“The studio is a laboratory, not a factory. An exhibition is the result of your experiments, but the process is never ending so the exhibition is not a conclusion” Clive Ofili
This is a statement that I can agree with wholeheartedly. I find finishing anything difficult and in the early days I always called my painting and doodling practising and playing. It allowed me to work without judgement and to let my own thoughts direct my hand not all of those beliefs and worries about what makes good art. I happily tried and tested ideas; what could I paint? How flat could I paint? Could I draw a perfect circle? Could I make a surface without any brush strokes?
I’m still drawn to this kind of work and often love the work of others that is in the preliminary, preparatory design stage; like the unseen work of Louise Bourgeois, these beautiful drawings form part of her extensive sketchbook and drawing collection that would not usually have been seen as exhibition worthy but my goodness me they are!
It appeals to me this idea that my studio is a laboratory, not a lavatory as the spellchecker tried to make it! Though if you were to see it you might be forgiven for seeing that way too, it’s certainly not a factory I would have been shut down by the Health and Safety executive years ago if it was. My room is full of just about to tumble piles of papers and heaps of searched for and now abandoned fabric and fibres, the table is a mess of pens, pencils, jars of strange looking fluids and an ever decreasing spare for a sketchbook or sewing machine to be squeezed into! Even the floor space is covered in curling bits of tape and dogs and cats!! It’s a wonder I ever get anything done. Who wants to work in a factory anyway!
I can see the advantage of a factory environment if you’ve got a commission to produce a certain number of similar items or you’ve decided to batch together a series of similar actions, Pam Carriker recommends this style of working in her book Art at the Speed of Life. And it can be very useful to paint a batch of sketchbook pages or canvases ready for use later. I used her advice when working on some book shop finds I was turning into altered/sketch books.
Generally I like to work in an exploratory way, my higgledly piddly way of working means I can work in a more random way; I can start making a piece with a pile of materials that I have gathered but as the mood takes me and the piece is coming together I can pick up bits of detritus and left over elements and work them into the piece. Sometimes it’s the leftovers that form the best bits of my favourite pieces. This happened when I was working on my yarn concepts and just lying about were the abandoned in frustrate dye pots from my failed dip dyeing project, they are wax paper and are lovely colours and bam! They soon became one of my favourite yarn concepts. I would have missed this entirely if I’d cleaned up after my last unsatisfactory session.
My inability to ever finish anything and my view that most of my work is a bit weird and really not of any interest to anyone else has always made me shy away from exhibiting, that and the fact that’s it’s always looked like hard work!
All that blasted stretching, framing, hanging … it sounds all very organised! How do I display my preparatory work? Matthew Harris has got this nailed; his beautiful paper designs and small sample quilts are art works in their own right and are probably far better suited to most homes, rather than his large quilts (as wonderful as the are).
I love this piece of Matthew’s work on Stitchlopp’s blog and her statement about its frame.
A piece by Matthew Harris that I’m pleased to have had on my studio wall for a few years. It is unmounted and unframed but I’ve pinned it to the wall and placed an old frame around it – so you see, I did frame it Matt!
I’m actually really starting to like the idea of being in an exhibition, a bit like writing these blog pages I’m sure it must be a good way to make a halt in what your doing; create a milestone. A time to reflect on what you have created. A time to see your work through the eyes of others and for you to see it in a new light too. Maybe I should order Austin Kleon’s book Show your work! I love his books and the reviews give an indication that this’ll be as good as the rest!
Yep, so for me I agree with Clive, I love the idea that I am some mad crazy scientist brewing up new ideas and testing out mad theories and that at some point they will be displayed up on a wall or in a cabinet to make other’s tut or smile.