Wednesday, 26 May 2010

Untitled Black

Untitled black series 2009

Was it a ‘New Black’? Some how I knew it was, not a particularly world changing kinda ‘new’ - but on a personal level it felt radical. I didn’t call it 'new' - too grand a statement, ‘Untitled’ seemed to have more scope.

A couple years ago I was introduced to the term Post-Black, coined apparently by Thelma Golden and Glen Ligon. Post-Black attempts to distinguish African-American artists of the present from those of the past. To acknowledge a younger generation with different experiences and consequently a different relationship to African American history.

These African American artists are described as ‘adamant about not being labelled as “black” artists, though their work was steeped… in redefining complex notions of blackness’ Thelma Golden 2001

And there you go that word ‘blackness’ a term, which needs expanding by the admission of that statement. It’s a rather generic term, the nature of which excludes the idiosyncrasies of the individual. This is why I have begun this work I’m interested in exploring my own subjectivity and gestures in relation to this overarching construct...

Rashid Johnson Citizen Band (Explorations in Topology) 2008

Monday, 24 May 2010

The spot

Untitled Black series 2009

So there you go, spots… black to basics, making a simple mark. Each spot overlaps the next, black nebulous forms evolving intuitively. There is s a sort of order about them – the geometry of the circle. I suppose that spot is singular, the ‘I’ or maybe the dot on the 'i'.

I tried very hard in the past to police ‘self expression’ so the work could resonate with others. I desperately wanted criticality… that distinction from the league of Sunday painters – the ‘habitual artist’. There was probably some nihilism in there to - imagine after spending so much time making and thinking with a machine-produced aesthetic, the idea of going back to drawing exclusively was scary. I decided to take life-drawing classes; to recapture some lost idea of talent. Not to go into it too long - I abandoned that project.

Going it alone I crept back into the studio, turned the lights down and studied that spot. Suddenly there was potential – maybe reinvention - I might be struck by some mysterious bolt of ‘genius’.

Most of the early drawings are 252 cm by circumstances, which includes being low on cash. At first these drawings were black – densely back. Combining different inks and layering brought a depth to the surface. All of a sudden I was walking around the drawings seeing different marks appear and disappear as I moved. Ironically right out of drawing something formally sculptural was happening - it felt like for the first time. I spent a long time making these drawings trying not to know too much, trying to let the process breath. Repetition can be a life saver in this game, you will arrive at somewhere eventually. Then I had an epiphany... I put one on a light box and a whole new world opened up...

Untitled Black Series 2009

Thursday, 13 May 2010

What Black what?

I thought a lot about the wetness (featured object in progress 11.05.10), but I think I was scarred of mess. I don’t like mess really - I appreciate it as apart of process, but I’m a ‘neat’ person. I like things to hold together well and smoothly. Maybe that’s why the spot or circle appealed to me, that continuous smooth surface.

Thinking sculpturally though - through the object, surface wasn’t enough. I’ve made a few skins in the past, bags actually; but they were always filled with other objects, a collection of components.

B.I.T 2000

But what black? For a while there it was becoming a bit of a ‘black history’ lesson. Black: A history of a colour by Michel Pastoureau, was specifically located in the Western European story. I found the history of materials (dyes and inks) very informative, there were also other things I found intriguing...

Saint Maurice

But anyway coming back to this ‘wetness’ - got me thinking about liquidity. I’ve been reading some stuff by Sociologist Zygmunt Bauman over the last couple of years. I spent quite a bit of time with ‘Community: Seeking security in an insecure world’ while working on the Dandelion project. It was revelatory in terms of thinking more analytically about the subject generally, but also in relation to my own associations and relationships. Recently I picked up ‘Identity: conversations with Benedetto Vecchi’, Bauman uses the term ‘liquid modernity’ to explain a condition that keeps our socio political, cultural, professional and sexual identities continuously in a state of flux….

Tuesday, 11 May 2010

The needs of the individual vs the needs of the many…

Dandelion Dispersal St Lucia 2007

Trying to reconcile local, more personal considerations with broader issues is challenging. I’ve been preoccupied with ‘community’ for several years, mainly because of my own crappy attempts at trying to fit into them.

Quarter Poncho 2002

There is always a tension between the individual and a group, how much of one’s subjectivity is sacrificed for the sake of consensus, group identity and cohesion? If I were to draw a diagram starting from the ego (lets make it a dot), you would find several circles encompassing it - but I've decided to start again at that dot…

Blackone 2009

This was my last attempt at making an object. Actually the haptic experience was a little disappointing - I much preferred it wet in the dark.

Its black all the way through, but not many people knew that. That information was important for me. Its a reminder of my grandma's nagging, making sure I walked out the house with good nickers on!

As an idea I knew it was a singular thing, but I battled with the temptation to cut it in half to expose its innards. Its a composite, a total - I can't help thinking about everything in those terms now.

Wednesday, 5 May 2010


Pastoral Interludes Ingrid Pollard 1987

At the moment this blog has been a bit of a back track, I’m not sure if I feel sorry about that - its not ‘hot off the press’ just yet but there it is. I chose this space, as I feel there is some room to manoeuvre. The rules don’t seem all set out as yet, and it’s accessible.

Anyways Influences… they are inevitable, the kinds of influences I’ve had are varied and sometimes contradictory. I’ve have had many influences over the years, here’s a few formative ones for starters

'Big Womens Talk' Sonia Boyce 1984

Franz West Etude de couleur 1991 (its a piss pot init)

'A to Z Breeding Unit: for Averaging Eight Breeds' 1993
Andrea Zittel

I can’t say that I am or have been a complete fan of any artist (I’m a bit mean like that) but certain works, and certain ideas have appealed to me very much at particular moments. The nearest to fandom I got is with artist Lygia Clarke. I came across her work years ago at a women’s art show at the Whitechapel, ‘inside the invisible’. I felt a great sense of admiration for her use of the object as a therapeutic tool, sharing the visceral relationship she had with materials with others. At times it seemed a touch too mystical for me, but I enjoyed the awkwardness of her practice, it wasn’t easily definable or locatable. It was very inspirational, looking further into the history and context of her and her contemporaries; Brazil with its extreme political situation in the 60’s and 70’s; the will of its artists to have a ‘positive affect’ to make art for ‘everyone’.

With Clarke’s later work, I see an acceptance of the impossibility of art for everyone. The potential is there, but the transaction between the artwork and the viewer involves commitment. Certainly from the testimonials I heard in Suely Rolnik’s ‘From Object to event’ the commitment paid back in dividends.

Lygia Clarke Diálogo: Óculos 1968

Art space vs Fair space

'Campfire' Cafe Gallery 2008

My last entry featured one of my early drawings, this is what I’ve been doing for the past year – drawing. That seems strange for an artist to declare, but I actually stopped drawing for several years. Just before I made this turnaround I was struggling with huge ideas, all thanks to a t-shirt. Not having fully grappled with the implications of modernism, I found myself wading through utopian ideals, wondering how far I could take sharing authorship production and performance of my work with others. I decided to make an experiment, inspired by reading or should I say several attempts at reading Jean Luc Nancy’s ‘The inoperative community’; thinking about the analogy he used - that of the atom and the force which draws one atom to another, I believe the term is ‘clinamen’.

So on a rather warm night in September (thinking about man’s harnessing of fire and its cultural and social legacy) I provided and facilitated members of the public as well as other artists to share stories, artwork, songs and music by a fire. It was a lovely evening but somehow I was left exhausted but not particularly fulfilled. My engagement with the public has always been through my product. As all struggling artists know it is difficult to find markets for ones work and so my experiments in the street played with ideas of entrepreneurship, branding and commerce.

I was seriously preoccupied with social strata, its unavoidable really as we are dealing with culture here. You may have noticed that I do describe my work often as a 'product'; I’m involved in cultural production, thinking about it that way helps to level out the playing field - it doesn't have to be a competition between high and low culture. I thought I needed to democratise my work, but eventually I felt like I’d given too much of myself away. It’s hard recognising your own limits and boundaries. But thinking positively about it perhaps some of limits are principles, ones I should be proud of...