During a recent tutorial with artist Hayley Lock I was surprised by the amount of headway I made psychologically re the direction of my work. Make no mistake, I would be creating work with or without the Masters. But recently someone asked WHY I am doing a Masters and my main answer was that I wanted the mental challenge in my own practice, to force me out of a groove I have cut for myself and my work. It is a window, an opportunity to deconstruct what I do, to pull it apart, figure out what it is, why it is necessary, or what it (the work separately from the artist!) wants to share with the world.
Hayley and I discussed that I need to lose my sense of social responsibility: both in terms of producing imagery which is recognisable, and in terms of feeling morally obliged to be making work which questions and challenges the things I disapprove of; that I am a teacher came as no surprise to Hayley who recognised this as something hard to separate from one’s own practice. Again, I have been told this numerous times, but the voice has become amplified by repetition. I am closer to actioning this new direction. Expressions which Hayley used that I was particularly fond of included ‘dusting away my footprints’. As I explained the significance of my blog being called ‘Art In A Birdcage‘, we discussed the relevance of what I expose, what I keep hidden, why this is so, and we chatted for some time about the idea of multiple personalities and states of awareness and being able to let go of absolute control. These are themes Hayley works with in her own practice, developing outcomes which explore even the notion of multiple selves and the way we lie consciously and unconsciously to ourselves, as well as exploring when we ‘lose ourself’ and when we are consciously in control. One of Hayley’s suggestions was that I should dispense with the whole of the model when body painting, and instead zoom in to capture the painting on the flesh but without the ‘person’ which creates another level of interference in understanding the image: that it is crafted on flesh and that it has a relationship with the flesh (rather than being face painting to alter the way any specific individual looks). In exploring this further Hayley commented on allowing myself to ‘lose myself’ or ‘leave no trace of myself’ within work which may be deeply emotional. It can hint at or suggest with ‘little reveals’ in terms of what I am contemplating or trying to achieve, yet without any literal exposure, and without my ‘responsible voice’.
Image above is a detail of a self portrait 2015
Hayley discussed that I should bridge the gap between wanting to be very colourful and wanting to explore the subtlety of colours and similar tones: ‘working to a set of rules’ which works well for me and which I can enjoy adhering to and breaking.
Artists Hayley suggested I look into are:
Gunter Von Hagens
Gerhard Richter – skin series
The Uncanny – Freud
The Freud Museum
Judy Clark – body maps
She also suggested that I think about the materials I use and how these can be kept close to skin-like qualities: using transparencies and layers: vellum, parchment, tracing paper etc This will also allow for layers which is something I was discussing I have recently become very interested in (both in terms of the unexpected relationship between layers, and the notion of hiding between them. Our discussion was very fruitful for me. I almost immediately decided that a painting I am currently working on needed to be pulled apart. The original imagery is now completely abstracted over 20 smaller canvasses, and I shall maintain both the abstract qualities and sense of them working as a series, which was another suggestion of Hayley’s.