There were two stand-out elements to this discussion and the formative feedback that followed. The first was very clear support for the digital process, whether via painting/photo editing apps or animation and film, and that development of expertise here would count towards assessment of technique and range of media investigated.
The second related to the notion of influences. I have never been conscious of influences in any sphere of academic application or practice; which is not to say there have been none, it simply means I have most likely absorbed the gestalt of the influence(r) and forgotten the rest. I review books on Goodreads and Audible because I’ve found, when they’re mentioned and I have only the vaguest memory of them, I can go back to see if I’d had an encounter and also what I thought of it. This seems to be a family trait as none of us could be described as ‘group’ people unless a group has somehow coalesced around us.
It left me at a loss as to how to find and then describe what it is that underpins my work as an artist. My tutor asked me, was it music, science, space (the cosmic variety), dance, what? All of those things and possibly none. But when I considered the threads running through most of my life; the guide ropes maybe, and stabilising influences; these have been conceptual. Ethics, intellectual rigor, analytical and emotional integrity, tempered by empathy and humour. And always with my eyes on the future, never in the past.
These are not easy ideas to bring into the ‘influence’ arena when, for the most part it tends to mean an artist you like, so again I found myself wondering how to realise this in terms that brought my concept of influence into the same frame as the more usual one.
Then today I watched the video of a session with Lisa Pettibone set up by OCA’s Art-Scientific student collective and lights began to switch on in my mind. Lisa has worked with the Mullard Space Science Laboratory and has a piece of art describing a chlorophyll molecule heading towards the ISS. Studying both art and physics and engaging in add-ons in astrophysics and gravity amongst other things, Lisa has successfully integrated her creative output with major space research projects to the benefit of both. These are the influences she describes – the magnificence and reach of the cosmos; the impact of losing the colour green were we to begin living on another world – the moon perhaps, or Mars; the effect of gravitational lenses on perception; the psychological weight (my interpretation) of dark matter. There’s no mention of anyone from the visual arts, no musicians, no architects, no writers of fiction.
I found that a very useful framework for understanding what drives me, how I might express it in this current context; and I think it’s this:
- social justice
These were the core values of my pre-retirement professional role. Ways of making a world that moves too fast for people with intellectual impairments adjust itself for them instead of expecting them to do all the work, but generally finding that it wouldn’t happen unless someone without those impairments advocated from a position of strength.
I’m reminded of the issues I faced in the 1970s and 80s and still occasionally face today. It was a man’s world that saw women as assistants at best, and yet at every step along my journey through academia and clinical practice, it would be a man who opened the door and gave me the chance to show my worth.
My objectives, driven by these principles, these influences, are to use my own position as an articulate individual with accumulating skills to bend art and the world of art towards people who currently are or feel excluded from it. To make it easier for them to feel welcome in what can be an alienating environment, and to use what I’ve learned in my past role to remove barriers to communication with plain speaking, plain writing, and 21st century tools of engagement.