Saturday, 24 March 2012

Responding to change

The main reason why I’m doing this exhibition and auction project is to clear the way for my painting practice to make a transition into a new phase.  I’ve had lots of changes in my life in the last couple of years (and more to come in the summer with the arrival of my new baby!).  I feel like to resume painting I want to just bring to the canvas who I am at that time, without feeling the presence of paintings I’ve made in the recent past.

I've put a lot of thought into how to let go of my paintings.  I’m aware that all artists have work stored that hasn’t sold and I’ve considered holding an art fair specifically for this purpose.  It was a simple idea where the artist would pay a subsidised amount for a space and keep all the income from sales.

My Penny Art Auction is the way forward for me at this time in my life but I’ve naturally been interested in how other artists have moved on from past work to help them develop creatively.  A crucial part of being a practicing artist is responding to change and freeing up the way for new inspiration.

Sometimes it’s possible to re-prime canvas and make it into a totally new painting and I think this is fairly common practice.  At times, I’ve re-used old canvases by keeping some of the colours and marks but changing the overall composition or subject matter.  This can work really well if you’re an abstract painter and some sections have worked better than others.

A number of artists I’ve spoken to periodically destroy old paintings for the sake of being able to leave them behind, actually and metaphorically.  I have to say I have been tempted by this in moments of frustration.  There’s an important distinction to be made between a painting that you’ve been labouring over but that hasn’t become anything and a painting that you would consider successful but that simply hasn’t been bought.  And if you’re making work in a non-commercial sense, it’s not always easy to match your work to a market.

Among the innovative ideas I’ve come across, the artist Ron Ford has created a body of new work from old.  He had a surplus of 20 works on paper which he shredded and then created beautiful collages from.  This is an example of where the material and the process also speak of the subject matter and I think the finished works are particularly strong due to their origins. 

It’s vitally important to make the art as truly as you can at the time.  It can feel like you don’t want to let go and move on because you have attachments to it but in my experience, it can be the work that is holding you in a certain place.  It can feel extremely difficult to make that shift, but I’m reminded of the phrase ‘if you love something, let it go’ and that is a thread that is running through this process for me at the moment.

I’d love to hear from any artists reading this who have their own process of letting go of past work.

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