Monday, 7 May 2012
Yet again, I've just begun to make some kind of progress in terms of settling into a pattern of work (I mean, with the work itself, not just a routine of working), and I find myself about to go away again. In the past, at least, every time I've gone away somewhere, I've come back with a new perspective, carrying new experiences, in a new mood. And I start doing completely different paintings. Sometimes this has been welcome, a way out of stuckness. Sometimes I look back and wonder what would have happened if I'd just carried on with the thread that, at least three times, was just beginning to emerge when it got broken and replaced with something else.
After having done this recent painting I have a sense that things are not going to be quite as volatile, not so completely lost in the dark. The past three years have felt utterly wild, as if I was throwing out a huge net as far and as wide as I could. Wading through treacle, walking on a tightrope, whateve metaphor you care to name. All underpinned by a horrible sense of insecurity, as if the whole thing might just vanish one day in a puff of smoke, and I would wake up at my desk in the university, business as usual. With this recent painting, though, which I've played around with for weeks, I feel a tiny stirring of real hope. As if I've caught a whiff of the thing I've been going after. I'm not going to attempt to put it into words, couldn't even if I tried. But whatever it is can't be captured 'conceptually'. It isn't an idea, and it isn't improved technique. It can only be known through the working, through the not giving up, and through not trying to articulate it using language.
Arriving at this place, I find myself discriminating between two kinds of (many) instabilities. The first, my experience of the last few years, is a lostness that reaches down to the level of identity; a constant niggling that questions whether the practice I'm involved in is worthwhile, possible, sustainable, good enough, ever going to find its way, etc. After doing this painting, just for a moment, I feel my toes touch the bottom of the pool. I will float up again. I'll lose my sense of it from time to time, and, as I'm heading down towards the deep end, I will probably lose it quite severely sometimes. But, for the first time, I've felt something solid.
Shamelessly playing with these bodily metaphors, I also see myself hanging on to a thin ledge with the tips of my fingers. The instability is never going to go away. That seems to be what this process is: intrinsic instability. But it's as if up to now I've been exercising my finger muscles, so that I can at least try to hold on to the ledge. From now on, I hope, I'll still be hanging there, but I'm hoping that my muscles will be a little more up to the job.