Wednesday, 18 September 2013

Josephine The Singer, A Man in Pyjamas, And Walking With a White Cane

When I came across the story by Franz Kafka of Josephine the Singer, it was one of the most joyful LMFAO moments. I felt as if I had been included in an intimate way with the insane humour,  but kindly mocking voice of the universe and that was a relief. If you don’t know the story it is a short story about the artist and her audience. From Wikipedia...
Josephine is a rarity among the mouse people, for she has the innate ability to sing, which none other in the community has displayed. She can not only sing, but she can sing beautifully, helping all the mouse people tolerate their unusually hardworking lives. Some of the mouse people claim to dislike her and do not believe she is truly singing, while others adore her and consider her a communal treasure; regardless, all the mouse people gather round to listen to her, and once she is singing, forget their reservations about her; they use her feeble vocal cords to their utmost strength, and treasure her delicacy

As a Josephine, I know her well, as she mounts her little pedestal and sings in her reedy little voice. My existence is as of little consequence as a treasured member of a short lived mouse colony, but the rest of the parallels are snortingly funny if you let them be.,_or_the_Mouse_Folk

Many years ago my beloved was under a great deal of stress and I was woken by his restless dreaming in the middle of the night. He was laughing out loud in his sleep and intrigued I asked him in the morning about his dream. He said he was walking a tightrope in his pyjamas, and quite ridiculously used a gun to shoot the  end of the tightrope loose so that he no longer had to worry about walking along it. It marked a turning point in our lives and is an image I will treasure.

The universe sends us many images to short circuit a crisis and to help us to see the world in a new way. I have always used a Zen technique for problem solving, of throwing the whole kit and caboodle up in the air and wishing for the things I want most to be the ones that land. This week I have been thrown a wobbly one with an eye problem that has thrown my world out of balance (and in extremes of imagination has reduced my eyesight to walking with a cane.) A trifle melodramatic I know, but looking through a dodgy lense this week my worldview has greatly changed.
I live in car dominated world from which I have been excluded this week. I see myself as an artist but without my eyes, can I still be one and without my eyes can I still lip read to be part of the conversation? My peripheral vision has been affected and since I have always been a big picture type of person physically my view of the world has been narrowed down to my immediate and selfish ones so how do I maintain my intellectual persona? Is this what has happened to Australia? We have become dizzy from staring in panic at our immense borders and have become sun blind so need to now just tend to our own selfish little needs?
I will stand here and sing in my croaky little crackle “We are a part of everything and everything we do impacts everything else because that’s what the universe has shared with me this week.” You can put it to any tune you please.


Wednesday, 4 September 2013

Manifesting and Incubation

In the life of an artist there is no one direct line of work to follow. It is difficult to know how a day will pan out unless you are actually involved in a project. The difficult time is in generating a project especially when responding in an emotional way to background noise.

It is important therefore to be able to surface from the miasma of idleness with a clear plan for forward motion. When an artist is involved in a project it is as if that is the only thing on earth that they were put here to do and optimism levels can rise to an unsubstantiated level. The ebb tide can be  daunting but it is also important to recognise that ebb and flow are a normal part of an artist’s way of being and to work with that.

When studying ceramics one bright mentor said that it is important to just go into the studio and work as if that is what you always do because the work of an artist is what generates the next project. It is also important to ask yourself what it is you want. You need a clear visualisation of where you want to be and want you to produce and  where you want this work to appear in order for it to manifest.You cannot plan if you do not have a big picture idea of where you want to be. BTW Has anyone heard a big picture idea from any of our pollies about where we are going to be anytime soon?
A few quick scribble reasons for being an artist. I am sure you can make the list much longer!
Can’t help myself. It comes out of me like breath.
Want to be famous
Want to make money
Want to save the world
Want to be remembered
Want to have a conversation. My way of being a part of something.
Therapy to help myself.
While it is nicer to have the conversation with others, sometimes you just need to sit and have an imaginary conversation with yourself to ask the questions. When you hear the answer then it is a matter of following some logical pathways to achieving that outcome. Sometimes the answer directs you away from the process you have been following because it is not a logical conclusion. e.g I want to make money- does art make money? Not frequently and not much. So was the original answer naive or dishonest?
Some practical things that you can pursue when you fall into the pit of doom are
1:to seek challenges to stimulate your imagination-competitions etc
2: repetitive exercises to perfect a skill
3: market research
4: choose another area of interest to focus on for a set period of time thereby giving yourself permission to step away without guilt.
5: play with your existing work, mixing it around, displaying it differently to perhaps stimulate a new idea. Imagine curating just a small fraction of your work
6: try something as exactly opposite to what you are doing as is possible eg try to make something really ugly and clumsy
7: experiment with the same idea or object in a completely different material or several different materials
8: ask people in to look and comment.
9: respond to an existing problem eg too many throw away containers, rising obesity levels, limited modern storage.
10: random dictionary slam- two unrelated words picked at random and brainstorm ideas these two words generate.
Never throw away ideas. Keep a book or scrap pile or pinboard and file them. Sometimes your ideas collection drawn in your own hand may become collectable but when dipped into occasionally can feed more ideas. These ideas percolate through your brain the more often you flick through them in a relaxed manner and when left to incubate can suddenly erupt when another random idea rubs up against them.
Pinterest is fun but unless you follow up straight from Pinterest into your own scribbled ideas you are just wasting time. Pinterest adds to your sense of futility, and envy especially if you are collecting directly from other people’s design and art pages. It also becomes a lazy way of filling you up full of other people’s stuff so that you no longer know where the real you is.
Try  instead to only pinch a part of an idea or image using a tool such as snip  (widget not showing!)and play with this little snippet. Steal another artists colour palette or a colour palette for interiors to give your work a contemporary look. I have been obsessing for a few years over Cy Twombly’s paintings and can endlessly amuse myself with snippets of his paintings embellished with my own work to create wishful ideas.
Try stealing objects from still life paintings, Margaret Olley has a zillion of them and I think Gwynn Hansen Piggot has given Morandi a good going over.
Stir your stumps and get making or drawing or doing whatever it is that makes you an artist! We will know the fate of the election cycle in a couple of days and life will continue for better or worse.