2021 – Art in Process: Leading the Blind

If I were blind I’d rather have another blind person leading me around because they know what I’m dealing with and they’re experiencing the same things. 

Augusten Burroughs

Been a while since I wrote a post, so a bit of a catch-up needed. I started my residency at RM Gallery a couple of weeks ago. My experimental film idea is making huge leaps and bounds now that I have more time to put into it. The space itself is peaceful to work in and the city vibe outside the door keeps my interests up.

At the same time though life has been particularly stressful. Not the art making – but everything else. And I think that is why I haven’t posted a lot. I did a YouTube clip about mental health and creativity, which I will link here. This kinda sums up how I’ve been. Very up and down, and just taking one day at a time.

What I want to briefly discuss in this weeks post is ‘process-led creativity.’ The process of this particular project has led the work and is leading the work. I did not, have not, and still do not know the exact outcome, instead I’m letting the process take me into the unknown.

Every creative project is different, every creative journey unique. I usually make work where I do know the outcome, for example; I am writing a web series, or I am painting a landscape… So letting the process lead is extremely challenging. When I began I looked towards nature to find and create the structure of the work, and somehow that process led me into ‘nurture’ – as in nurture vs nature, which I would have never imagined. So the content and themes are much more about nurture, and if it does finish as an experimental film, the viewer may never guess that nature had a part, so my creativity around being inspired by nature to create structure is somewhat hidden.

But, if we think of buildings, foundations and footings probably aren’t the first things you think about. I’ve spent time looking at patterns in nature to be inspired to create a structure but then moved onto thinking about nurture for the content. It seems understandable, but I didn’t know this when I started.

I would say not to be afraid to take this approach, but be prepared for radical shifts to happen. You will probably have a starting point but then allow the process to lead. You will get to the end – just not one you imagined at the beginning.

It’s a bit like writing a novel without chapter planning. It’s not for everyone – but it’s a hell-of-a-ride.

Catch you next time xx

2021 Art in Process: Is it too late?

Is it too late? Am I too old? Am I too young? Do I know enough about this topic? Do I have enough experience? Am I too jaded? What will people think? What will my family think? I can’t start something new now! How do I start? There are already so many people doing it. There’s so many talented people out there. No one would care about it. People will think it’s stupid…

And on and on it goes. You know what I’m talking about.

What the hell! Really? Stop it! How on earth can you let creativity be part of your life if you are starting on this note?

It’s not too late. Your not too young or too old. And experience comes with doing, so if you want it, you have to do it. You are your best friend, you are your own ally. Creativity isn’t for those ‘arty’ ones, it’s for everyone.

I’ve been creating stuff… songs, poetry, films for over 2 decades for myself and professionally and I still have all those insecure thoughts. I still get nervous and doubt myself, we all do, it’s not just you. I don’t know anyone that doesn’t. But those people who can get past the thoughts and push through are the ones that achieve some sort of creative progress.

I went to an abstract painting class for the first time – this is not great art, it’s me making creative progress.

Thoughts really get in the way. But they’re just thoughts. Yep, just thoughts. Say it 10 times. They’re just thoughts.

Ask yourself, what is the worse thing that could happen if I take that pottery class, or learn photoshop skills online? You could find that it’s not for you, OR you could find some joy.

I’ve gone through the creative process a few times now, and if something is nerve racking I’m probably on the right path. Creativity isn’t cookie cutter, it’s part exploration part expression; it opens us up to see the world differently. It gives us confidence to fail and succeed- both as important as the other.

So don’t believe those thoughts of yours because they’re just thoughts.

Catch you next time xx.

2021 Art in Process: Validation

Hello everyone, I hope you are all well. I’ve been thinking a lot about validation recently and because of this thought it would be a good time to write about it. I’ve been thinking about it because I’ve realised that even though I paint, and write poetry I am very unsure of myself in these areas because I have had little or no training, and I’ve never been involved professionally in them.

At the moment, if you have been reading the ‘Art in Process’ posts, you will know that I’m working towards a residency at RM Gallery where I will be making an experimental film. The process of making this film has been hugely challenging, however I find myself confident even when I’m unsure about this new method of ‘making’. I think this is mainly due to the fact that I’ve been involved in creating moving image for quite some time both commercially and artistically. I feel like I don’t need validation to continue on, I’m confident in the process and confident in myself when it comes to this type of creativity.

So, does experience and training validate creativity? Good question.

Validation stems from the term ‘valid’. The original French ‘valide’ was to do with the law – having something legally binding. However the Latin term ‘validus’ seems more likely to be what I’m getting at; ‘validus’ means strong, powerful, active. The Proto-Indio-European root word is ‘wal’: to be strong, “sufficiently to be supported by facts or authority, well-grounded.”

There is a lot here to unpack, especially when creativity and the act of an individual creating is completely personal. I love this quote:

“There is a vitality, a life force, an energy, a quickening that is translated through you into action, and because there is only one of you in all of time, this expression is unique.”

Martha Graham

Could the validation then be OF and FROM ourselves. OF expresses the relationship between artist and work. ‘The work OF you’. FROM expresses that you are the source. If we are unique as Graham suggests then the validation is supported by the fact – the work is ‘OF and FROM us’. We can be strong, powerful and active knowing that only we could ever make this exact piece. Our validation is already in the work.

So, even though we may not have experience or training – validation is already part of our uniqueness – and we can’t take our uniqueness out of our creativity.

Hope you have a great week. Catch you next time xx

2021 Art in process: Just continue on.

Can’t believe it’s the start of May already. I’ve got six weeks until I begin at RM Gallery, so I need to press on. It’s been a very busy week, and I didn’t get a lot of research accomplished but I will continue on.

One thing I have been doing is re-watching films from early avant-garde filmmakers. It’s interesting to see the development of film following the great art-movements of the early 20th century like; Dadaism, Surrealism, German Expressionism and such. I’ve never enjoyed the aesthetic of Surrealism in the plastic arts, but now find myself caught up in these 1920 and 30’s films, especially Un Chien Andalou (1929) by Luis Buñuel and Salvador Dali. There is a looseness to the work, which I’m intrigued by. Marcel Ducamp’s film Everyday (1929), which I cited in What the heck am I doing, has more of a structuralist approach – very tightly edited, extremely controlled, but Un Chien Andalou allows for more abstraction in association between each image in a sequence.

I’ve never worked this way myself – but might try experimenting with this in editing. Not sure. But I want to push myself and this to me would feel very uncomfortable – so that must be a good thing.

I want to also look at the Russian filmmakers again, especially Sergei Eisenstein, Dziga Vertov, Lev Kuleshov and Vsevolod Pudovkin. Eisenstein, of course well known for developing the montage. I’m not sure I see these filmmakers as avant-garde probably more experimental if I have to come up with a label. However, their use of montage is intriguing and I know it did influence the Surrealists at the time.

The only other thing I’ve been doing towards the research is pondering. Yep, pondering. Especially on the development of the ‘event’ in my last post. I had a good conversation with a friend about how the narrative should develop technically. For example, if I’m developing the idea of a spiral narrative form inspired by a shell the camera could constantly be moving in a spiral formation. So another layer to ponder on. And of course sound! How to develop sound is something I also need to think about – so pondering is important.

That’s all from me. I’m just continuing on. I didn’t get done what I thought I would, but sometimes life has other plans and gets in the way of our creative intensions.

I hope you all have a great week. Let me know about your own creative endeavours.

Catch you next time xx.

2021 Art in Process: The Pinecone

Out of all the natural objects I’ve collected, I didn’t think the pinecone was going to be the pivot-point for this research. In last week’s blog I put up a photo and a drawing of a pinecone, and the two main ideas that come from brainstorming around this shape was ‘vacancy’ and ‘layers’. Then I decided to reduce the pinecone into an abstract drawing, then into a more diagrammatical image. I just allowed myself to mull on these images, without rushing.

This is hard to do. Just being and thinking is hard to do.

In this mode of ‘mulling’ I come up with an approach to narrative that I don’t think I would have thought of without this reflective process. Which gives me some confidence in the work. It is difficult to push ahead, especially without knowledge of where the project is heading. I guess this comes from judging what I have done before and projecting that into the future. What I mean is that if I haven’t done something before, I can’t judge it on my past work. So the lack of knowledge or lack of known pathways can cause discomfort. But I have to push through.

So, the pinecone. Who knew?

I thought the research would be based around the spiral in the shell, or the speckles in a river stone. I wasn’t going to even use a pinecone, it was a random decision on my part. And, I wonder if because the shell and the stone already have connotations of narrative to me in their make-up they are in a way loaded in the research. But this pinecone I’d never intended to use, so my thoughts were a lot more free to roam and question how this object could inspire narrative or narrative structure.

Original sketch of the pinecone
First adaptation of the shape
Diagrammatic render with brainstorm

The words I initially used to describe the sketch of the pinecone, ‘vacancy’ and ‘layers’ have not been developed. Rather the idea of an ‘event’ presented itself. How to develop that further, will be the work of this coming week. But I’m quietly confident I can work with this idea. It certainly has potential for narrative or non-narrative exploration depending on how I develop it further.

The ‘event’ could seem very similar to the ’cause and effect’ approach of conventional narrative filmmaking, however, I believe the concept of the ‘event’ can strike a deeper philosophical meaning.

So, where to from here?

First I will analyse the term ‘event’ starting with the etymology and then look at any writers or artists that have used or been inspired by the term.

I’ll leave it there for this week. Catch you next time xx.

Oh… before I forget – I wanted to say I’ve posted my very first Vlog. So if you want to see me chatting about this research click here.

2021 Breathe: Art in Process Week 4

Today I spent some time thinking about a ‘shell’. Yep a small sea-shell and how it could inspire me.

It is a process.

To understand what I’m on about you will probably need to glance over week 1 – 3, however, I’m working towards a body of art-work and interactive media for an exhibition later this year. The project is based around being influenced by elements of nature to create structures of narrative.

Surprisingly it did – inspire me, the shell. I first drew it and then just listed elements I could see and feel. Things like: lines of spots, 3 rings, textured, neutral colours… and so forth. It took a bit of contemplation and for a while I was thinking, ‘what the heck am I doing?’ – how is this shell going to inspire the structure of a interactive media installation??

This is the shell, which I used in last weeks blog.

I think one thing to remember is to that the process will happen, you just gotta have a little creative faith.

Once I had listed the elements of the shell, I decided to choose 3 elements that could structurally work for story telling. I chose:

  • Shape has function
  • 3 circles
  • Live edge

Once I had chosen this list I wrote what they could mean for story structure. (They could mean anything – this is just what I came up with).

  • Shape has function: The way the story works has function for the content
  • 3 circles: 3 parts, or 3 points of view
  • Live edge: Nothing static, plot points have a living quality, some paths could go nowhere, or characters fall away (like life)

Then I started crafted the very first stages of a story together. It came a lot quicker at this point than I imagined, but by now I was really open, allowing the process to just unfold without my critical mind getting in the way.

I broke the story up into 3 parts, a diary entry, a text, and the description of the world. Once I had those parts, I just wrote, which you can see on the left – yes, I tend to work backwards…

Absolute draft stages, and I don’t think I will carry on with this story – it was just my first attempt to see if nature could inspire structure. And obviously it can. Still a lot to work through – but that is what process is all about.

This attempt only took 1 – 2 hours, I had to walk away a few times just to let me mind think of something else, then I would come back and contemplate a bit more. It’s how I work. I will try again through this week with another item. Drawing the object first was a good start, it just allowed me to be with the shell for a while, also choosing 3 of the descriptions worked well, it gave boundaries for creating structure. So I will do both those things next time, and try a few others as well.

Catch you next week xx

2021 Breathe – Art in Process: Week One

Last year I had to stop blogging. I was getting in my own way and things became unfocused; No one wants to go over 2020 again – so, breathe.

Here we go. It’s time to make new commitments with new intentions. Yay!

This year the blog will primarily focus on the process of new art work. I’ve been accepted into an art-gallery residency in June-July 2021, so, firstly I will blog my process of working and researching towards this residency, then blog the residency experience and finally I will focus on the after-process, findings of the research, and art outcomes (work, exhibitions and screenings).

I have a working title, ‘The Narrative Structuring of Nature: Te Hangahanga korero mo te Taiao’. The focus of the project is to look at creating narrative structures through patterns in nature.

I’m at the first stages of this research, so other than the idea and my first inspiration, I have nothing to show. Which is great! I have to start somewhere, and this year’s blog will hopefully document this entire process.

In my proposal for the residency I suggested that the project would look past the ’cause and effect’, ‘3-act structure’ or ‘hero’s journey’ pathways, which are very commonly adapted for moving-image storytelling, and towards unique narrative structures inspired by patterns in nature. Usually, for research purposes, I would start from, and discuss, why particular frameworks are common, successful, or “tried and true”, and then branch out from there. But I’m not going to do that.

I’m just going to dig straight into the work. Enough has already been said and is being said about these common structures in storytelling – you don’t need more on this from me.

There are a few things I want to do to set up the project, and that is to find several applications or programmes that will fit with the research. These could be anything from excel to photoshop – I want to decide on specific tools for a variety of functions and stick to those for the coming year. There are a number I have used before – but I’d also like to challenge myself and try different things out. I’m also going to write an overview of the outcomes, as there are several, and create a calendar, tasks and milestones for each to keep me on track, as each outcome is large. These planning aspects will make up the next couple of posts, so you can see my set up from the get-go. I hope this helps if you are also embarking on research or a project you need to keep track of and stay motivated with.

Me at RM Gallery, setting up for the ‘At The Horizon’ exhibition.

Must admit, I’m pretty excited for the project and happy to be using this blog as a platform to express my process. I’m going to leave the post here – just an introduction to the year ahead. Love this quote from Carla Melucci Ardito:

Learn how to exhale, the inhale will take care of itself.

Catch you next week xx.