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Evolving the empty vessel

'I feel I change my mind all the time. And I sort of feel that’s your responsibility as a person, as a human being — to constantly be updating your positions on as many things as possible. And if you don’t contradict yourself on a regular basis, then you’re not thinking.'
This quote from Malcolm Gladwell highlights a persistent contradiction in me that isn't at all helpful for my artist when it comes to exhibiting, publishing or otherwise putting my stuff into the public domain. I write, I make the stuff that gets under my skin. I grab words that nudge at my consciousness and peer minutely at them. They may not be the whole story, but hand-lettered or laid out in a carefully chosen font, hung on a wall or placed on display, they become fixed tethers that immediately seek to limit the fluidity of my evolution.
The Soft Sculpture project weaving through aspects of my life, and the longings of my heart, over these last almost six years, attempts to keep itself up to date with my contradictions. For 'People Like You', Jessie (a prone soft sculpture figure) was gathered in from the earlier 'Bare Boards and Blue Stilettos' installation, when I belatedly realised she was actually part of the Soft Sculpture project. 
The fact that it spans an evolution in my being and thinking, does mean it gets easier to exhibit. I have seen the work make its own connections, take flight in other directions allowing me greater scope to evolve. I don't feel so boxed in.
The latest edition to the collection of life-size figures is in fact no longer recognisable as a figure. Kouros began the cycle, a complete male figure, missing only his arms and hands; Kosta evolved into a similar figure, but his legs had morphed into roots and roots also sprouted from his body.
Fons retained only the head on a torso of tangled roots. The latest figure is an empty vessel formed of the coiled roots and in the process of being shaped by seven diminishing hands, it comes with a neat white card containing details of its family classification.
From an idea I was barely conscious of, to something that dominated my attention, this structure was as demanding as any of the previous figures.
It has now left home. Wednesday 2nd July it makes it's debut at Salisbury Arts Centre at the annual Homegrown exhibition preview.

Today has that shocking
kick in the gut pain of missing
you. A bewilderment
that no amount of logic
can drive away from the
evolution of me; the new
person who grows into
the spaces you left behind;
spaces that reveal themselves
with a brutality that is both
heartbreaking and familiar;
emotional turmoil that is
integral to the new life in ways
inconceivable to
the person I used to be.

Salisbury Arts Centre: Homegrown: Artificial Things from 3rd July -  17th August 2014
Salisbury Arts Centre is open Tuesday - Sunday 10am - 3pm (subject to closure during performances). 
For more information please click on this link

Posted by Gini, 29 June 2014

Last modified by Colin Hambrook, 30 June 2014

Is it art?

Looking back at May weekends' sky colours, I'm a little dismayed by how grey the 24hr Salisbury weekend sky has turned out. Fascinating cloud formations, but still grey.

Inspired by Dai Fujiwara, I was drawn to doing my own colour hunting of Salisbury sky. I haven't figured out if it's a distraction or seeds for a new direction.

My little camera tends to interpret the onset of evening with quite a decent illusion of blue, so it looks like things are improving around eight in the evening. Again before dawn there is a bright spot, but then most days do start out reasonably well and I'm getting quite fond of early morning.

Looking back through this small archive of sky images, I can't help thinking about the photography being exhibited at Salisbury Arts Centre as part of SIAF (Salisbury International Arts Festival). These stunning photographs of Icelandic sky, complete with volcanic ash clouds, are probably taken with a state of the art camera. Certainly they have been captured by a proper photographer. Yet here I am with some amazing images - all thanks to technology. 

My camera is nothing special, but even so it is packed with enough techy stuff to produce images that to my amateur-photographer mind, are surprisingly, fascinatingly full of detail.

I like the in-focus flying bird and a wonderful sparkly night sky, thanks to the flash illuminating raindrops in a sleepy midnight experiment (actual stars are beyond my camera's scope).

And it's the surprise element that draws my attention; I've heard myself complain that art these days has evolved to be not much more than surprise. It's all about doing something new, unexpected and shocking and I have railed that this is often apparently at the expense of any sort of quality or craftsmanship.  I struggle (sometimes in these blogs) with any definition of what art is.

When I came to England I was shocked by the apparent chasm between notions of what was art and what was 'merely' craft; and the shockingly narrow concept of 'fine art'.

Things have changed, but with galloping technology, where is the place of craftsmanship in England, now or in the future? 

At the Hay Festival someone made a remark about handwriting - the need to brush-up on this rare craft activity - and thinking about my own deteriorating scrawl, I finally had that eureka moment. Craftsmanship is actually too important to be tucked away inside any of my struggling definitions of art.

It needs it's own Very Important Status. I shouldn't be seeking to experience it propping up rubbish and mediocre arts; craftsmanship, the real thing, is way too magnificent.

And suddenly I felt a whole load happier about Duchamp's Fountain, Tracy Emin's Bed, Sarah Lucas' Self Portraits - maybe.

I still can't embrace Damian Hurst's Dots, but they are a whole other story... 

And I haven't figured, to my own satisfaction, where disability arts sits in all this, except I refer myself back to Tolstoy who wrote words about art that I think I can identify with (stuff can get mangled in translation). He did say art was about surprise, but I don't imagine he was talking about the kind of surprise that triggers self-protective denial, thus rendering itself inaccessible. He said that 'a real work of art destroys, in the consciousness of the receiver, the separation between (the receiver) and the artist'.

So... I don't withdraw my mutterings about art that is nothing more than contrived shock. Work that is purely for its shocking effect needs some other definition, some other category within the art umbrella, to shelter under.

I don't intend to advocate censorship, but feel the art world needs some more joined-up self-regulatory awareness. Rather like the tabloid journals, galleries and promoters, curators, collectors and dealers could take a more holistic perspective on their activities. Maybe that way some of the good stuff might not get buried under the momentarily sensational.

And work that is surprising, breaking down separations only by virtue of technology? Now that's another story too...

Twenty four, a day and
a night's worth of hours
something so ordinary
the taken for granted
repetition of waking
eating, working, sleeping.
Yet each hour unique and
open to be filled with
passion, conviction, quest;
with the words, the deeds, the touch
that will stop your heart from
breaking: your senses from
shattering in the dismay
of realisation, the
aching regret of time
misused, misunderstood.
When you look back, twenty four
hours, days, years from now
will you feel regret, feel
hunger for time ignored? 

Posted by Gini, 6 June 2014

Last modified by Colin Hambrook, 10 June 2014