So, my and Adam John Wilson's joint exhibition at Queen's House has finished. It has been such an intense experience, it kinda thew me, but now I'm trying to plan my next steps. Big thanks to everyone at the CreativeENRG project, especially Gill Hobson, for this great opportunity. Thanks too to Kane for being an amazing front-of-house and artist in his own right. I got to work on a large drawing "live" in the window with a transitory, shifting audience and I met and chatted with so many people. I learned a lot about myself.
It's funny, I spoke with a few people who had been taught to draw with dipping pens a long time ago, before I was born. When I was at school between the 70s and the 80s we used fountain pens but our desks were relics from this former "dipping" era. They were chunky wooden things with heavy lids that lifted up to reveal storage space and they also had inkwells - long redundant by then. I always used to wonder about them. But now I want to have a go at drawing with those elegant and anachronistic old implements.
At our exhibition I met a Scottish painter who had been painting for decades and had known my grandad and still lives behind my granddad's old house. I met a guy who used to draw with the old dipping pens and had been the first postman on some of the streets of our council estate, many of them featured as subjects of my drawings. I gave him one of my drawing pens and asked him to make a drawing with it and send me a picture. He said he hadn't drawn in years so I hope he does.
I had countless great chats with people from all walks of life about art and life in general. This was a new experience for me. I've pretty much lived a hermit's life for a long time so this gave me confidence, knowing that I could cope with these situations. I had a bad summer health-wise and the fact that I could cope with this work gave me hope and was confirmation that my new health regime had worked.
One interesting aspect of the show which I haven't really spoke to anyone of yet was the role it plays in my "Unemployed Artist" performance art project. The Unemployed Artist has been a deeply unsettling work for me and has driven me to fairly low depths of despair. I've had my housing benefit stopped, my Job Seeker's Allowance stopped, a court summons for non payment of council tax and experienced genuine fear for my future. I suppose it's been interesting but not in a way I had imagined. I began planning the work as part of my degree in 2014 with a large monolithic concrete sculpture, "Ministry of Antisocial Insecurity". I think I will finish the project soon with a painting. I'm not sure whether anyone will care but it's been a big thing for me and now I feel desperate for my art to be my salvation from this situation.
The Unemployed Artist project relates to my Queens House exhibition in that I used to "sign on" there when I was unemployed in the mid-1990s. It seemed poignant and rich in symbolism that, 20 years later, I found myself showing my art there. Anyway, that's a story for another time. Maybe.
One interesting thing happened while we were setting up the exhibition. A man knocked on the door and asked if this was still a Job Centre - it hadn't been for about 20 years. He looked in a bad way, both mentally and physically, and he told me that he had signed on the dole there in the 90s. I thought it was interesting and poignant that this should be my first interaction with a member of the public as part of the show. I could have been that guy if I had not begun my studies into art. Hell, in a parallel universe, perhaps that is me.
So now I have to think about my next project. I have a lot to be getting on with so it's more a case of being selective. I have a couple of large unfinished drawings: Immaterial Girl and Sacred Monotony - my virtual reality 360 degree drawing. Plus I am planning a new work featuring my grandad and a tug, The Englishman, which he was the captain of. During the exhibition I discovered that grandad had nursed a sick bird back to life on this boat. It was subsequently killed by a crew member, an event which inspired the "dead bod" graffiti which has become something of a local legend. This personal connection to the story blew me away as I'd recently designed a riff on the Dead Bod phenomenon - Undead Bod - a resurrected vampire bod. I'm selling Undead Bod T-shirts in my shop section if anyone is interested.
So plenty of exciting art to be getting on with. I'm fired up and eager to finish these new pieces but I wouldn't say I am feeling hopeful right now. I'm still very worried about my future but hopeful that better and more secure times could be just around the corner.
Below are some photos of the show taken by the show's curator and organiser, Gill Hobson.