is impossible to embody, and this impossibility results in an inevitable comedy; but though identity may seem to be a matter of perception and representation, and therefore illusory, it can also be experienced intensely.
We lived in a space cut out of the jungle, a row of two story houses on stilts, one shop.
My mother worried about spiders, scorpions and snakes, and she, an unqualified teacher, taught the older kids at the makeshift school. My father was a civil engineer and had a tick. We lived under cardboard boxes, we talked to animals and we watched and listened to trees and plants. We loved mud and water, especially the mud at the edges of river pools, so full of live things.
I don’t remember arriving in the jungle but I remember leaving. A rabies outbreak, the cat asleep they said, under a hill, the dog also. Then arriving suddenly in the cold weather of London, two bright parrots in the luggage.
We climbed steep temple steps while our mother worried about us falling. Inside we met a stone jaguar and outside at nighttime we heard real jaguars coughing. We saw where men’s hearts were cut out so blood could fill a bowl. From a vehicle we watched fish and turtles swim across a road in flood, on the walls moths the size of my father’s hand rested and we heard the sound of flying beetles, part rhinoceros, part rock, throwing themselves at windows.
From a vehicle we watched fish and turtles swim across a road in flood, on the walls moths the size of my father’s hand rested and we heard the sound of flying beetles, part rhinoceros, part rock, throwing themselves at windows. I don’t remember arriving in the jungle but I remember leaving. A rabies outbreak, the cat asleep they said, under a hill, the dog also. Then arriving suddenly in the cold weather of London, two bright parrots in the luggage.
Most people think of material pleasure as the hedonistic worldly acquisition of things and sensory delights. There is a lot of joy in material possessions. My silver ipod is beautifully designed, simple to use and it comes with endless musical choices. There is the voluptuousness of clean polished cotton sheets and the tangible weight of a book.
Being an artist means finding pleasure in working with materials, yet the material doesn’t need to be considered beautiful. What draws us to making is the manipulation of “stuff”, playing with colour, shape, form, space, texture, and the sense of something well crafted. Materials are an intrinsically important part of making because artists are thinking through these materials. Materials are what we use to express ideas. The creative process is not a mystical one but of bringing things together, working with hand and eye and mind. The discoveries come from the complexities of working with materials over time.
Art making is as much about coercing and manipulating the “stuff” of the world as it is about pleasure. It is the space in which we struggle to form links between the imagination and the actual world, between us and other stuff. Pain and discomfort is part of the making of an artwork: the juggling of the demands of life, fear of failure, doubt, emotional fatigue, the struggle to make the materials do what you want, and the physical pain of working in one position over a long period of time. Not to mention the depression after an exhibition, before the distraction of the next.
However, the physical experience of working with any material, the passing of time, produces a rhythm and a meditative focus. Serious sensuous pleasure is found in the contemplation of materials, enjoyment in their manipulation, in discovering and solving problems.
There is a moment of rapture where the world of matter bends to your hand. Moments of rapture are also found when the material refuses to work with you, when it goes against your will and when something strange happens, something unexpected and impossible to control. The limitations of materials and the compromises that come from working with the “stuff” of the real world are in part what bring out these strange accidents.
The struggle with materials and the spaces in making are where creativity is discovered. This is research through materials over time, through making a particular artwork, or a series of works, or the work of a lifetime. The finished artwork is the evidence of this process or journey.
The pleasure of art making is achieved through materials: it is in the commitment to making, to self-discipline, to the process, to an experience full of gratifications, and discomforts, where in the end the pleasures have to out weigh the displeasures.
In No Particular Order.
Rosamund Lehmann, Louise Bourgeois, dada, Rococo, Rufus Wainwright, Woody Guthrie, Grayson Perry, Doris Lessing – The Golden Notebook, mythology / folk lore / stories, Michel Foucault, Gertrude Stein, Patricia McConnell, Suzanne Clothier, Collier Schorr, natural history, animals, medieval manuscripts, antiquities, thesaurus, Germaine Greer, Willa Cather, Robert Graves – The White Goddess, writing, poetry, books, music, films, Rosencrantz and Guildenstern are Dead, things I find on the street, accidents, closeups in films, plastic animals, Frans de Waal, Nola Farman, Will Self, Monty Python, Sigmund Freud, Patrick White, Gus Van Sant – Elephant, gardens, Colin Smith, Her Royal Dotness, Abel Hamilton, cats, dinosaurs, etc.