I’ve never felt like a truly competent writer. I struggle to communicate my feelings and opinions in a way that I see as effective. I force myself to write in an attempt to get better at it. It never comes easily. However, I don’t make myself write on a strict schedule. You, as a reader of this website will probably know that by now and understand the sporadic nature of my ‘Thoughts’ section. I usually write a post when I have something to announce or when I need an opportunity to reflect. When I do sit down to write a post, the urge comes over me quickly and the content usually spills manically from my head into words, I need to grab my sketchbook or laptop and frantically write it out before the thoughts fade away.
Many times, I’ve nearly done away with this blog feature of my website, unsure whether it genuinely adds depth to my work or whether it’s just another element of my practice to worry about until that spontaneous outburst comes over me. It is at times like these however, when I am in a strange head space, that I am pleased to have this area to log my thoughts.
Last year, my grandpa passed away and I immediately launched into making artwork as a response. Thinking about family, place, legacy, life, death, healing and support. The artwork was my own way of wading through my emotions. The exhibition is now open to the public at An Tobar Gallery in Mull, the place that my grandparents lived and wider family still are. It is my second island home.
Hanging and then leaving a full body of new work, the thing I’ve been solely focussed on for months if not years, on a gallery walls is a very draining thing to do. Allowing the pieces to breathe and exist on their own, standing independently. There is a huge vulnerability in that process, especially when the work is so personal. To add another difficult layer, I am not able to go and visit this exhibition, check how it’s doing in the real world, make sure it’s having an interesting time. After opening the exhibition I returned to my home of Shetland, a different island, hundreds of miles away with no way to personally communicate with the pieces or the ideas the exhibition holds.
One piece in the show, ‘Distance’ considers my two island homes. The painting depicts two masses reaching out to each other, one inching toward the other but frustratingly never managing to reach it. They are similar and familiar, nearly together yet too far apart. That gives a good sense of my feelings toward this body of work, and in fact to my practice as a whole right now.
I was recently venting all these emotions to Jane, the other half of islandness. We joke and call each other ‘art wife’ but its true, she is my collaborator and my creative go-to most times. Somebody I feel completely comfortable to confide in, both creatively and personally. It’s important to have someone to speak through ideas and worries with. As with most artists and makers, I spend a lot of time in my own head and am definitely my own worst critic, however us creative types are often hyper aware of self-care. That self-care frequently does not fully transfer over to care in your creative practice though. Jane sent me an essay about post-exhibition depression and dealing with that intense feeling of loss when you leave an exhibition to do its thing in the public eye. For me, at this current time, these feelings are intensified further due to my distance from the art as well as the fact the work itself was about the loss of a person and my feelings that I’d also drifted slightly away from the essence of a place I care deeply about, Mull.
Instead of fully acknowledging these consuming emotions I felt a need to get back on it straight away, produce something, announce something, look busy!
We as artists need to give ourselves time to breathe more frequently. You do not have to be making constantly, thinking constantly, having a constant stream of new ideas. You are allowed to stop thinking you have to be busy, busy, busy and have a never ending supply of exciting news to announce (followed by multiple exclamation marks, happy emojis and a LOL of a GIF).
Allow your brain and creativity to rest.
When I am in my current headspace, I try to go on a bit of content/technology “diet”. I try not to post to or look at social media, particularly Instagram, too often. Generally just being a bit more mindful as to who or what I let filter through my eyes and into my mind. Sometimes you just do not need to see that other artist getting the amazing funding opportunity you didn’t have time to apply for, or look at the organisation that just announced the successful applicants to their residency programme that you didn’t even notice the open call for. Take some weeks to just be. To feel pleased that you have recently experienced success and realise that you do not need to immediately race on to the next thing.
Make something if you feel like making. Watch TV, paint your bedroom, lust over bathroom tiles and knit yourself a jumper, if that actually is what you would rather be doing. Can you guess what I’ve recently been doing?!
I have however been finding sanity and head space via website like The White Pube. In case you don’t know, they’re another female duo who share refreshing opinions on the contemporary art world, call bullshit when the art is just that and share thoughts on really useful stuff nobody talks about like “How to get an exhibition” (Seriously, that article is still having a profound effect on me).
My point is, let go of that self-inflicted pressure, find something to indulge your thoughts in and be a bit kinder to your creative self. I’m directing these statements to the reader but really I am aiming them at my future self who in a few months time after my next exhibition/project opening will no doubt be back in the same uncertain, vulnerable head space and looking for a wee pep talk.
Love to you all x
P.S go see my show, its on until 1st June…