I'm trying to get my head around what I need to do this year in terms of making work, and I'm trying to change a few things. I know it sounds awful, but so often I find myself making work specifically for a competition or an exhibition, rather than my preferred option which would be to have developed a body of work from which I could select an entry! Somehow time always seems so short, and I guess I haven't been working as hard as I could/should, so my 'body of work' has been much reduced. But this year there isn't an Exchange Partners in Print portfolio project - which is a shame - which gives me a little more time to think about other things. I'll be interested to see what becomes of the whole Exchange Partners in Print group: as usual a small number of dedicated artists has created something that has run beautifully for several years, but now the initial creative energies are running low and the founders are perhaps feeling that they've put enough of themselves into the group and need to withdraw a bit. Without external input and funding it might all gently fade away... I did some research last year for them about getting funding, but again, after the initial creative impulse some sort of formalisation has to occur otherwise funding bodies aren't interested. So you have to have a mission statement, a vision statement, a formal committee with appointed representatives, and preferably some kind of 'auspicing' arrangement or separate incorporation as a not-for-profit organisation before you can attract philanthropic grants... and the administration grows, and the founders don't want to get involved in all that because it rather takes away from the initial idea of a dynamic group making art! And so you go round the loop - as most small organisations and businesses do - and only those that are prepared to 'play the game' survive, while the others quietly fall by the wayside...
In the spirit of making things, I'm starting work on two collaborative projects, which feels great. The first is a monthly exchange of artists' books with Celia Jackson, who sent out 90 discarded books to artists for 'reconfiguration' last year as part of the project Rich and Strange. We've been exchanging emails for a while and hope to explore the concept of a bridge through the medium of artists' books. I'm simultaneously running a monthly exchange of drypoint plates with Tina Hill, with whom I used to work as part of the Ad Hoc collective that I set up a few years ago in Bristol, and again we'll be exploring bridges. Both projects will be documented through another blog, Complicities, but it's not yet clear how it's all going to work out. Tina isn't particularly interested in the blog idea: she wants to put her energies into making the plates and printing them, which I quite understand. Celia's more interested in the blog idea, but she's got a lot on her plate in terms of job and family and has yet to work out how much time she will have to put into the project. But at the end of the calendar year, which defines the start and end of both exchanges, we should all have a body of work. Celia will have twelve of my books and I will have twelve of hers - all of them produced to the theme of bridging distances. Tina and I will meanwhile have made and exchanged twelve aluminium plates which have been cut to fit a C5 envelope - you know, the long thin ones used for business post. We plan to print two images from each plate, one to keep and one to send over with the plates every month, and we'll print from the plate that we receive as well, so at the end of a year we should each have a complete set of prints as well as 12 plates each.
I hope that out of both projects will come some valuable exhibition opportunities, and since the works are easily postable perhaps it will be possible to exhibit each 'half' of the project on each side of the world... who knows, but it's interesting thinking about it.
Meanwhile I'm trying out the daily discipline of doing a small drawing. It's not hard doing the drawing, and I'm finding that I enjoy it, but it is harder photographing them, cropping and resizing them and getting them up on their own little blog, The Daily Drawing.
I've been asked to consider applying for the Australian Print Council's annual commission, which is causing me a certain amount of inner turmoil at the moment. On the one hand, what an honour it would be! What a wonderful 'next step' for my arts career over here! And the person who suggested that I apply certainly knows some of my work as she has judged several of the portfolios produced by Exchange Partners in Print Media over the last few years and has seen my work there. So I do feel very flattered - and completely terrified and unworthy, which is annoying, and I feel as if I need to kick myself quite hard here and stop being such a stupid, moany, underconfident twit... while at the same time trying to work out what the hell would I put in for selection???
The deal seems to be that you fill out an application form and send of a CD of images, while having one of the images un-editioned so that - if selected - it could be editioned specifically for the commission. The problem is that I don't have a work that I haven't editioned out, so I would need to come up with a new piece - one that is achievable within the relatively short time-frame, that I'm happy with, and that flows within my overall interests so that while I won't necessarily be able to show the selectors that particular piece, its 'direction' and quality could be inferred from my other recent work. Ho, hum. That does rather lead me back to my River pieces, which I have half turned away from... but they are visually strong, and perhaps if I did another piece in the series that could be finale? Perhaps... I'd better get on with some work!