PIECE WITH ARTIST
Piece with Artist is one of my favourite Instagram accounts. It’s part history lesson, part contemporary art mag and is plastered with two of the things I love most: art and people. In particular, artists in their work space.
A couple of weeks ago, TVNZ asked me to do a Q&A for the Herald on Sunday's Reset mag as part of their promo for season 2 of Under The Vines. They asked for a picture to go with it so I decided this was the perfect opportunity to make my own Piece with Artist photos. My friend Katie did my face and hair, I set up the camera, and she kept everything in focus.
The image above exists because (1) I've been taking photos for seven years, (2) I am surrounded by helpful, creative friends, (3) after a year of being a nomad, I have my own studio again, and (4) I can finally make BIG things. For a long time, an ideal studio has been on my mind and last November, I took ten steps closer to making it happen.
Last year, I was effectively a nomad. I moved out of a lovely space that was actually too lovely and moved all my art stuff into my lounge. That was fine for a while but the invitation by my bestie Claire to occupy a space at the School of Modern Meditation came as a relief. I moved my materials into a room there and put everything else in a storage unit.
I spent most of 2022 working with watercolour and paper. It was easy to carry to school and didn't take up much room at SOMM. Portable meant working small. Those constraints were good. However, now that I have a huge room with two long walls in a building that's seen better days, I can stick big bits of paper and canvas on the walls and not worry too much about making a mess.
While I was based at SOMM, I began to focus my practice on drawing. It's now the foundation of my visual arts practicebut everything is bigger and I'm drawing with paint.
I ran a drawing workshop at SOMM and have room to do something similar in the studio - I just need to make the time.
For a multidisciplinary artist, a dedicated creative space like mine opens up enticing potential. I just have to stay focused. That's one of things I have decided 2023 is going to be about: what "artistic voice" means, what mine sounds like, and what I like to say. Or is it sing?
My studio is ideal for my j.o.b.: portrait photography. White walls and ample natural light (when it's not raining FML). I am committed to making my photography another way to deepen my artistic practice rather than broaden it.
For a restless, curious mind there are so many distractions available but I'm tired of working in the cracks. Photography tends to take over if I let it so it has to be corralled. Also, the two main strands of my artistic practice actually require different kinds of attention and energy. It's a real challenge to change gears day by day from scheduled, engaged-with-others "portrait mode" to the solitary, wordless, mysterious space where art is made. At the moment I'm trying Photo Week/Art Week alternations. As I type this, it's a Photo Week. Which I've also decided will be Computer Admin week. So far, so good.
In addition to photography and painting, for me there's acting. Acting as a profession is so precarious. It's mad to want to be an actor. It's bananas to try and stay one, especially at my age (nearly 47). Remaining available for auditions is an act of faith. The prospect of dropping everything for a shoot that can last months means that "other work" has to be either flexible or quittable. As an actor gets older, this arrangement poses very important questions: if the odds are that I will spend most of my year NOT acting, what do I do the rest of the time? How can that be as fulfilling as performance? How will it support me financially now and in the future? My studio helps me answer these questions.
I came to acting relatively late, after I'd been to university and had a proper job. When I left Shortland Street, I made a deal with myself to hang in there until I got one more Great Job. Keren on Kid Sister is pretty much That Job but I don't get to be her full time and I need to be really engaged and invested in what I do when I'm not performing. The only solution (at this point) is to be my own boss and I learn more and more every year about how I want to do that.
There are three strands visible in the fabric of my working life: acting, portrait photography, and painting. Some would say this is too many. Sometimes it feels like it is. For me, none of them is quittable. Having a studio - and such a big one at that, it's enormous - is how I keep things flexible. It's a huge commitment but it's the structure I build this life with. My studio is the warp to my creative weft (yes, I did have to google which is which). It keeps those strands in play.
Just gotta make sure things don't get scratchy.
My DIY "piece with artist" pics mean a lot to me. They're a destination. A statement.
One the wall at Auckland Theatre Company is an artwork that grabs my attention whenever I'm there. It's a humorous, provocative painting/3D collage. Wooden slats on which is stencilled:
IMAGINE SAYING I HAVE ARRIVED.