Headspace and workspace

Over the summer the office quietens, the schools are closed and the phone doesn’t ring (so much).  I took last week off – I was in need of some rest and restoration, and spent a week in my studio, which I’d rearranged and tidied and cleaned a few weeks previously.  I’d been desperate to spend time in my studio, shielded from disturbance and free from distractions.  It’d been quite a while since I’d sat in this space and I was dismayed at how difficult it was to begin again.  I thought the “ideas fridge” was overloaded but I discovered these ideas had turned ephemeral and hovered tantalisingly out of reach. I’d recently experienced a vivid dream: I was busy making artworks –  I could see exactly what I was doing, but now that I had sat down to explore this, my attempts at recall were hazy and the imagery indistinct.  The first day of being in the studio was a frustrating experience and I felt like giving up.  What was the point?  Why was I sitting in this space?  Why did I even want to make “artworks” anyway?

That was Monday and it wasn’t a good day.

I had a long conversation with my wife when she got home that day – she’d been in her studio working flat out.  I conceed I’m a bit jealous – she doesn’t seem to lack for inspiration or impetus.  But she in turn envies aspects of my process – I keep sketch books, I make work for myself and not to anyone else’s requirements.  Some parts of her work she makes over and over again.  Over and over again.

The next few days, I decided to try and look at the situation differently.  I was in a hurry, but really there was no pressure – so I decided to slow down.  I spent more time reading a book that had been recommended by my colleague Jo – The Elegance of the Hedgehog by Muriel Barbery.  A quiet and moving book.  The main character loves literature, philosophy and films, particularly Japanese films by Yasujiro Ozu. Something that sparked a particular interest was her thoughts on “Wabi“.  A worldview that finds beauty and enlightenment through the acceptance of transience.  This idea really struck a chord with me and it became something to think about whilst working.  I used to paint, a slow process filled with many false starts and even more dead ends.  I realised that this is no longer a practical or viable or even satisfying process.  Constraints dictated by space and time point towards a solution that’s quicker in execution, that allows changes of direction, that is more flexible and responsive:

Paper.  Scissors and glue; and a razor sharp scapel.  Sometimes, Felt tip pens.  Through the week, I steadily built up a body of experimental collage – enjoying the experience, the process of selection and placement.  Finding relationships in colour, positioning, line, texture, tearing and cutting, old and new, plain and patterned.  It felt good to create work that balances logic, decisions made because of visual grammar and rules of presentation against the illogical: decisions that feel instinctive, materials chosen without deliberation and often randomised.  A ragged scrap of graph paper or a torn piece from a magazine often redirecting the flow of the piece.

Decisions influenced by ambience – throughout the week I chose a variety of music – electronic, techno and increasingly classical music: Rachmaninov, Chopin and Handel.  Drawing from these audio textures, tonality, timbre –  relationships – harmony/dissonance.   For me this type of music describes certain spaces – through pace, placement and dynamic range.  Both types of music seem to require a similar ear – the effect being accumulative, the techno through it’s repetitions and gradual changes and classical through it’s detailing and changing of time/pacing/ or attack.

I’m back at work now, PiCLProgrammer once again – but feeling rested and restored – connected once again to the interests that sustain my inner core, better able to touch and briefly hold the inspirations that so often flash by like “dancing particles”.  How do I work in a way that is holistic and integrated?  Concentrated but open? My frustrations are born of a compartmentalised view of  my work(s)  – perhaps now this view can be dismantled…

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