April 25, 2011, 7:03 pm
Filed under: Seren Stacey

My portable studio-  13.04: Carmarthen to Cardiff Central                                                                       

Picasso and the Loaves by Robert Doisneau,1952

Ask me why this newspaper clipping; a black and white photo of Picasso posing at the table of a French cafe so that his hands appear to be swollen cartoon bread hands, is the first thing I put up in my studio and the last thing I take down when moving?

It seems quite unrelated to the rest of my research material, which at the moment mostly consists of close-up photographs of cracked walls, sensitive details on selvedge, spider webs.etc, but there’s something about this image which always seems to reassure me and nudge me onwards: it’s my hero reminding me to be human.

No doubt my perception of him is to some extent a romantic construct of how I think a ‘true artist’ should be, (and I wish to be) but the sheer volume and breadth of his exploration of the mark across a lifetime, becoming so fluent and self assured, while perpetually questioning and striving, to me seems the epitome of a life lived fully immersed in the process of making art. While this photo in which he is just ‘having a laugh’ reminds me that humour is important, that the creativity is in the everyday and art infiltrates every aspect of life.

As my mind rushes forwards into the future trying to decide what my final outcome will be I am reminded of an antiquated equation from musicologist  J.J. Nattiez.(on the creative process 1975, Fondements d’un Semiologie de la Musique, p.52) On the left is the createur/ the artist- in the centre the oeuvre/work of art- on the right is the auditeur/ viewer.

The arrow between the artist and the ‘oeuvre’ described as the ‘poietique’ is what I would call the ‘process’, it is the space and time in which ideas are developed and processes are explored which are eventually synthesised  to create a ‘work of art’. And on the other side of the equation there is the viewer who perceives the work. Often that interaction between the viewer and the work seems brief- a glimpse, a moment in which the viewer’s aesthetic notions are projected onto the piece, a moment to make a judgement. Though, granted, capturing an experience which may continue to provoke thought long afterwards.

As mentioned in my previous entry, my focus has been shifting from the oevre, to an appreciation of the poietique. It is in that place of complete immersion that the artistic life is lived.

To paraphrase artist and critical writer Marilyn Allen, in her lecture at a Symposium on Drawing (Oriel Myrddin, 09/04/11/), a painting or drawing is never finished, rather it is stopped in an interesting place. This suggests that works exhibited are part of a continuing story-a snapshot somewhere along the journey, and the journey is a life’s work. Perhaps it is because he rejoiced in the journey with all its challenges that  Picasso’s journey was so prolific, but the fact that he considered the notion of a ‘finished’ work as being  a ‘coup de grace’( death blow) to art suggests to me that he dwelt in the poietique.

Walking up and down Albany road or filming in Roath Park I pass many people, busy with their lives. I often find myself questioning the social context of my work, its relevance to the people who live here. It was that thought, coupled with the sense of isolation first felt on arrival in Roath, which led me to question: what if I were to remove the interface of the artwork and make a direct ‘face to face’ engagement between artist, process and the viewer?

Footage of the Roath area, filmed through camera obscura, seems to capture the environment in a dreamlike state with a kind of intimate close vision and soft focus and a curiously vivid three dimensionality. But I have found myself asking, ‘why can’t I give the viewer the direct experience? ’

Essentially the space of the basement, without natural light limits the ability to create this experience. While I can make a camera obscura in the basement , it would require artificial light focused on a still object as I am unable to get an image of the moving world outside. And having the camera obscura fixed on an object would put a massive onus on that object and its significance.

That challenge coupled with the question would any of those busy people on the streets come and look at the results of my residency in the basement begs the question why not take the camera obscura to a place outside?

I could both ask the public to use the portable camera obscura to generate footage and exhibit the footage in a public space for instance the park in which the footage was filmed. It is this sort of dialogue between artist, people and space which begins to excite me, challenging those questions about the role of the oevre.

Within the scope of a one month residency it seems a limited time in which to devise a work which brilliantly implements these ideas which radically alter my understanding of my own practice. However they allude to a much broader potential body of work.


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