Thursday, May 20, 2010

A time of contrasts

A long time ago I promised to put up some pictures and write about Going Solo, my first solo exhibition.  It's now a month after the exhibition finished though it seems longer.  I've always enjoyed taking photographs and do actually look at them again, even those from forty years ago.  These photos are only a month old but already I need them to keep the exhibition fresh in my memory.

It was a lovely place to exhibit, having perfectly white walls, picture rails all round, large blank spaces so I could arrange the work however I wanted and plenty of white shelves and plinths.

It was especially nice to be able to arrange little groups of work.  Being short of space on the card stand I displayed some cards with the wallhangings that they were photos of and this really added something to the colour groupings.

It was also good to have the blue slip design, with its seagulls and fish, near the two remaining water bird hangings in their own self-contained corner.  The pottery design arrived the same year as the hangings and they were all very much inspired by the same sorts of ideas.

But that was then. Since then (in fact since just before the exhibition started) I have, as I've said before, been very involved in the new Gloucestershire Arts and Crafts Centre and this has given me an interesting perspective on the exhibition. 

I'm struck by the contrast between my first solo exhibition and the work I've been doing on what is above all a group venture.  Group events and outlets are, of course, what I'm most used to, apart from my small showroom here at home.  One is given a space and inevitably compromises have to be made not only on the amount of work which can be displayed but sometimes about exactly which pieces will blend with the work others are showing.  Having a whole, lovely space all to myself to arrange any amount of my work exactly as I wanted was a great pleasure.  I'm not a person who believes in modesty for the sake of it and see no shame in saying that I thought my exhibition looked great!  It was the sort of display I'd like to walk into a gallery and see.   What I'm saying is not so much about the pieces of work themselves, by the way, but about the overall design and impact of the exhibition. Each morning opening up was a delight.

A week flies by and this one did just the same.  Suddenly everything was being packed back up into boxes and carted off home again.

From the peace and tranquility (yes, that is a euphemism for not as many customers as I'd have liked!) of a solo exhibition I was plummetted straight back into the hurly-burly of the new arts and crafts centre and, as I've said, I've been spending quite a lot of time on it.

This work involves a certain amount of work on my own at home as I am responsible for much of the admin work but it also involves lots of phone calls and working in the shop, chatting to the other artists, selling to the public and other things involving lots of people contact.  I like my space in the shop but it is of course limited in size and I have to select what work to show.  I can arrange my own display but not those of other people.  So the whole experience is a very strong contrast to that of the solo exhibition.

I enjoy being part of a group very much.  I always enjoyed teaching groups in the reintegration centre more than the solo teaching because of working amongst other people.  I enjoyed being part of a co-operative shop when it was one.  I'm a gregarious sort in general.  Early cine films of me learning to swim aged 4 show that even while concentrating on not drowning I was chattering away.  And yet - I am constantly wanting time on my own. 

Over the years I have come to the conclusion that this sometimes desperate need for solitude has much to do with being an only child.  Most other only children I have known well as adults feel much the same. It's not always convenient, especially when you live with someone else.  I am very lucky and very happy being married to M and love our life together but as we are both based at home it has taken us a while to work out how to fit our different needs for solitude and company together with one another.

This is suddenly gelled into a concept when I sat down to write this piece.  Not just the solo exhibition but also my work in the pottery have a quality which for the moment I'm not going to attempt to explain.  When I walk into the pottery to start work in the morning I get the same sort of feeling as when I walked into the gallery to open my exhibition.  A sort of inner "aaah ... " accompanied by a feeling of relaxation and well-being.

I'd hate to be marooned on a desert island.  I'd last about two minutes.  I need human company desperately.  I just like to choose when I have it, is all.

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