Over the last three days I have had three conversations with three artists
about my work
about their work
about where we are
However for the most part the weight of the conversation has been on my art making and each person has led the weight of their gaze, experience and accomplishment to looking at recent studio developments - experiments if you will that I've been making with materials, processes and combinations. I've also opened up older works, some that are still in that ambiguous, unresolved place of uncomfortable, strange, where I am not really sure what it is but sense that there is something there.
Sunday Wayne Lucas has a studio in the same building as I do here in Deptford in south east London and he curates Extractor Space, the former school kitchen in the building, inviting artists to undertake residencies and exhibit the outcomes. His art works are grounded in painting but implicate other media and objects into assemblages and sculptures. He has painted me in water colours, repeating the act a hundred times, making small, deft, exquisitely executions of watery pigment. One of the discussions we touched on was materials, commanding a process through the kind of attentive discipline of repetition. He said something along the lines of 'when I know what it is then I stop'. Currently Wayne is preparing an exhibition in which many reiterations of the same eggy/testicular forms will manifest embedded with tweeds that reference tailoring and melancholic classical Greek statues erased in granite powder.
Monday Rebecca Stevenson and I have been discussing our art making for some twenty years now, we both studied together on a foundation course in Bristol around 1994 - 1995 becoming firm friends and fierce champions on one anothers work through the ups and downs of some successes and some disasters. Becky makes complex sculptures, rooted in a fantastic technical practice of drawing, molding, casting and manipulating to build intricate works that are figurative and yet depart into multiple configurations of cavities, petals, eruptions of folds and blossomings creating confusions and transitory objects, albeit fixed in wax, resin or metal. Frequently she draws on the rich and excessive decorations and forms from rococo imagery, a visit to the Wallace Collection inspires articulations of contemporary still life elements, distended hanging hares collapsing in aluminium, florid curvatures of isolated bulls head, dangerously sugar coated swans embellished in fruits, all troubling taxonomies of artifice, decoration and configuration. Our conversation has the old familiarity of having seen the stages of each others evolving practice, endless cups of tea in chilly studios. Becky will be able to remember the sculptures I used to make and their fleshy preoccupations and how eventually actual flesh took hold and for some time because the primary material in my art making. I showed her difficult and unresolved photographic works, works that can happily remain in a folder forever but that she encouraged me to consider printing, to get away from the thrall of the screen back into the material and tangible. I find this very helpful, even if it's terribly obvious, but simply to print and see, then fold and tear and collage with or to enjoy proximaties with something else - such is the value of a studio. I find relationships between things being to assert themselves,
salt will want fur
fur will want copper
copper will want cotton
cotton will want vinegar
vinegar will want silver
silver will want spit
spit will want the peeling walls
peeling walls will want spider silk
spider silk will want graphite powder
graphite powder will want skin
skin will want sweat
sweat will want iron
iron will want words
words will want
and so on. We particularly talked about metal and chemical reactions, small and thoughtful transitions of materials within the actual work during the duration that the viewer sees it, and how mechanical processes play with the forms of crystalline structuring - really its endless.
Tuesday This remarking on transitions and transformations of materials carried on today during a lavish visit Helena Goldwater made to the studio today. We've known about one anothers work for many years now, particularly in the realm of performance art, she has been an Extractor Space artist during which she presented a powerful durational work and left it's remains as a deeply unsettling and beautiful installation. Helena has been presenting painting works lately that similarly approach what are for me vital themes - transformation, mutability and plasticity, in which form is always somehow contingent and possible evolutions and permutations are continually suggesting themselves. Similarly to Rebecca Stevenson morphologies from botany or biology are seeming emerging but for neither artist does the work really rest easily there, something else is happening. Our conversation moved across scales between macro and micro, Helena identifying through lines and visceral connections across the activities, supporting my ranging bodily investigations through materials in particular the quite, simple ones that preoccupied the recent Prologue residency, namely salt, water and copper pigment arrangements that went though stages of drying finally crystallising into more stable what I referred to as drawings and elementary copper oxidsising with vinegar and table salt. Metals reappeared as chemistry, biochemistry and biology, where the sweat of the gym rusts Serra like iron weights and steaming sweat tropical micro climates evaporate and condense feeding the inhabitant molds and micro organic gym-biome as the salts are left behind on clothing, bodies, surfaces, electrolyte.
It's really impossible to underestimate the value of these conversation with peers who make time to give ones work such considered response and appraisal. it's where faltering steps can find some purchase, instincts and ituitions can be encouraged but also challenged, concepts can be smelted, forged and forged.
Most of all I felt encouraged to continue to trial these experiments, to delight in the tacit and sensory knowledges they suggest and the further developments that seem to present themselves. These conversations all asked about contexts, who, where, how, what are the kinds of spaces and places we care about and where might we wish to position these evolving makings.