In the coming weeks and months I will be exhibiting and publishing new work, for the first time in a long time. My work has not engaged in public outcome of this scale since falling pregnant with my first son almost four years ago. The work I am presenting is within forms I have never worked in before. I am excited, ready, relieved and quietly terrified. In the lead up to this I have been thinking a lot about process, outcome, time, periods of significant gestation and transformative life experiences. In the past four years I have become a mother (twice) and a widow.
Through it all I have consistently turned to my practice, my greatest companion, ever present, enabling me to unravel these experiences and to keep going. I have come to value process and practice, in a new way; it outweighs any outcome or review I could possibly receive. It is good to remember this. It is good to remember this when I am quietly terrified, feeling pressure and expectation about presenting new work. Here I step back, to see how I have engaged in process during this time and how my relationship with it has changed. This seemingly ‘quiet’ time has offered much to my work and how I engage in and value practice.
In working towards these outcomes, I have been thinking about observation vs action, input vs output, listening vs speaking. Balancing these as an artist can be a delicate task. I see now that as a young artist I spent a lot of time reaching for the work, reaching for an idea, when time and again I am reminded that if I can bare to sit still, to quietly observe and listen, often the work is right there in front of me. Quietly waiting for me to turn to it. Sometimes I have experienced it to feel like cheating, that I haven’t worked hard enough to arrive there, to receive it. That presents an important point; the path of thorough and hard work is critical, but it’s not always obvious that the ‘work’ is actually occurring. It may feel as if something has just arrived, but the truth is you've been quietly engaged in the work for a long time and it is of course cumulative.
It brings me back to ideas of observation, input and listening. They seem to rebel against what the world is currently telling us about output and consumption, more is more, do, do, do. The difficulty is in the timing. Sometimes you can sit on a work or an idea for too long, other times you can present something before it is ready and it never recovers. What I’m interested in, is considering and valuing varying gestation periods and the definition or expectation of what being an artist looks like, having more breadth. As an artist who is a mother, it offers me another perspective and shifts my perspective on process, its value and what it can or has to look like, due to the demands of my life. I also value engaging in rigorous, prolific periods of making/outcome, but this is what I see predominantly celebrated, valued and acknowledged. If all you are doing is seeing, breathing, making and presenting work, what are you making work about? Where is the space to be in practice and periods of varying gestation and investigation? What are the parameters around what is considered ‘research and development’? Where can these parameters be stretched? Where is the value for play within the unknown with no presence of outcome until a work forms and demands an outcome? I for one don't know how to fit into the machine of funding and presenting partners when working in this way.
For me, it is aspects of, or the essence of real, lived experiences alongside observations of the world which emerge onto the page, into my body, or into dialogue with another collaborator and only then can I see where it has been quietly building, (while I haven’t been ‘making work’). Waiting for either the time, or space or for me to get out of the way to see it, to see the work alive and moving waiting for me to join it.
Once seen I can very easily get carried away and want to lead, however I learn over again what can occur when I move more fluidly between leading and being led. It is often hard to know when you are leading and when you are letting the work lead you but more and more I can identify a key moment when the work shifts in some way and I see an inner life or a direction to the work which I can’t quite explain or trace.
It leads me to thinking that obviously this experience does not belong to art alone. That we are all doing the same thing in everyday life; trying to keep up, trying to understand when it is time to lead and when it is time to be led. For me, reflection can be a great companion here in unravelling some of these complexities while also dearly holding on to mystery. As an artist I value more and more leaning into and respecting the mystery. When I listen carefully and follow my intuition, I am often surprised by what is revealed when I step to the side and out of the way just enough. I always take my craft with me, but it is there that I see a well of inspiration accessible if attended too, both as an artist and as an ordinary, flawed person living through each day.
Work featured in Lighthouse Arts Collective, Group Show, Bellarine Arts Trail