Laboratory or Factory?

Is your studio a lab for your experiments or is it a factory for churning out artwork to meet exhibition deadlines?  At various times, my studio activities fluctuate between the two but relies more heavily on the ‘laboratory’ approach.  A work room designed for alchemy, and those ‘eureka’ moments when something happens to open up new possibilities which need to be explored.  This is more about the processes than the end result.  To be in a state where anything is possible.  Where any mood is acceptable: serious, irreverent, enquiring, playful, meditative, reflective, focused, random, non-sensorial

Easter Spring Sprung at Sancreed Church

…….all of that, and whatever it happens to be when you are ‘in’ that moment.  Sometimes the intention is more academic altogether such as when I am drawing or painting a subject that I want to be recognisable – such as a specific landscape, an animal, person or still life, and applies to my present commission which I have just started.  (More about that in future posts).  I do enjoy this mode because it tests my skills of draughtsmanship, and it is always good to get back to basics.  In the study of proportions, scale, composition etc., there is nowhere to hide.

So to answer the first question that Jane (my new ‘blog’ friend) posed: “what do you want your work to achieve?”  The simple answer is that I want to express a certain truth with my work – a truth that by it’s nature, is a very personal and subjective one.  It is a form of visual language as an intellectual exercise and applies equally to whichever mode I happen to be working in, either representational or abstract.  It is a combination of deliberate thought processes and instinctive actions.  If the artwork doesn’t ‘feel’ or look right, it will get scrapped, or reworked until I am satisfied.  My policy is never to ‘exhibit’ any artwork that I am not happy to put my signature to, or at least claim as one of my own.  And by that I mean it doesn’t have to be perfect.  The fact that something has been attempted with a specific intention, meaning or purpose will be understood as an act of integrity and there is a real difference between that and perfection.  (Ideas about ‘quality’: subject for another post).  Sometimes it flows and feels effortless, sometimes it is hard work and feels heavy and laboured.  Often it is the best I can do at the time.  Sometimes it is as a result of a series of mistakes or mishaps that the best things happen.  This is where the alchemy comes in and these moments are the most rewarding because you feel like a pioneer at the frontier of new discoveries, and that anything is possible.  But somewhere in the very core of the process your hope is that you will reach out and connect with the viewer’s sensibilities and add something to their own truth.  And in saying that, I think I have probably answered the 2nd part of Jane’s question, “what do you want to achieve with your work?”  The short answer:  To communicate and engage with an audience via a highly personal visual language.



Filed under Found Objects, my sketchbook pages, Personal Philosophy, Studio Practice

2 responses to “Laboratory or Factory?

  1. Jane

    I wonder if you know this quote by Baldessari? ‘Art comes out of failure. You have to try things out. You can’t sit around, terrified of being incorrect, saying “I won’t do anything until I do a masterpeice”‘.

    (not sure you can have three quote marks, but never mind!)

    Tomorrow I have my first ‘session’ with a friend who is an artist and lecturer in fine art. He is, hopefully, going to help me start working visually again – something I have been longing to do for all the years since I left Falmouth. I have occassionally dipped back into drawing and painting, but need a structure to set me going. I need to find a way to play again – so fingers crossed!


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