Archive for the ‘Thoughts on art’ Category
It’s a new year and I am full of new energy and intentions for writing my blog. After such a long pause that I am having quite some trouble with remembering how do do it. I have been writing in my new sketch book and thought I would start by sharing my first page with you. They are called daily artists statements and inspired by the I Ching and perhaps there will be 64 different statements by the end of the year.
1. All Returns Together
I like art making for many reasons, for one, it has no definite starting point, like writing does. I even write on my art in random places. You don’t start at one corner of the work and work your way the the opposite corner, neither physically or conceptually.
A million things can effect the work to greater or lesser extents. The artist is a filter of ideas. Raw ideas come along during the day and night, they collide and merge with older ideas, they settle and work away like a slow cooker while the artist gets on with what ever the artist has to get on with. When the time comes to make something resembling art, the artist trusts their own inner process and works without trying to recall the ideas. Over time the ideas develop and become so much part of the artist that there is no need to think about them during the process of art making. It is more a case of feeling and listening.
Listening to the weather and sounds of nature
All of a sudden hailstones!
Staring at my work in the studio,
Thoughtless and silent and still
Even my wellington boots have stopped keeping out the cold,
I think its time to move!
“Day Two of feeding the birds on a stone wall” Ink, dew and text on Japanese Paper Marianne Slevin November 2014
I have always loved loose work, scribbles and splurges such as Cy Twombly’s work, almost looking like the image got washed up on some artists paper or canvas by a wave. Early influences were expressionism and abstract expressionism such as Jackson Pollock, Land Art, Haiku poetry, where the poet merges with its subject so much they become one, Eastern philosopher and interpreter Alan Watts. Then I found John Cage’s visual art, Miceahangelo Pistolleto, Arte Povera, The Brazilian artists of the 50s and 60s such as Lygia Pape working for social change. Performance Artist Marina Abramovic, The ‘Beat’ writer Jack Kerouac and Aboriginal artists such as Judy Watson Napangardi and Jazz music, and that’s just the main characters!
Humanity tends to divide, separate and compartmentalize everything, I am drawn towards these rifts and gullies between things. Where East meets West, where formalism meets process, where art meets life and where intention meets the unknown. Performance comes into my process but I am not strictly a performance artist. I love the dark room but I am not really a photographer, I love the direct yet unexpected results you can achieve through printmaking, but I am not one for heavy presses. I prefer spontaneous in situ ways of working. However there are aspects of the dark room and the printing press in my work. I hack, invent, and use life around me to make images. I make unseen things in my environment visible and they develop in front of my eyes like a photograph, I also print with living things around me whether in the fridge or the garden. I use the elements, my environment whether inner or outer. My sense of self as the artist expands out into the universe around me meeting with the dew that settles on the grass and the leak that trickles through the window. I am a gentle opportunist borrowing whatever is around me to play with and grow with.
Why should a frame make a piece of art worth much more than the additional cost of the frame? I can understand it can add a certain amount more than what it cost to frame, but it seems to be disproportionate. It is a lot to do with perception, I suppose. Yes, I would like to frame my drawings and paintings in beautifully made frames, the really expensive ones! Real wood, no wood grain effect chipboard that seems to be all you can get in any reasonably priced framers.
This fascination with “finished product” outweighing what is underneath the surface sweeps across many areas of life in the West. There is superficial idea of what beauty is, from our food chain to how we judge art and even people. This tendency to judge things by their outward appearances alone has tricked us, our “beautiful” shiny objects are breaking down, they are designed to, so we are caught in the cycle of buying the newer version. When we turn to use the old way it is no longer available to us because everyone is caught up in the cycle and the old way of doing things is obsolete.
Marketing is even taking over the way people talk about how to be an artist, how to sell yourself. I am concerned that if you are not already established as an artist, who are free to be eccentric, that artists by the hoops that they have to jump through to get any type of funding or exposure have to, by nature be a certain way inclined. I cant help but be reminded of those pieces of fruit or vegetables that are not the right uniform shape to get to the packaging stage of the production line being cast aside, and their irregular kind dying out.
I always made it through the system as one of those irregular pieces of fruit! I was lucky because I went to interviews with human beings and it wasn’t just about filling in allocated spaces in forms. People are all more than their C. V. more than the forms they fill in more then their 6 jpeg images. We have strange selection processes, I think we need to rethink the way we choose things and deciding what things are worth, not to do things the easiest way, because we all know what we loose when we just go for the easy option, we loose our integrity.
Baby Doll with Goose Barnacles by Marianne Slevin 2012
Baby Doll reaching for Goose Barnacles by Marianne Slevin 2012
Baby Doll with Driftwood and Goose Barnacles by Marianne Slevin 2012
I play hard at being a visual artist, in fact I do it 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, every day of the year, there seems to be no off button ! Don’t get me wrong my play can get pretty serious, challenging and exhausting! Actually I started making art because I could express my more “heavy” and “intense” feelings without feeling like a freak, when I went to art college I met many intense characters! I tend to be a very serious person, though I can be very silly too! So my art tends to be very seriously playful! The work part of my practice is the other stuff that I have to do as an artist but I try to keep “work” out of the whole process of making art. We are obsessed with working, we work too hard and too much we should be living instead. Is this why to be a successful artist nowadays you have to spend way more time working on you career than making your art? I want to stop calling my art “my work”. Art for me is inventing a new visual language, shape-shifting between different disciplines, merging art and our everyday life and going beyond it into fantasy and looking back into the past, all at the same time. Art is attempting the impossible, failing, achieving something unexpected, balancing our own will with chance. It is playing with life and exploring the world around us. Art is working on a personal level and a universal level without interruption. Art for me is about transformation, the process of art is transformative and I choose materials that are not considered “valuable” and through the creative process I aim to transform the simple materials into something meaningful and inspiring, drawing attention to the creative process. I invite the viewer to take a journey, and perhaps to feel this too. Art for me is about waking up fully.
I don’t want the audience to marvel at my talent at drawing or painting because I am so precise, for me that gets in the way. I would like the viewer to come away from my art feeling something, maybe inspired to be creative and inventive and imaginative and playful themselves. I have not set goals or aims for my art, in how it effects the viewer, I do think about it from time to time but I cannot control its outcome. The whole process of of my art is a game of control and lack of control, intention and accident, logic and intuition, knowing when to push away or pull towards, so inevitably this sort of dialogue will continue when the art leaves my hands too. I think these transformative acts ripples out into the universe in many ways.
I found this doll and driftwood with goose barnacles hanging off it last February. It was on my Birthday, I was walking on Fanore beach, it felt very apt and kind of funny, to find the little doll. So I lifted up the wood and placed the doll standing up underneath it, as if reaching up to pick a goose barnacle. The doll is one legged but is able to feed herself, it is a very unlikely situation! As was the chances of each of us being alive as a human being today on this planet, I have heard some very mind blowing comparisons of how unlikely our existence was, the chances of each of us being here and alive today as humans were extremely small. All of these weird and wonderful thoughts filter into my art somehow, often in very unexpected ways. The journey into the unknown is what keeps me making art. I really like going to a place and finding stuff that I would have never imagined being there, and doing something creative with it. I love being nicely surprised by the whole art making process.
Work in Progress, studio, Marianne Slevin, 2012
I am not one for any kind of dogma, so I do not think that Artists should have to make art in any particular way at all. For my own practice I see it like this: The ship is going down and what am I going to do about it? I do not want to make art for art’s sake alone, nor do I want to make art for artists alone. I want to make my tiny offering of art for the planet, and multitude of ecosystems and communities that live on this great whirling rock in space.
Two books on art have changed my thinking more then any others, the first one was “The unpainted Landscape” essays and texts, by Simon Cutts. The other was “Conversations Before the End of Time” by Suzi Gablik. These books shifted my practice that had been more about the modernist ideal of art for arts sake, towards a more socially engaged way of working. In the words of Suzi Gablik, “…for such artists, vision is not defined by the disembodied eye, as we have been trained to believe. Vision is a social practice that is rooted in the whole of the being.” from The Nature of Beauty in Contemporary Art, New Renaissance Magazine.
Currently, I am making an art work with muffin cases and another with maps folded into paper boats. On the paper cases I am writing different things that would change the world for the better, in my opinion. I would also like to write other people’s wishes for a better world. If you would like to send them into the comments, I would write them down and dip them in wax as part of an artwork. Happy dreaming of a better world!
Prayer flags in German and English, indigo on recycled cotton trousers
Art work by Svenja Seegers and Marianne Slevin, Kilshanny 2010
Sometimes you meet or see another artist’s work that relates so strongly to yours that it could have come from you. It is both a relief to find someone on your path but it can be a bit disconcerting. Sometimes you can find yourself not doing something you would have done because it is too similar to the other artists work, you might have started it before them but they realized their project, you left yours unfinished. Now their’s is hanging in a prestigious gallery. Or you fear that if you look at artist’s work that is similar to your own that it will influence your work too much. My husband brought up an interesting question about it. He said it seems when artists talk about being influenced by deceased artists work it is talked about positively, but when they talk about being influenced by contemporary artists it is seen as a bad thing. This seems quite true for some reason. Some of my biggest influences would have come from my art college friends. Not so much what our work looked like but our philosophies about art formed and grew together in some ways. We were all living in the same city at the same time, not only going to college and studying art together but socializing together, talking for hours about art and life almost every day for several years. It was a wonderful environment for creativity. But at one time or another you have to live again outside of that cosy world so you have plenty of material to work with, it is not just output, but you are refilling that inspiration tank. It is like having all the tools and skills without having experiences in life to take from.
There is something to be taken from this close community of artists that many of us loose when we leave college. Life takes over, many great things happen but for many their contact with other artists is on the sparse side. For me I live with a wonderful muse who has encouraged me to make art for the last almost 7 years, otherwise I would have probably stopped. A couple of months ago I started an Artist’s group that meets up regularly and it reminds me of being back in college, drinking tea and coffee and talking passionately about what art we are going to make. It is an organic type of group, growing and changing. It started out being about artists making art work including poetry and text in the public spaces that seem neglected both urban and in the landscape. This is still the main focus of the group but having a supportive network of other artists is a wonderful thing. One of the other benefits of working in a group is when you are working in a public space on your own can seem like a daunting and sometimes embarrassing challenge, but when there are a few of you doing it it feels a lot safer and less embarrassing.
We have all come from different art backgrounds and work in different ways, but even though we have just started there is already a sense of harmony between the group and huge potential for growth. We are open to sharing ideas and collaborating to make projects that bigger and more far reaching then any one of us could do alone. We wish to continue our own solo practices while having the opportunity to work with other creative people when we wish to. It is definitely a time to join forces and encouraging creativity in others rather then competing with each other and owning ideas.
A wise lecturer in College many years ago, called Mick Wilson told us some truths about contemporary art practice. He said we better think creatively about the whole of our art practice not just the actual art we make, but that we can’t relay on selling our art alone to make a living, but we need to be creative and inventive about the way we are artists too. He asked us all what we planned to do when we left college. I remember having some very naive plan to have a studio in some castle grounds where the visitors would come in and see and buy my art work. We may not get our studio in the castle but on a realer level we can help ourselves by creating a network of like-minded individuals and getting our art out without waiting to be invited or at least as well as being invited to exhibit in our chosen galleries.
Some dried rose petals from Valentine’s day floated between bubbles,
Along with a yellow toy duck.
She started to put the wet rose petals around it,
she said she was trying to turn the duck into a rose.
. . . . . . . . . . . . .
Their first journey to the Green Road at Fanore,
It’s guardian a piebald cob with a green horse beard.
We walked along a perfect natural carpet edged with rocks.
Then to the fields, he took my hand,
to meet the enormous robots made from mighty stones.
. . . . . . . . . . . . . .
Two Motherhood poems by Marianne Slevin