. Interacting with new environments and people to preserve through painting.
Using my own personal topography of paint as a creative re-mapping tool to really embody a sense of place in my work, I will aim to capture ‘the often incommunicable relationship between a place and its inhabitants’. My work will, essentially, be an atlas of presevered memory maps. A visual documentation of my wanderings, an imaginative reworking of places I visit and a conjuring of new experiences familiarity.
Most of my paintings will begin in the form of writing. I have been trying to practice free writing and writing more poetry in my journal everyday to help me to unlock buried away ideas or feelings I've been having. Since taking a break from painting, I have been documenting things that I overhear or see that I want to remember, collecting information from places and using this accumulation of knowledge to inform paintings. Short captions, taken from thoughts I will scribble down in my journal on-the-go, will accompany my 'maps' - which will turn the focus of the abstract painting towards a more tender, personal moment, giving the piece an identity. A story. A retelling of moments and memories made.
There are so many concepts I'm wanting to explore and develop, so I have been using this summer break as an explorative time period in which I play with these things. Some may stick, some may not. For example, I want to experiment with diptychs and incorporate both digital and analogue photography into my finished works. Photographs of shadows, shapes, chasing light and using prints of these photographs in collages. Also, I love the freedom that paint gives when it comes to mixing my own colours. But I also love the clean lines that collage gives, so I have been experimenting with making collages from pre-painted paper, monoprints, cellulose thinner prints and found materials. All of these elements I am trialling in this short time away from uni, so that I can begin the academic year ready to make a start on a new body of work.