It is so true that possessions do not make one happy, as it is equally true that having a plethora of art materials at hand does not necessarily make one a good artist. Before lockdown I could not go past an art shop without buying something, kidding myself that it was just that one pencil what I needed to produce some amazing drawing.
At the moment I have no access to the small studio that – after months of careful consideration and a considerable amount of self-generated guilt that took a long while to shift (but that is another story) – I rented from a company that provides studio space at reasonable rates for London. The studio holds ninety-five per cent of my art materials, including tools and supports, paper, canvas, and a folder containing a collection of scraps of paper and images that I use to make collages. Having a sense of what was going to happen, on my last day in the studio in mid-March, I nearly took the folder home. I didn’t in the end, as it was heavy, and I felt lazy about taking it on the bus. I immediately regretted it, and for a while I thought I could not possibly continue to make art without my folder or my supply of materials. Let alone the space.
Also, I believed there had to be a shift in the ideas I was exploring and felt bereft of inspiration and empty. In fact, a few weeks on, I realised that I did not have to abandon my ideas and projects after all, I still stand by them, but I also realised that sometimes there is nothing truer than the saying ‘less is more’. I am enjoying not having much to play with, not only finding new strategies to convey those ideas but also reusing some of the work I have made in the far and near past. Everything can be cut up, and collaged, or worked on. I still miss my folder, and my tools and paints, but in a way, I learnt to let go.
P.S. Before submitting this entry for the blog, I sent it to a very good friend to get his opinion. He picked the word ‘play’, asking if it was a deliberate choice and if making my work was for me a form of play. I had pondered upon this myself, but the answer I gave him was that play is the right word as it reflects an attitude whereby rules and common sense do not matter. We cannot go back to be children, but we can seek to recreate – even by failing – that sense of wonderous freedom and fearlessness.