My work went through massive shifts during university and it would be difficult to outline them in one post. If you are interested in reading more about my university experience I wrote a blog throughout the three years, which is available to view here.
There were a few really key moments in my three years at university that lead me onto the path of the work that I produce today. During my second year at university my Grandad passed away, he had been ill for some time but there was a sudden downhill turn and then he was gone. I know that many people will understand the loss of a loved family member, and my Grandad was such a guiding light for so many people. He's desire to inspire people was unending, those that know him knew the passion to which he would encourage those into the creative path they could follow. Be it painting for me or the writers, glass makers and so many more honorary children and grandchildren that he tried to guide towards their true calling.
The loss of Geoff Plant was felt by many. As I worked through my grief I began to notice that my vibrant colour palette slipped away and I struggled to create at all.
I was lucky that the university course I was on was able to offer me counselling, and these conversations helped to frame how I could use my art to begin to heal. I began to return to the artists that Grandad had shared with me, Mondrian, Nicolson and so many more that used a palette solely in primary colours.
Rather than expressive pieces I used a single shape, the triangle. Its harsh, edged lines and points reflected my state of feeling like broken glass, fragile and cracked. I learned that this new process helped me to learn about active meditation, the repetitive actions and focus that was required could temporarily separate me from reality and allow me escape to process. I believe that I understand this better now with distance, and if I did understand it back then I could not share the pain that I was expressing in this new visual language.
My dissertation was a space were I felt that I could begin to find my own voice, and understand the theory of why I wanted to create the work the way that I did. The title: "The relationship between artist, audience and artwork" was inspired in part by conversations with family about the complexities and varieties of art that can be liked and disliked by audiences. However, a crucial moment was at the RA's Abstract Expressionism exhibition where the first line of text included "To truly understand the Abstract Expressionists, we must first have a full grasp of Art History" (Paraphrase, it was a few years ago). I was shocked at how exclusionary this was, I had cried in front of Rothko pieces before I understood why, I had stood for what felt like an age at the KuntsMuseum Mondrian Exhibition and could feel the artist's each time expressing their visual language in a way that was completely understandable to me.
I knew that while my Dad had spent many hours in art galleries as a medical student he would also agree that the work you look at enjoy is personal and not strapped to how much knowledge you had on the piece. We had the John Singer Sargent painting because it was beautiful, not because my Dad necessarily had an intense knowledge of the piece and its creation. While I agree that this research can add to the experience the interactions an audience member has is completely personal.
Through researching my dissertation I was more intimately introduced to the role of the curator in the art world. It was here that I realised how much power a curator has over how an artists or group of artists story is told. For example, the general preference for promoting the white male artists over all others leads to situations such as depicted in "The 100 Year Show", Carmen Herrera work could have been lost to history had she not been discovered and reinserted into the narrative of the modernist, hard edge abstract movements of the 50's. I am sure there are even more examples that could be presented here. It was these influences, plus my final year show, where I decided that I wanted to add "Curator" to my career belt and be able to tell my own artistic journey and perhaps even tell the story of others artistic language through the medium of curated spaces.
For my final piece I wanted to really stretch myself and produce something huge. I was still focused on working in primary colours and hard edge but to produce something this big would take emotional energy. I also wanted the opacity of the colours to shift throughout the pieces, as I still felt that I was relearning my craft the shifts would show my hand as the artist, reacquainting itself with the materials that I adore.
In hindsight I was still to raw to really express the visual language that I was communicating into my artist statement, but as the years have softened my experience and I have regained my vibrant palette, I have found the language much better on this occasion.
After gradating university I took a small break in creating work, but when my partner and I moved to Stroud we had the space to allow me to start painting again. I started by continuing to work primary colours and basic shapes, but with every new piece I found that I could add a colour or shape, or develop the compositional complexity and by doing so move more towards finding my creative style and process that I have been using ever since.
The Geometric Abstraction collection was built from this marriage between self-healing and
the obsessive material/ composition/ colour balancing creations that I could produce playfully and meditatively.