Thinking out loud

When I visited the Baltic Artist’s Book Fair on 15th June, I chatted with various artists but for longest with Theresa Easton, who is one of the artists in Ouseburn, and an artist to whom Theresa introduced me, Susan Mortimer. We discussed a wide range of topics within and around the main subject of art. After I had looked at the art and talked to people, I went and sat in the Baltic Café Bar, drank an Americano slowly, watching people, thinking and, finally, making notes.

One of the reasons that I was keen to go to see the work in the fair was to look for inspiration. My thoughts have drifted around the idea of multiples and books for years, but I have never solidified them into things. I have been inspired by the work of a friend – Stef Mitchell – who prints a lot and sometimes creates artist’s books with her prints, and seeing also seeing something of what Theresa Easton was encouraging people to do in workshops.
I share online images from some walks I do in the form of a collection or set, usually on a blog (there is a lot more to these than is evident); and kept thinking that I should also turn these into physical pieces, but in a way that emphasised the feel of moving through a landscape. I have also been recording a couple of particular areas a lot over several years, and need to find a way of pulling together those images.

I have worked a lot with historical collections as a researcher and manager, but have not used them directly in my artwork (although I have used some images of historical and prehistorical objects). I also did a course in archaeological illustration years ago, partly because I have always been fascinated by archaeological finds illustrations, especially the 19th and early 20th century drawings. Such drawings still can give more information than photographs because the experienced artist can see and enhance details that are too subtle for the camera.

I am thinking about pulling together, and maybe using in a different form, some of the many photographs that I have taken of Ouseburn. I think some people may call me The Woman Who Takes A Lot of Photographs in Ouseburn.
I had intended next to make a detailed visual record of the heritage, including the things on the river bed, because I am concerned that developers will remove or build over the finer traces of it. There is a wealth of material on the river bed, dressed stones and various types of bricks, possibly dating back hundreds of years. The stone from Hadrian’s Wall could be in there, but as it was reused in medieval times, or later, it would be difficult to identify it.
These fragments of buildings, structures and other things made in the past are one of the links between the people of the past and present since it is still very much an area where people make things.
But to return to thoughts or ramblings about my work… The Ouseburn Futures Arts and Creative Industries Group held a Show & Tell event in early July. I rashly offered to talk about my work-in-progress that is about Ouseburn. As I was putting my slides together, some of my thoughts about what I was doing with it began to fall into a more ordered structure. Then I was up on a stage, not my natural environment, and talking about my artwork in public for the first time ever. I was rather terrified. I hadn’t realised how scary it would be. To anyone who was there, that wasn’t a good example of my speaking in front of an audience. It was supposed to be up to 10 minutes long but I may have rushed through it in 3 minutes – my usually accurate internal clock seized up with fear. I can talk about other people’s work. We had to deliver seminar papers on the history of art, architecture, design, film and television quite regularly as undergraduates (many years ago). I’ve done presentations since, of course, on work things (heritage, design of public culture websites, etc).
What I learned from trying to say something about my art work is that talking about something that personal is difficult because I feared that people would judge me as lacking serious thoughts and skills. I also discovered that what I thought of as a relatively neutral subject – an urban landscape – is actually suffused with a great deal more meaning and emotion for me than I had thought. I have a great deal to do to try to bring all this out in the work.
I was going to add my presentation to this but my laptop broke so I can’t at present. You can see sets of images from which I chose about 25 for my presentation, and the sets that I didn’t have space to include, on Flickr.
Deconstruction and construction
I think I need to try to talk about my work more but I am a little concerned that nobody will ever want to hear about it after I did such a poor first presentation.
Whilst I think about what I’m creating, and the practicalities of showing it anywhere when I have no money to print or frame, I have a question for you:
What can I do with all the quick, slight sketches I have from all the life drawing I have done over the years? I don’t feel I can just chuck them out, but it seems daft to hang on to them – they really are the slightest of sketches. Any ideas?


7 thoughts on “Thinking out loud

  1. Pingback: Thinking out loud | weeklyblogclub

  2. Neil Shashoua

    Thank you, Janet, for this piece, which not only led me to look at your gorgeous photos of Ouseburn but also made me wonder how artists learn to talk and write about their work, especially when the feature of their work (like your images of the Ouseburn) are not presented in words. I think there are occasions when artists are ridiculed for what they say about their work; either lampooned as ‘arty farty’ or as too abstract and impenetrative to understand. So, it may not be surprising you did not feel relaxed about talking about your own work.
    I once heard that when Bob Dylan was asked what one of his songs was about, he showed his disdain for the question by replying “oh, it’s about 6 minutes”.

    1. janetedavisart Post author

      Thank you for reading and commenting. I’m glad you liked the pictures.
      Artists are supposed to learn to write about art at art school/university. There is a fine line at times between expert-level discussion of art, and art bollox.
      The irony is that I am really well-trained in thinking and writing about modern and contemporary art and design. I have 2 degrees in the subject. I find it much more difficult to talk or write about my own – but I’ve also found it very difficult to get as far as showing any of it to people.
      My constraint is fear that people will think my work is rubbish, boring, pretentious or gauche. I need to find more opportunities to talk about it, probably!

  3. Pingback: Thinking, Singing, Dancing | weeklyblogclub

  4. Ross

    Your photos and paintings are always really interesting Janet and don’t worry – we all have one of those days when presenting. I’ve done plenty of horrors talking about my work.


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )


Connecting to %s