Bruce Mau 4

I’m currently nagged by a feeling that I’m skimming over the surface with my textile work.  Then I realise I’m skimming over the surface of my life in some ways.  I have been particularly struck one of Mau’s more pithy statements on his manifesto (no. 5, if you’re counting):

Go deep.  The deeper you go the more likely you will discover something of value.

My final assignment for the course I’m just finishing, Mixed Media For Textiles, allowed me to do just that and that is what has made me feel that until now I’ve just been skimming the surface.  For this brief (see previous post) I took just one idea and explored it in a number of ways; I took one detail of my samples and explored that in detail with drawings and other samples; then I took one detail of those drawings and  … aha, so that’s what it’s all about.  I use the excuse of time (lack of) i.e. I need to keep moving on, I don’t have many hours on end to sit and ‘go deep’.  But in truth I don’t think I realised quite how deep it is possible to go until now.  Plus, I’ve been on a fast track introduction to the breadth of textiles and art in general; as I start my new course, Ideas and Processes, I feel it is time to dive in deeper.

So I’m intrigued to find these two almost contradictory points in Mau’s list, as numbers 7 and 8:

Study.  A studio is a place of study.  Use the necessity of production as an excuse to study.  Everyone will benefit.

Drift.  Allow yourself to wander aimlessly.  Explore adjacencies.  Lack judgment.  Postpone criticism.  

As a beginner art student, I’ve tended to think of the studio (OK, my spare bedroom) as a place to create rather than study; but of course the two things go together.  I’m comfortable with ‘study’, that’s what I’ve always done as a student, teacher and general lover-of-learning, so this in turn makes me more comfortable with the concept of the studio.  Until now I’ve not dared refer to my room as my studio – it seemed to be claiming to be an artist, which I’m not; but with moving into mixed media it has indeed transmuted from ‘sewing room’ to ‘studio’ if only because there has been so little sewing going on recently.  But also, I am intimidated by the stereotype ‘artist’ I see in my mind who doesn’t need to study but just creates … nonsense, I can now see.  Art and Fear and Ted Orlands follow-up, The View from the Studio Door are both bracing, refreshing reads on this subject, focusing on the sheer hard work and persistence that is needed to become a practising artist – and to stay working as one.  Now this is more ‘me’ – hard work and persistence I can do!  Well, to be more precise, in The View From, Orland talks about the difference between ‘creativity’ which is often taken to be about being ‘new’ or ‘different’, he places more importance on the importance of having command of the creative process:  ‘The creative process unfolds as you find the essential tools in your toolkit.  It means finding your subjects (not someone else’s) and most of all it means finding a way to live your life so that you can engage again and again the things you care about the most.’  This, he says, is the key to longevity as an artist, as much of the book is about how to sustain your practice in art and why many artists stop making art.  He talks about ‘living life productively’ – “One of the less advertised truths about art making is that it’s more important to be productive than creative.  If you’re productive, your creativity will take care of itself.  If you are not productive – well, if you’re not productive, then how exactly is it you intend to be creative?”  

This really chimes with where I am at the moment.  Orland discusses how, if you need to make 100 samples to come up with the really good art, then your job is to make the 100th sample.  For me, this fits with Mau’s urge to go deep and to study; that seems to be the purpose of the many samples, drawings and experimentations I’m engaged in at the moment.    Or, as Mau says (No. 37):

Break it, stretch it, bend it, crush it, crack it, fold it.

By which I think he means – just try stuff.  Just do it, and keep doing it:  number 21:

Repeat yourself.  If you like it, do it again.  If you don’t like it, do it again.

Ah, so that’s what the hours in the studio are for…..




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