Well yes, or should I say no?
To tell the truth I’m not at all clear as to what I should like to say. It’s been so long since I have written up my scant blog I’ve forgotten how, yet this fact is always jerking the edge of my mind reminding me of the fact and at last, I’ve arrived at a place whereby I shall make an effort.
I had an exhibition in August last at a very challenging venue in Peckham. It became an extra challenging task because I decided to move studios at the same time. I had been giving this idea some thought for some time, and so I set things up for me to move my work from the exhibition to a new studio space in Brixton, rather than transport it back to my ‘old’ studio in Whitechapel, which I had rented for over 20 years. It was strange how much I suddenly wanted to leave the studio space where I had worked for so long, but I knew that it was now a redundant space for me and that I must make a move. There was a lot of wrapping up, taking down, chucking out, crisscrossing back and forth over town in rented vans, but eventually, after several moves, my work was installed in the Brixton studios. This made sense too, as it is so much nearer to where I live. Unfortunately, the studio is no good for me, it’s too small and not at all soundproof. Since the move, it has merely been used for storage. I am waiting to hear about a possible move to a bigger and better space in the same building.
Regarding the actual exhibition, I would say that it was a failure. I had a big exhibition once before that was also a flop but in a different way. The one successful evening at the first exhibition was because the dates by chance covered a Whitechapel First Thursday and I had loads of alcohol leftover from my Pre View. This evening had been a disaster as the lights went out all along the road, making the Pre View a damp squib. However, people piled in on the following First Thursday evening happy to drink the free alcohol, but scarcely interested in the work. The large venue became so crowded that I could hardly see across the room. Since then I have equated alcohol as being a bigger pull than art, especially if it is free.
I guess that it’s not easy to define what is actually a successful or otherwise exhibition. Perhaps the number of visitors, work that is sold, interest from various art institutions or influential people? Well, being much more professional about presenting the event might have helped, but in these matters, I am severely lacking expertise. But when all’s said and done, it did have effects in other ways. To display artwork to all and sundry, to hang ‘yourself’ around walls for all to criticize at random must have an effect.
It does pull you up by your bootstraps, helps you to see the bigger picture by helping to reassess long-held and out-of-date self assumptions about your work. In other words, it can change the relationship that you have with it by facing you with home truths. This can be a painful moment but nonetheless, one that’s necessary perhaps in defining ways forward. It made me consider the sad possibility that yes, I am out of time. Taking this proposition aboard I then ask myself – should I continue to make work that nobody wants, or throw in the towel and keep to my studio flat for the next foreseeable future? This is not an open question, as I can hear voices telling me, YES you should. Yet, the dilemma is not solved in a yes or no weighing up of the situation – is it? Life and its vicissitudes play their part, and I am aware that at this moment in time the outcome is not entirely up to me. Fate, including people, money, health, all contribute to the happenstance that makes our future in part, we do not have complete carte blanche. But I am not willing to prove pessimistic, some decisions take their time to make themselves known, and perhaps binding one’s time is a wiser move than not.