Mindful Participation

The world I inhabit, due to the nature of my job involves continuous exploration of processes, artists, cultures and creativity. We explore why, how, if…..the subtleties and nuances of work. In discussing ideas; original, appropriated and transcribed, we create a tapestry of experiences and discoveries both practical and theoretical.

Sometimes I am so deeply locked into discussion about the depth of a piece of work, that the words we are using become triggers for imagined future pieces; like describing ingredients in a recipe. I hope that this is what helps my students to develop their own work which is researched, inspired, and creatively an extension of themselves, rather than a carbon copy of the work of anyone else. This is necessary not only to achieve good marks in examinations, but also to develop a ‘voice’ artistically and to have confidence in decision making as their creative career progresses.

Inevitably I sketch with a mostly young and appreciative audience. I am often asked by my students if I have a website (Yes!), if I am a ‘real artist’ (YES!), whether I exhibit (Yes!) and what my most expensive piece of work sold for (Pardon?). My students love knowing as much detail as I will share. They were surprised when, in 2008, I agreed to paint live during a club night at the Notting Hill Arts Club. My audience that night had been dancing and drinking and were my peers; people of my own age dancing to house music and cheerfully slurring “What is it? A Man?  It looks like a monkey to me!” The experience of working live was something I will never forget. Yes, there was a type of pressure I had not yet experienced as an artist, but this was a productive and dynamic feeling. It was a thrill!

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So, this is it. My birdcage. I am a teacher. Therefore colleagues, students, ex-students, and their parents take an interest in what I am doing. I am conscious of self-censorship when I have an idea which could be considered controversial or inappropriate. Although I can discuss performance art, I cannot be that artist; I cannot stand naked outside a gallery ‘giving birth’ to balls of paint (Milo Moire) or ‘casting off my womb’ (Casey Jenkins). I cannot produce political propaganda or spray paint profanities onto a sculpted phallus. Not that these are things I necessarily want to do, but I am aware that there is a limit to what my audience can tolerate – and they will be understandably critical given that I have the privileged position of working with children. My Art is an extension of who I am. But it is by no means a mistake that a self-portrait I created in 2008-9 had the title ‘He Watches Me’. With the possible link to spirits or to my son, this, for me, clearly indicated the sense that I am ‘watched’. I am the bird. My cage is also my ‘preaching perch’, palace and security blanket. I am comfortable there.

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He Watches Me

And now this opportunity, twenty years after I was awarded my BA in Art, to recalculate, take stock, and refurnish. A spring clean to demonstrate that my direction is unmistakably clear, well resourced, informed and relevant.

I hope that my song is relevant.

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