3 month silence…
Once again I have to apologize for the long break between my posts. I have been busy with applications as well as personal matters that have taken up much of my time and left me exhausted and in great need of sleep. But that being said, I think that the lack of posts is quite apt to illustrate the situation that I was in at that time.
Now I bring to you wordy post filled with reflections. After nearly an entire year creating my series of doors, I found myself at a point of stagnation. I realized that all I had created were doors, nothing more. The visual stimulation was getting old and the subject matter was getting repetitive. I was asked again and again, “why doors? Why ONLY doors?” to which I would reply with the same dry answer that it represented a conceptual transition of space. But after a while it struck me that it was impossible to carry on my exploration and find success and contentment where I was going. It was a dead end. I was throwing myself into a black hole, insisting that it would lead out to something greater, when in fact it was nothing but a time sucking vortex of chaos.
At that point I told myself to stop.
I resided to not doing. I knew that the path that I had to find would need to encapsulate the essence of space into an elegant series of works and accompanying concept and at that moment I was so possessed by the subject matter of doors that if I were to continue, that path would never be found. This caused me to have a three-month silence.
In these three-months, inclusive of my end-of-year holidays and the January of my final year, I removed myself from my practice nearly entirely. I barely stepped into the studio and did not lay sight to any of the artworks that had consumed me. Looking back, those three months are now a blur. I would be lying if I said I did intensive research, burning the midnight oil in desperation to find the elusive inspiration I needed. In fact, I think I just did not care. Do not get me wrong, I was still extremely worried as the hours, days and weeks went by, but some part of me knew that that was the time to be silent and still, and reflect on what could be done. In the end, the waiting paid off. there was an open call for students to submit their proposal for an installation for iLight Marina Bay, Singapore in collaboration with New Zealand art collective/studio Storybox. Through what can only be described as a miracle, my proposal was selected, and that led to the creation and manifestation of the work Tabula Rasa for the month-long exhibition. That opportunity was a major breaking point in my five years of studying and practicing art, and even now, I believe that if that opportunity did not come by, my thought processing, conceptual development and visualization would neither matured as quickly nor as professionally as it did in that short span of two months of intensive conceptualization and physical construction.
What this entire process taught me was that there should not be any fear in just stopping and drawing back to become the outsider looking in. When you are rapt and absorb in the art making and conceptualization process you forget to take the position of an outsider, and audience looking at your piece. I found myself thinking how awesome my work was and, thinking it was perfect as it was, and just continued churning similar copies of works out. What they were was just that – copies. They did not add to the substance of my attempt at a paradigm shifting concept. Ultimately, the artist is not the one viewer at the exhibition, you are neither the one judging the work nor the one trying to impress the message upon. Personally, I know that things that may be clear to you. However, more often than not be clear to others, especially those who do not usually have their hand in the art scene or practice.
By stepping back, and removing yourself from the “artist’s bubble” you become the critic and in doing so give yourself the cold hard truth you need to reorientate yourself and move the work forward. What I perceived after stepping back was how circular the physical pieces were. I managed to look at them with stranger’s eyes to see that there was little value in continuing down that path. Like me, you will be able to realized the reality and truth in people’s critiques and words, complimentary or harsh.
All in all, by doing this, you will come to see how not bit of criticism is unfounded, harsh or degrading. All criticism is constructive. As much as you, the artist, put in your heart and soul in to attempt move mountains and shift paradigms, you must also realized that it is a reciprocal relationship that you are creating between artist/artwork and audience, for without the audience and their opinions, there is nothing to shift and no room for artistic growth. This was manifested in my work Mechanical Satisfaction – Actually Really Simple (2009), where I placed an empty book next to the piece in order for the audience to respond to the work. I, in turn, drew upon those responses to further my artistic process and sensitize myself to responses to future works no matter that form.
At the end of it all, I now see no criticism as negative or bad in anyway. Rather, it is transformative, moving my own paradigms to more effectively create works that can appeal to your audience, alter stereotypes without compromising artistic integrity.