31 July 2012

Questioning the clichés

It is so easy to talk in stereotypes and respond to questions with clichés, that a concerted effort is needed to overpower their allure.  Without an awareness, trite and banal responses can be regurgitated at many an opportunity.  It may fool some, which if I'm honest is sometimes appealing, but there is little satisfaction to be found in tricking an ardent fan while a respected peer looks on with a wry smile.

Some examples I'm guilty of …

"layers of narrative" - this is often banded about by makers in an attempt to gloss over the contextualization of their work.  There are many narratives embedded in a work, but to use the term 'layers' implies they are separate and chronological, which is rarely the case.  The narrative of a work may be a tangled mess of ideas and threads, overlapping, connecting and colliding with each other to create many new potential narratives.
"applied art" - this implies art which is 'applied' to a form.  I don't apply my art to anything.  Where does that leave me?
"found objects" - in my case I attribute this term to anything bought, received, donated, used … I don't need to find it at all!

Enough is enough.  As a maker I pledge to try to take nothing for granted, and to ask the questions others are too silenced to ask.  I have found sanctuary in the work of David Gates - a maker who constantly asks questions - of form, function, materials and language.  

Dressing-Stand, 2011 © David Gates
Isn't this piece wonderful?  Made as a contemporary response to the now neglected the dressing table, it's a great example of not taking anything for granted.  Furniture doesn't need four legs.  Drawers don't need to hang from underneath the table surface.  The different woods are allowed to revel in their distinctive colours and qualities, rather than being secreted under a layer of Dulux's finest ... simply yummy.  

29 July 2012

What I need is a shed

There's something enticing about a well used shed - whether collapsing in the corner of a humble allotment, or sited in the grounds of a grand stately home.  It is often the evidence of that rare thing - a place of empassioned work - beautiful because of its functionality.

I suspect that studio spaces are nothing more than sheds that require a 'commute'.  They provide refuge for thinking, creating, making, remaking and most importantly, a safe place to make mistakes.  For me, the space to collate, curate and evaluate my finds is essential.  The summer holidays are here, and I am confined to barracks for six weeks.  It is proving difficult to mark a physical and emotional space in which to work.  What I need is a shed.

William Shannon, Kiln House, 2012
Tracey Emin, Knowing My Enemy, 2002
Grandpa's Hut, Chitty Chitty Bang Bang, 1968

26 July 2012

Collecting, Connecting and Curating

A significant part of my practice is the collecting of objects, and the subsequent ordering and reordering of them in the studio.  Connections are celebrated, disconnections are rejoiced.  What at the time seems an intuitive response to something lying in the street, later takes on significance and authority as the latest found object treasure joins the hoard laid out on the studio table.  Unexpected connections and random collisions provide essential links between objects and collections that have been previously organised.  

There has always been an ambiguity to the objects I use, which I now realise is essential for this stage of my practice.  It is at this point of synthesis, that the relevance and potential authority of the work is identified.  There is nothing more exciting than placing a broken piece of this with a fragmented shard of that to elicit an 'oooh' (ideally said in a high pitched tone, while taking a breath).  

Oooh, found ceramic, plastidip, found metal  © Vanda Campbell 2012

9 July 2012

Jerwood go again

I took the plunge earlier in the year, and registered to enter the Jerwood Drawing Prize for 2012.  Skip forward to the ending ... and, "unfortunately", "on this occasion", "but thank you".  I would be lying if I said I wasn't disappointed, but that isn't to say I have any regrets.  An exciting couple of weekends were spent driving to and from Wimbledon School of Art for the drop off and pick up ... on drop off day, the air was full of excited anticipation as queues of artists lined the walls unwrapping the work ... on pick up day it felt distinctly like the morning after a great party.  

Taking a sneak peak at the work being wrapped and unwrapped around me, I could see I was in good company - there were some really exciting drawings ... far more than the amount available for selection (around 70 selected from 3000 entries).  In order to be selected, drawings would need to be outstanding, not just very good, and if I'm honest, my three entries weren't outstanding ... this year.

So here they are ...

Discovered, found object, creases
© Vanda Campbell 2012
Uncovered, found object, paper, gouache, thread
© Vanda Campbell 2012
Recovered, paper, polyfilla, found object, household paint, graphite
© Vanda Campbell 2012
I have been pondering the mental process of applying for opportunities, and trying to find strategies for dealing with the disappointment of rejection.  The emotional investment leads to an inevitability of being temporarily thrown off course, but this is no different to the process actors or dancers go through when attending auditions.  Or a sports person entering a race.  The objective is always to 'win', but on the way we can achieve many personal bests.  I will try again next year, but from a starting point a bit further along.