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Conversation with an artist...

I went to talk to a friend of mine who is a more experienced artist than me. She always comes up with challenging questions, that make my work better. I had gone to talk to her about an open call for an exhibition she had been part of last year (yesterday I found out that my submission had not been selected - oh well!). We ended up talking about my work for the Bowes. She asked me a really searching question, "Why was I making all three pieces?" At the start of our conversation I was planning to make a Gardeners Apron, Carpet Makers overall and Joiners Apron. I realised I couldn't really answer that question other than that was in my original proposal. We then talked about what Untitled 10 was really about, and if I was committed to the process of showing development and being open to being changed by the process of research, why was I not being more courageous and pursuing what I was most moved by, and interested in. That is Mr Scott. She also asked my what the connection was between the aprons and my main work of The Quest For The Perfect Shirt? I couldn't really answer the question to my own satisfaction. After more chatter, I realised that I wasn't trying to make aprons, I was trying to put back into the collection the working class craftspeople who are either not represented or are very under-represented. This isn't the fault of the current Bowes staff, but it is a reflection of the time in which John and Josephine created the original collection. A whole series of conversations with friends followed, and I decided what I really wanted to make was Mr Scott's best shirt. When I started to imagine who Mr Scott was, I realised he would not want his working apron to be put in the collection (this followed a conversation with my partner who is a hairdresser, who said he wouldn't want his working shirt, with smudges of hair dye, to represent him in a museum). The logical thing was to connect Mr Scott with my other work, and make his best shirt. I also started to think about the conversations on Twitter between the Untiltle10 artists, and thought it would be a really interesting challenge to make the shirt on one of my hand-cranked machines from the late 19thC. So my conclusion is that I am now making a historic shirt that never really existed, on a historic object that is still a working tool, to put into a collection of historic objects.

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