Since my exhibition in October last year I haven’t made any new work. I have had a break, been writing, travelling and working in the garden.
Recently I gave a short presentation about my art-practice at an informal artist’s meeting. Here is what I said:
“In order to prepare myself for this talk I looked through one of my journals and there I read, ‘Process is bliss—my manifesto is bliss.’ I had written that eight months ago. That must have been a good morning, a good session.
Process, for me includes journalling, reflecting, reading, writing, visual explorations and meeting friends to talk art and life.
It hasn’t always been that way. My focus used to be much narrower—to make desirable objects and sell them. During those times I had been driving myself. My body and mind paid for that excess. I ended up with a frozen shoulder, inflammation down one arm and repetitive strain injury in my elbows. Some of the symptoms stayed and others return if I overwork. It was necessary for me to find better and more sustainable ways of doing things.
Over time, and with some soul-searching, I changed from this goal focused drive to one that lives for process—for the inner exploration of conditions, connections and resonances.
In this way of working materials are secondary—whatever is readily available and turns up is welcomed. I don’t plan much but follow ‘prompts’, even if they seem silly and frilly. I find that they will be useful in surprising ways. It feels like playtime and I am happy.
The subject matter that I get drawn to might not be obviously blissful. I have been drawn to memoir, reflections on death, impermanence and loss. I seem to start with some mental and emotional preoccupations and these get lighter and more flexible as I go. That is thanks to the making process which is physical, and in the present moment.
The doing and applying has its own logic. Going to the studio is both playful and a place of hard knocks, of doubt and feeling lost. I soften these difficult places by working on many things at the same time and working for shorter periods. When the old goal focussed driver tries to get back in the seat I tell him (it is a him) that I value my time in the workshop as constructive and enjoyable in itself—independent of outcomes.
I have a regular meditation practice and one of the instructions is to hold the three qualities of kindness, permission and interest. They have been good company on the cushion, in my art-practice and in daily life.“
Writing about process has made me determined to start my studio practice again. It has inspired me to make a date with myself in the studio—to show up— and see what can happen in that space.