GOING SOLO! My first ever residency and exhibition...
So, my big scary but exciting new is: I'm doing my first ever residency and my first solo exhibition. The residency starts on Monday the 30th of May and the exhibition opens a week and half later. It's happening at my bestie Claire Robbie's meditation school on Howe Street in central Auckland, The School of Modern Meditation.
Ever since I can remember, I have made art. I spent hours as a child drawing, stitching, sculpting things with my hands. In my early 40s I decided to commit to becoming a student of painting. I go to Browne School in Grey Lynn, Auckland. I'm also a photographer by trade - when I'm not getting paid to act. In my painting practice, all the threads of my artistic life are drawing together. I take photographs of my artistic women friends, then I use those photographs to explore drawing, to learn things about my materials, and to make discoveries about what painting is.
I've spent intensive periods in meditation over the years. Sitting, breathwork and drawing have a lot in common. I've been inside the SOMM space since its first breaths (I was there when Claire signed the lease!) so when Claire suggested I exhibit at SOMM, I felt excited (and then a little scared). The space is beautiful, open yet intimate with big white walls. And the light! I have taken many photographs in the space. Daylight illuminates and colours the space, whatever the weather.
What began as an exhibition idea suggested by Claire morphed in my mind, becoming bigger and deeper: a residency with a show at the end. Appropriate for an artist who's also a performer. Since suggesting the residency idea to Claire, I've had moments of "WTF AM I DOING" but impostor syndrome tends to turn up at the threshold of every pivotal and profound experience in life, when you're reaching beyond the familiar and you know you have to kind of go it alone. So, am I going to let fear of failure and humiliation, the cocktail that impostor syndrome is fueled by, stop me? That's a Hard No.
And the thing is, I'm not going it alone. I have the support of Claire and the SOMM team and during my week or so at SOMM I will be working with my long-time collaborator and friend, Brigid Costello (she's in the work pictured below). Brigid is a teacher, a yoga practitioner, and a choreographer - we literally met on a stage. My residency will begin with photography and an intense period of life drawing. From there I will see where pencil, charcoal, ink and my brushes take me.
After the residency period, Claire and I will lay it all out on the floor at SOMM and decide what will go on the walls and where. Then there will be a little party to celebrate and after that, you will be able come and see it. I hope I like my work and I hope people buy it and take it home but the purpose of the experience isn't to be Good nor is it to Make Money. My Level 4 studies at Browne School are focused on developing a practice outside of the weekly night class model. We do two-day workshops every couple of months which operate as "trainer wheels" while we explore what developing our own practice looks like. Turns out, what with Covid and city life and relationships, the art road can be bumpy and steep. This residency will be my "rest area" but I hope it will also be my expressway...
I consider myself a student first and an emerging artist second at the moment. I know I am "creative" and have "talent" but talent is worth nothing if the person who has it is not productive. I'm not talking about Type-A-Burnout productive, I'm talking about actually doing some work. This is going to sound hardcore but I think you're not an artist with a capital A if you don't practice. I want to get really good at this thing, too, whatever that means. More skillful and deliberate, with knowledge I can pass on to other people who want to tread the artist's way.
A wonderful art teacher called Ted Orland has said "We become experienced by having experiences". Sounds kind of obvious, right? But I think that a lot of the time, humans like the idea of change, growth, and expertise, but then we shy away from changing, growing, learning because the process is always at some point difficult and disorientating. Like meditation, making art for me is not "relaxing" or particularly "peaceful". I don't do it like it's medication; it's the opposite of escape. It can be satisfying beyond words, like how true friendship feels. Like Love (to quote my friend and teacher Graham Mead), Art requires commitment, consistency, patience.
My work tends to seem alive - that's one of my primary intentions, to combine the human figure with the action of art-making in order to invest my drawings and paintings with a sense of aliveness that mirrors my own and yours. This inner sense is what SOMM exists to foster in everyone who attends classes there and it's one of the reasons Claire and I are friends. The inaugural SOMM residency will give me space and time to explore my practice, to experience painting, perhaps to learn some answers to the primary question "Why paint?". I have no idea what Claire and I will hang on the walls at the end. I'd love you to come and see.