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  • Writer's pictureGillian Holding

Finding Figures

Updated: Dec 20, 2023

I’m well over halfway into a month long residency at East Street Arts. It’s completely open-ended; a chance to explore my practice and work through some ongoing long standing conceptual and practice concerns. With no official deadline or formal show at the end (though there will be a presentation about my experience, and the project space will be open for viewing over the closing weekend), I’m motivated just by the opportunity to make work in a truly vast space. For a change, I’ve been writing about the experience through a-n blogs.

I can never be reminded too often of the importance of putting in studio time, particularly and especially without show deadlines looming. It’s too easy to overlook the fact that magic happens after at least five or six hours play-work on a variety of meditative tasks (another layer of papier mâché on a life-size figure; sketchbook doodles; a series of small studies painted in rapid succession; more mind mapping). After a full day of happily pottering from mini-project to mini-project, back and forth, clocking up 10,000 daily steps without leaving the space, I start painting on a large surface with huge brushes and pots of Dulux with no idea of what will happen, but loving the process of slapping on paint rapidly without thought. Watching figures emerge. Not judging or correcting, but allowing the paint to be paint- though admittedly there’s not a lot of choice with a four inch brush. It’s also been important for me to allow conceptual concerns to just be there, quite literally on the periphery of the space and my mind, and then get on with making and not thinking. Not thinking is really good for me. It has allowed my practice concerns and processes to cristallise without brain-ache. Issues which have nagged me for a long while suddenly now seem clear, and my work without conscious thought reflects these concerns from inside-out, rather than the ideas driving the work outside-in. This feels right. I had not realised how much I was shoe-horning my work into my ideas. Not least, I have always known inside I am a one-stop alla prima painter. Although the work of the last year has made me realise I don’t need to overwork, and also that there’s nothing wrong with radical reiterations, I am loving starting and being happy with the result on huge surfaces in a couple of hours. My storage issues will be worse than ever after this month, but it’s worth it to connect with my inner self.

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Apr 18, 2021

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