We were supposed to have set up some examples of our past work in the exhibition space at the Cove in Swansea but it didn’t happen. Instead we gathered in the M.A. room – far more informal and comfortable. It also meant there was a projector on hand.
I was second to go, I volunteered to be one of the first as I didn’t want to be sitting there fretting about what I was going to say. In order to keep my thoughts clear and not ramble on I decided to read my introduction whilst I showed an image of my degree show installation Within a Diary.
I came to the world of art later in life but I have the memory that once it was alien and intimidating to me. After I’d graduated I was talking to a stranger and mentioned what I was doing. ‘What pictures do you paint?’ she asked. To her, and to many people art = pictures. Another time I tried to explain to the builders who were fitting my kitchen about my work. In the end they came up with the idea I ‘did sculpture’. I want my work to be accessible; to enthuse others who may think art is not for them and demonstrate it is for all.
Over the last few years I’ve been delving into my family history – putting some flesh onto the bones of the names and dates of my past. I realised that one thing I may have had in common with the females is knitting. I was taught by my grandmother and both she and my mother always seemed to have knitting on the go, usually hideous knitted knickers and vests. I used this idea in my in my practice – making a piece entitled A Close Knit Family. I depicted various forbearers by using the knitted stitch and dishcloth cotton yarn. I wanted the stitches to speak for themselves and the viewer not to be distracted by colour. Quickly the individual pieces developed a character of their own – the loose & easy going; the simple & straightforward; the tight and awkward, the showy with rich texture.
Then I wished to look at myself – a collection of all these past people. Without going into more detail this led me to my next installation Within a Diary. I decided to record my days from 1st January 2012 to the last day of my degree show in June 2012. Using the same humble dishcloth cotton I knitted for a couple of hours each day – the stitch I chose was in response to my emotions, the time of year, what was going on in my life. Some days I went into other students studio spaces and asked then to choose the stitch of the day. I was amazed how easily the choice of stitch came about – others invariably chose one that reflected their practice. I presented the pieces as a diary. There are seven per strip and each one is labelled with the date, the name of the stitch and the reason why it was chosen. People were able to walk amongst the work, to touch it, read the labels and be immersed in my life.
Although I’ve complete this piece of work and will never repeat it it was good to get feedback. The labels caused the most comment – one suggestion was that I didn’t need them at all and let the viewer make their own mind up about the work. I explained that I thought this was contradictory to my opening statement; it would alienate some people.
I realised that I’d not really considered the labels – I mean I knew I wanted to put the information on the work but in truth the luggage label doesn’t have any integral meaning. Another suggestion was I could have embroidered the text and sewn it on the back. (something I couldn’t have done due to time constraints – I didn’t know how my work was going to be hung untill a couple of weeks before the show). After the group crit I decided it would be better had I used torn pages from a diary with the info written on and attached to the work.
I wish I’d said more about the marking of time with the stitch and also mentioned Without a Map.
Most of the rest of the day was taken discussing the rest of the group’s work – very diverse; paintings, photography, conceptual pieces; digital work. The practice I have most difficulty in appreciating is performance art, especially when the participants aren’t aware they are the performance and are being manipulated or when it’s a performance that no one other than the artist can see.
By accident (a posting on facebook) I came across the work of Marina Abramovic who is a performance artist and now I’ve a little more detail to add to my Thought Experiment.
The last hour of the day we watched a documentary film, Here Is Always Somewhere Else about the life and works of Bas Jan Ader. Plenty for me to think about during my hour’s train journey. Time to return to my Thought Experiment!