Shifting perspectives…
April 17, 2011, 3:51 pm
Filed under: Seren Stacey

It is difficult in words to quantify the subtle yet profound way in which my pre-conceptions are being challenged by the basement project.

The past two weeks have caused quite a change in my thinking about my practice. A reversal of my usual approach to a project and a questioning of the fundaments of my practice seem to be leading to a shift of focus away from the questionable ‘final piece’, towards the process.

In the past I have begun by identifying a relatively narrow idea as the focus for my work, and then allowed a process of enquiry into that idea to dictate the most fitting media. So far, however, I have been working in a more intuitive way – following little clues and visual cues; collecting imagery from my journeys back and forth to the studio, compiling a sort of mystery library.  I feel that somehow I have to collect the imagery, put them up on the wall, and maybe later find out what it’s all ‘about’.

In my proposal for the basement project I said that I wanted to explore Blake’s notion “to see a world in a grain of sand.. eternity in an hour”, to use it as a place to become absorbed in minute detail and observe the trickle down of wonders into the everyday- the golden ratio in my cauliflower.  And my visual diary reflects a sort of higgledy-piggledy selection of small wonders chosen through my personal visual perception.

The images I have been collecting seem to reflect a sort of beauty in the small, the most common thread running between these images- the natural world. A shell, constructed from tiny flecks of iridescent sediment looks like a perfect miniature galaxy and camera obscura footage gives new perceptions of the world more three dimensional than the eye.

This week I have felt compelled to reflect on studio practice. I visited ‘Darkroom’, an exhibiton by Michel Campeau at Ffotogallery(Penarth) which featured large scale digital photographs of darkrooms. He visited around 70 darkrooms in Canada Niger and Europe to make this body of work. What interested me about this piece is that it is photography about the process of developing film. The images depict lived-in, intimate spaces. The recurring image is that of tape-tape to secure, tape to obscure light, tape to give a message. Beyond simply nostalgia for a dwindling process, the photographs depict intimate human involvement, the very material qualities of these improvised spaces evoke a yearning for the tangible physicality of process. As a viewer I experienced the feeling of familiarity and a kind of kinaesthetic memory triggered the feeling of being immersed in the very physical process and perhaps anyone who has been involved in those processes would feel the same sense of recognition.

Returning to my space in the basement I realise how reflecting on practice has become quite prominent in my thoughts. Suddenly the table on which I work seems as fascinating as the subject I sat down to draw. The ‘process’ of being an artist and the thought processes becoming visual evidence on the wall as well as the material detritus  has gained a potency hitherto taken for granted in my practice.  A month is a very short time to refine and synthesise finished work, but as the means become more fascinating than the end, I feel compelled to consider treating the means or ‘process’ as an end in itself.


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