The Secret Artist #9: The Visionary

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Visionary.

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And The Dark And The Dark was a three person exhibition of painting and sculpture, addressing themes of the visionary and the otherworldly.

I was in good company: Vanessa Mitter and Lana Locke.

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Vanessa and I met at her open studio in Hackney Wick and we discovered that our practice overlapped in many way; our love of fluro colours, performance and….The Dark. We both have a layered and intense way of working and several people at the show asked if we had worked in the same studio because we paint such similar marks and shapes.

Vanessa originally studied English before studying an MA in Fine Art and has many Literary references in her work. When we initially met at our respective studios we both saw a story emerging between her haunting figures and the mysterious other worldliness of the suggested landscapes in my paintings. We wanted a story to frame the exhibition, this is an extract from the press release written by Vanessa:

And The Dark

     And The Dark……

 There are the neons, those slapdash pinks that signal a lapsed adolescence, three women at a banquet and the nonchalant gaze of a dandy about town. In this world, there is no return. Only the moment exists.

Walking through the forest, I stumble over the gravestones of the nameless and the countless and all that crosses my mind is that one word ‘erasure’. Erasure. Erasure. There is no return.

(…)

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I’ve since been reflecting on the aspects of the exhibition I enjoyed the most; the bringing together of the work, curating the pieces, looking for the connections and arranging the work so that a spontaneous narrative could unfold. One of the thoughts I’ve had, that has felt like a major epiphany, is that perhaps paintings such as Adam and Eve and The Goddess are more akin to a stage prop than a painting in it’s traditional sense. Although I’m not quite sure what that means yet. They have so much presence in the gallery yet somehow attaching price tags and offering them for sale seemed to me almost kind of absurd. Not because they are not appreciated and valued. I wonder if these paintings have more of a future within the context of theatre and it feels exciting to consider what this potentially means. Someone said to me a while back “how do you get inside? I want to get inside…” That’s the feeling I get too. They are like a doorway, a darker Mary Poppins chalk on a paving slab, inviting you to step into their world. I think they enjoyed their time in the gallery but I think part of what they enjoyed was knowing they didn’t really belong.

That said there is no question that they played their part in And The Dark And The Dark. We received many compliments for the quality of the curation and definitely there was a unique and curious song about the And The Dark assemblage that’s quite difficult to describe and the photos don’t do it justice. I’ve decided to make a (v.short) film of the exhibition for next weeks blog. The installation, the private view, my talk with Lucy Steggals and then it will be time to lay And The Dark And the Dark to rest and begin a new chapter.

I have a hint what this new chapter might be. During one of the days I was in the gallery I began to see more and more layers in the paintings and to recognise so many of the shapes and symbols I have drawn thousands of times in my sketch books. I suddenly felt the profound absence of all these thousands of drawings and had that double take moment as if I’d left my bag on the bus, or shut the door with my key inside…. Where are the drawings?! I thought of Paul Klee and the exhibition that had hundreds of his sketchbooks and drawings on display, the sharing of the drawings opened an important portal into his mind and imagination and the evolution of his work. I made a promise to the hundreds of drawings squashed in sketchbooks like forgotten butterfly specimens, that they too are part of this and not to be forgotten!

So as I draw a line to follow, that may or may not take me to the ritual of performance and theatre. I’m aware that these two realisations about my future steps come from me wanting to somehow fill the gap, to bridge the distance, of the gallery space. The divide. I could write a lot more about my thoughts on the limitations of the gallery/exhibition space, because for me there is something just so inherently odd and unsatisfying about the exhibition format, but that is a blog for another day. Today I’m just noticing these nudges, these sign posts.

The future beckons with many plans but tempting as it is to abandon the here and now for the promise of  ‘bigger’, ‘better’, ‘new’ ideas. Today I remain anchored in the present and reflective of the past. Tomorrow I’m going to do what I always do – draw a line and see where it takes me. I might write to think but I draw to see.

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See you next week,

Love and Best Wishes

Gemma

Gemma Kauffman’s practice encompasses a variety of strategies and media, which include painting, performance, installation and film. Theatrical and fantastical, her work is both compelling and dynamic. Kauffman is an advocate for the creative spirit of all people and has during the last 10 years pioneered transformative approaches to social engagement.

gemmmakauffman.com


Are you a Secret Artist? Do you believe in the creative process? Interested in learning more about the journey of this Secret Artist? Then please subscribe HERE!          

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The Secret Artist #8: Through This Chaos

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Time to process…

Dear Secret Artist,

Tuesday the exhibition came down after an incredibly intense and chaotic couple of weeks. There are many angles I could write today’s blog from. Honestly I can’t access any of them. I’m still too close to it all to have a clue what to say. Part of me feels pressure to deliver a triumphant tale of victory (whatever that means?!) I want to be able to tell you red dots sprang up like a case of measles in the gallery, I want to tell you I have orders for prints coming out of my ears and curators clamouring to work with me….

At the very least I want whatever I say to be positive, after so much effort and energy expended surely this all has a happy ending! Well this is it: I don’t know what kind of end/beginning I’m at! I’ve just been in it, without any time to pause, feel, think, rest, so I’m lost for what to write and noticing how much my exhaustion is colouring my psychology. I need more time to process.

Everything I’d been sharing and writing about on this blog up until a week ago was from a point of perspective. I understood what I was feeling. I’d had time to process and to reflect sometimes years in the case of my early paintings. Right now I feel like I can’t write confidently about the exhibition because in a way it doesn’t exist yet. It’s as if I’ve been on a high speed train and just stepped off onto the platform, a familiar yet somehow entirely different place. I’ve taken a trip through chaos.

And The Dark And The Dark (Chaos) (1)

Through this (Chaos) 2015

I have photos I need to sort through, and some video, I have tons of notes, I kept a diary everyday of thoughts and ideas, but even scan reading these it’s like they are written in a different language. I am blessed with incredible support from so many friends and family that made the effort to come out in the rain and be with me. Every bit of feedback and every idea shared during the last two weeks was undoubtedly the gold from this experience. Thank you!

One thing for sure is this whole exhibition ride was nothing like what I expected but I can’t even tell you what I was expecting! I know what I was hoping but some how that doesn’t seem to be the same thing. It was what it was. It is what it is.

I could never have predicted nor imagined what actually happened these last two weeks. This is the madness of expectations yet it seems impossible not to have them. I’m now on the other side of this exhibition roller coaster of a mission. What happened?! Am I the same? Nope, I’ve been reformed in the flame of stress and pressure, excitement and new experience. It’s just too soon to tell what any of it means. Right now it’s true that this altered state also includes feeling depleted, drained and confused but that’s not the whole story: that bits just temporary. I peaked and now I’m crashing. I have a sense of excitement amongst this depletion, a sense of new beginnings.

This whole experience reminds me of the necessity to jump in and try things. We learn through experience, no amount of planning or strategising can prepare us for the impact of reality, this is why we hesitate. When we dive in, we swim, no matter what comes up we find a way through, we creative problem solve, we collaborate, we find a way forward. When we glide or flounder through the unknown we feel the edges of our being, the edges of who we are, and we go beyond, because we have no choice. Once we commit and dive in, we’re in it for wherever it takes us.

I’m probably not going to be that much closer to understanding what this was all about next week, or the week after. But drop by drop, realisation will begin, and shifts will occur. This I know, this I trust. I’m going to keep writing (to you). It might not be as formed, might not be as coherent… but there is definitely more to come!!

See you next week,

Love and Best wishes

Gemma

Gemma Kauffman’s practice encompasses a variety of strategies and media, which include painting, performance, installation and film. Theatrical and fantastical, her work is both compelling and dynamic. Kauffman is an advocate for the creative spirit of all people and has during the last 10 years pioneered transformative approaches to social engagement.

gemmmakauffman.com


Are you a Secret Artist? Do you believe in the creative process? Interested in learning more about the journey of this Secret Artist? Then please subscribe HERE!          

The Secret Artist #7: What Moves You?

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What moves you?

Dear Secret Artist,

This evening my exhibition opens. It felt incredible to see my paintings in the gallery space on fresh bright walls. It was like I was seeing my paintings for the first time. The presentation on the gallery wall, the space around the painting, created a whole new way of seeing. I felt emotional, it was like reconnecting with an old friend and suddenly seeing them in a different light. This is the power of beholding a painting in the flesh. We live in a time when the image is Queen, we are saturated in images, and they rain down on us from every angle; calling to us, often saying very little. In this haze of demanding images, it can be very refreshing to dialogue with a painting. Through an image we may receive information, but through a painting we have the potential to receive wisdom.

I believe in the power of art to transform. I have many experiences of walking into an exhibition as one person and then walking out as another. This is the mystery of art, the unfolding of an often very personal and private moment of understanding, of experience and of feeling. If we offer our attention to the work, the work will always respond and give unexpected gifts, in it’s own unique way. I can spend hours in front a painting. I have spent hours in front of a painting. It’s a curious alchemy, as the painting reveals its self more and more, with each breath.

This summer whilst travelling in Denmark I visited the Louisiana Museum of Modern Art not knowing what was the main exhibit. To my joy and amazement it was Peter Doig. Room after room of paintings, many meters wide: open gateways into lush deep vibrant mysterious lands. To behold a Peter Doig in the flesh is to embark on a journey. A portal to another dimension.

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Peter Doig, Milky Way (1989 to 90), oil on canvas

Paul Klee was another was another seminal experience that two years ago was like a fire in my mind. The exhibition went so deep into his process. I was moved by his unashamedly individual style, the plundering of his subconscious, the status he gave to signs and symbols, and to the development of his own visual language. His extensive writing informing his practice, immersed in a deep experiment of his personal experience. His sketchbooks were as much the art as the work on the walls. At this point the many sketchbooks of my own were in boxes, this feeling in my chest sent me back on a mission to re-discover myself through my sketchbooks and that journey has led me here.

What moves you?

What do you love? What do you hate? What are you jealous of? What frightens you? Any and all of these emotional responses are triggers, a guiding light, they are a message for you.

Here’s what I think and what I have experienced: if something moves you, then there is part of you that is called. I recently nearly exploded with excitement during a Pina Bausch performance: the fervent, luminous set design, surreal and fluid like a scene from a dream. It was like a jigsaw of my heart coming together: the atmosphere, the raw emotion of the performance, the humor, and the humanness, a 3D dimensional painting. It felt both exhilarating and terrifying, baffling and bewildering… why do I feel like this?

I’m not a dancer, or a set designer, but none the less some part of me is called into being, a part of me says ‘you can do this’, ‘you can be this’. My practice is inching towards performance, towards my fear, towards this emotional language.

I was 18 when I went to a Pierre Bonnard exhibition and I wrote about the exhibition for my university application. I had such a strong physical sensation of emotion as I witnessed his intense and sensitive use of colour. I felt the colours radiating off the bath tiles, I felt this rush through my whole body. I was full of tears and I felt like I was transforming into liquid, I exhaled. I thought everyone in the exhibition was experiencing the same feeling. Now I understand they probably weren’t. I didn’t fully understand that my body was trying to tell me something.

Now I know when I get that stirring in my belly or a hammering in my chest, that it is time to listen and not the time to ask how? Or why? This is like throwing water on the fire. Allow yourself the feeling, acknowledge the feeling, and don’t rip it away as the logical brain seeks to diminish with all the reasons why it can never be. As uncomfortable as that feeling may be, it is yours. A gift for you. I have thought a lot this week about how perhaps one of the hardest parts of life is to fully receive gifts. The gift of our potential.

What moves you?

Life. Life moves you. If Life beckons, don’t turn away. She is generous, forgiving and patient but she rushes by like a ghost.

See you next week,

Love and Best wishes,

Gemma

exhibition publicity image

And The Dark And The Dark 6th-16th November 2015 A-Side B-Side Gallery

Gemma Kauffman’s practice encompasses a variety of strategies and media, which include painting, performance, installation and film. Theatrical and fantastical, her work is both compelling and dynamic. Kauffman is an advocate for the creative spirit of all people and has during the last 10 years pioneered transformative approaches to social engagement.

gemmmakauffman.com


Are you a Secret Artist? Do you believe in the creative process? Interested in learning more about the journey of this Secret Artist? Then please subscribe HERE!