Self reflection

by maggie

No, I won’t be posting selfies.
However I’m talking a brief break from posting images to talk about what the hell I’m doing.

What am I doing, like most people, is making it up as I go along. Deciding what it is that I want to make up as a go.

I have a number of themes in my work on the go at the moment. Most are related to landscape in some way, but I feel happier at a smaller domestic scale. Of course all that’s simplification, I’m not trying to write a curatorial essay here. But if I want to do more than the occasional little picture do I have to pick and choose, or just prioritize?
I like detail, I think. Tell a great story in a small part of the whole, approach the world from a fractal perspective. A tall order no doubt.
Working small is the daughter of necessity at the moment. Here’s a photo of my work space. When I want to work at an image I have to pile everything on the bed. Of course occasionally everything is sorted back into storage before it worms its way out again.


I disliked my art teacher at secondary school. She made us paint with glue spreaders and therefore as you might imaging I got more of a general art education from my Art School educated parents. But it’s left me a bit mixed up as what constitutes Art and how to do it.
I am still wrestling with my dad’s influence on me art wise. He didn’t talk much about his work, but in later years he took up the English landscape in a small way. My life is littered with the results now.
Okay that’s enough for now. I’m writing a lot of lists at the moment, so I think I can manage one somewhere on kind of pictures I want to make . This honesty with myself is an interesting experience. This next bit contains some complex ideas, indifferently expressed, so feel free to give it a miss.

Is Art Struggle

I spent a pleasant afternoon with little wheeler on Monday and we talked about many things, not including cabbages and kings. It got me thinking about which pictures I choose to make and how much time I (should/could/do) spend on getting each image right.

My memory is a bit weird. Until something is lodged in long-term memory it is liable to float of and be lost forever. I can’t remember doing habitual things after 5 minutes and have left a constant stream of orphaned hats and scarfs behind me. ( i don’t even bother wearing gloves much these days.) It’s like forgetting why you’ve gone upstairs, expect that’s my whole life.

On the other hand once something has penetrated the thick walls of my skull, it’s as if it has always been there. There is no real memory of the learning process, or real understanding of not knowing a thing. This can drive teachers mad. It’s also really frustrating if things go in wrong. For example the Royal Mile, Edinburgh, will  be forever oriented the wrong way round in my head. This doesn’t meant I can’t break a process down to teach to some one else, it’s just that it’s a seamless naturalised part of my life now.

These tricks my memory plays can make somethings really difficult. Obviously its exhausting being hyper aware of the number of bags I have on me at all times, or hoping that the first sign of being over tired is not watching a bus carrying away my latest hat – and i do like to keep my ears warm. I can look at an object like an oyster card or a pair of glasses and not register them as important items I should carry around with me. But can this breakdown of context make it easier to turn the viewed into an image?

What relevance do these memory issues have to my art I hear you cry? And is art really struggle?

I’ve been learning a lot this summer, some of it’s about paint handling and use of materials, which might not have ended up inside the thick skull yet (10, 000 hours and all that). I’ve also learnt, that I have a lot to learn about having the confidence to stop and look, and what to look at.

While I was making in the hedge pictures In the Dark i was thinking, I know how to do this now, I should stop, it’s too easy. Art is struggle. I have been struggling over the summer – and intellectual challenge. Is this refusal to accept that picture making can be ‘easy’ a part of my personality or part of  my memory quirks? Once my hand and eye have learnt something and it’s settled in my head the struggle to get it there is forgotten (or rather never remembered). Things are either impossible or a path, there is very little middle way. I worry that the way my memory works have influenced the way I approach my pictures.

Of course if you end up churning the same image out again and again, you’ve either got a very good agent or you’ve given up – see there’s the high moral horse come out for a ride again.

Something being ‘easy’ doesn’t mean your cheating. By easy – what do I mean? – fluid, confident, competent… I’ve enjoyed the struggle this summer, because its’ something I wanted to do. It’s been frustrating, difficult and rewarding. I’ve chased down lots of interesting things and once I’ve worked out how  they tick I’ve put them down, because the ticking is what made them interesting – and then sometimes they vanish. With a memory like mine I’ve realised I can go round the draws and boxes in my room and discover old/new friends. I can look at them anew and say there really was something worth saying about that after all. I often used to feel guilty finding something after months of neglect – I could have been doing something with this in the mean time.

Writing this however, I’ve come to the conclusion that doesn’t matter. There are things I am interested in, articulating that is a struggle, because there probably aren’t any words for them anywhere. My memory however is what makes me, me; along with my tendency to make things hard for myself. Being lazy is another things entirely. And if I forget the conclusion I came to, I can always come back and read this again.

Thanks for listening. – an tips for keeping track of hats gratefully received.