Today, while sitting in my studio looking out on a snowy Weisdale I did something scary. I re-read my art school dissertation. I found myself getting nervous opening the document on my mac, I wish I had the hard copy but that is bundled somewhere in a box in our VAU studio’s in Glasgow. I actually found the bound copy when I was last in Glasgow, had a giggle and threw it aside. I could hardly recall what I had written. Once I finished the last page I was smiling and thinking ah yes, thats why I make art! Recently, I’ve been feeling quite jaded and stuck in regards to my studio practice. I’ve not been spending nearly enough time in the studio and my concentration has been absorbed in other things. I hate it but that’s the truth. I found myself needing to verify the reason I make work. Maybe its because I am no longer an art student, have a rather healthily sized student loan to pay back (!!!) and need to figure out what I am doing in life. That old chestnut. I didn’t plan on re-reading my dissertation today, but the urge came across me when I stepped into my studio and here I am, writing about it on my blog, which I am sorry to admit is another aspect of my work I have been feeling neglectful of in recent months.
I find great benefit in reading and recently have found a new love in the author, Haruki Murakami. In his book ‘What I Talk About When I Talk About Running’ he writes – “No matter how mundane some action might appear, keep at it long enough and it becomes a contemplative, even meditative act”.
That’s how I feel about much of my art. I like to repeat a process and spend time really concentrating on one act. I look at artists who can start and finish a piece in a single day and think ‘I so wish I could do that’ yet simultaneously think ‘how can that be finished? You need to spend at least another 4 months on it’. I always want to invest time in my work, for instance knitting, or endlessly tying knots to form a net. Repetitive motions, on and on. During my fourth year of art school I spent weeks and months just knitting. Plain knit in the form of a square. This was done in my studio, in other people’s studio’s, while eating lunch, during meetings and lectures and seminars, while walking up and down the corridors, alone, with friends, silently, while holding long conversations. I never did (and still don’t really) have any desire to knit in a pattern, or in a complex manner or even to alter my stitch. I was so absorbed in that repetitive action of knitting a completely plain, one coloured square – over and over. I knitted hundreds. And still do. The only variation is sometimes I knit the square small and sometimes I knit them big. Sometimes I make a piece from these squares but often I separate them into their respective colours, or size and leave them in piles.
Obsessive? Yes. Necessary? No. Addictive? Completely.
Is it justification enough to just make for the sake of making? I think it has to be, or why would anyone make art? Certainly not for the money, but for the feeling of release that comes with using your mind and hands to form. When you repeat a process so much that it becomes etched into your mind and soul, thats when you are really winning.