Saturday, November 16, 2013

Are great artists - just jet lagged performing artists?

I started this blog posting nearly a month ago, but need the time to let my thoughts settle:




Are great artists -  just jet lagged performing artists?

I'm afraid to count how many air flights I have made to teach, speak and exhibit.

So I'll count.

On my website I counted over 30 trips to speak at interstate and overseas conferences, symposia and workshops.  Fortunately most of the 16 interstate and overseas exhibition openings I attended also were also at the same time.

The start of all this thinking and counting, was coming down with a flu after my last trip.

My illness was the side product of an intense month of pre-trip making, family events, nerves,  jet lag at both ends, and the usual stress of constantly performing at a high level, in a strange environment in front of strangers.

Anyway, I begun to question why I keep putting myself through this experience.

To be honest with myself, there is ego reasons for accepting invitations to demonstrate or speak in front of a lot of people, and my peers.

That others value me and my ideas, keeps me motivated through the long hours alone in my studio.

Yes, that others see value, is important when I (and every other artist I talk to) have moments of self doubt.

This self realisation motivates me to deliberately support and encourage those artists around me.

Aside form the financial rewards, which are necessary, there are more significant, artistic reasons for my travels.

These trips do provide an important foil to my solitary studio practice:  More than six months between trips endures "cabin fever".

"A change is as good as a rest".

A time to reflect on my art, out of the studio.

To see how other artists live their lives, or run their studios.

The happy studio accident in a strange studio and with strange tools and materials.  I often bring back these to invigorate or extend my studio work here in Western Australia.

One strange aspect bubbled up into my thoughts:  Demonstrating how I make my sculptures in front of others, contains aspects of "performing arts".

This may be an unexplored aspect of the visual arts practice - for those of us who do it.

Does this public act of art making affect how and what I make in the studio before and after it?

Hard to say - although I'm a little different to most in the ceramics community, in that I may spend a day or more before my workshops or demonstration preparing and drying clay (paper clay).  Is this also a warm up?  Not really in that I don't always demonstrate the techniques I use, but, the physical work certainly helps getting over jet lag and mentally prepares me.

There is aspects of deep meditating on how and why I make art, by "lifting the studio wall" vail.  Anticipating questions or reactions to what I do, makes me think more about the whole process.

Other questions come to mind: is "performing artists", just an extension of what travelling artists/teachers like myself do?  These are stylised private rituals, made public in the teaching studio, theatre or conference hall.  Some are common to all clay workers, others are uniquely mine.

I sometimes ask myself, should I reveal a particularly personal technique: questioning if I should have separate public and private studio lives.  Yet, our work gives away so much anyway.  We both reveal and conceal ourselves in our art.  So I think, "bugger it, I'll share it". (1)

Doubt creeps in when thinking about why people invite me to speak and demonstrate.  Do they invite me because of my art, or because they have hear about my demonstrations/teaching? Often audience members seem to equate demonstrators as being "good" or "great" artists.  So is there a similar confusion in their mind, to mine, between art and performance?

But in the end, it doesn't really matter.

As long as I have the opportunity for paid travel, the gift of a change of space, reflective time,  happy studio accidents, and of course to meet with new and old friends.

The latter is happily an increasing occurrence, as I finally meet good people I have only know via the web and email.

These are other artists, sometimes also performing visual artists.

All with one universal common trait (apart from being artistic :)), which is an open and generous nature.

Obviously disorganised groups with problems,  and stuck in their ways  aren't looking or new ideas, techniques and ways of thinking. Whereas I will be invited by groups and people who are organised, looking outwards, and eager to learn.

Water finds its own level, and I find kindred spirits.

However, like sports teams, art groups (and artists) have a cycle between good times, bad times, and back to good times.  So, it's not surprising I have had conversations over many years with different artists and their groups, before all the planets line up and we finally get to meet.

Finally getting on a plane to fly to meet and spend time with these people is just such a buzz!

Just a pity about the flu.



(1) Australian colloquial term to express anger

Modified image source: http://www.messynessychic.com/2013/10/15/the-lost-art-of-the-cutaway/airplane-2/

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