I’m roughly 6 weeks into my MFA at Baltic 39. I’m really appreciative of the opening up of my practice again. I had carried out all those years in socially-engaged art, completely immersed. Now, I’m in the process of digging myself back up for inspection. The hope is to find inspiration for future practice, including within the field of education.
So, through the encouragement of the tutors at Northumbria, I am embarking on a phase of practical research, exploring the archive I have of the period 2004-2020. David Campbell mentioned the word ‘cartography’ - how will I map these years, what features will I highlight? What agenda do I have in carrying out this activity, what purpose? Some big decisions, as it relates to working with hundreds of people.
What I can say, in simple terms, about those years, was that I, often in collaboration with practitioners of diverse artforms, helped the people I worked with, develop their visual vocabulary and grammar, around a certain medium, predominantly painting, film, animation and sculpture.
I have recently been introduced to Isabelle Graw’s theories. She argues that painting, rather like a language, is full of indexical signs that relate to, and contain traces of, the artist. She’s says it makes an artwork seem full of ‘life’, figuratively speaking, containing a ghost of a presence. Isabelle focuses on how this makes painting relevant in an era where everything has been de-valued, where people are searching for something that shows substance, concreteness.
The paint strokes signify the hand of the artist and their lifetime of experience, aswell as being actually made by them.
However, Graw is addressing the artist of the artworld, and mainstream society. I don’t yet know what she would think of the politcial aspect of her proposals in relation to non-professional artists developing their own sophisticated language and creating artworks that had ‘value’ as she understands the word; I have always thought there is a political value to an artwork in the public domain that shows traces of artists (predominantly amateur) who aren’t readily visible in mainstream society.
Pursuing an understanding of what we need to exist in the world: how do we connect with others (and the wider world and its objects), what is our language.