There have been some figures this week (The General Lifestyle Survey), comparing life in the 1970’s to now. I was 16 in March 1970, so the 70’s were a seminal period for me. Certainly two inspirational things took place in the early 70’s that have ‘made me what I am’ maybe not, but made me how I see, they were, British Sculpture 72 at The Royal Academy and The First British Independent Film Festival 1975 at The Arnofini in Bristol.
In 1972 I was in my third year at Leek School of Art. It was a very old fashioned college, the staff remarkable craftsmen/women but in some ways constricted by their skill. The School had traditional values based on life drawing, analytical drawing, figurative sculpture, etching and so forth. A fantastic grounding, but I wanted more! Each term a trip was organised to exhibitions in London and somehow they took us to British Sculpture ’72.
What I saw changed the way I looked at things. Instead of solid sculptures in clay, bronze, wood and so on here were bits of string and paper, colours flying through the air in abstract patterns. John Berger’s Ways of Seeing was on TV challenging the way I was looking at things. I have found in a sketchbook my mother kept some drawings for a sculptural idea, where I just painted some 6 foot lengths of 2×1 in bright colours and drew in the landscape! I remember our painting teacher was very dismissive of my work and the exhibition!
By 1975 I was in my second year at Cardiff College of Art. I was making sculptures but again was looking for another step. I wanted the next stage after the one I could make. I was interested in film and going for about five days to The First British Independent Film Festival in Bristol showed me films which could be just about a room, stillness, silence, without a formal story, just a set of images creating a whole. Like Leek, the staff seemed to have no idea about this work happening, why should they. Oddly from this came the sculpture pictured below made just before I changed to making films. This included elements of changes, with doors, ladders, different ways of showing the work.
I find it now odd that it took me nearly 20 more years before I realised that writing offered me the time elements I was looking for, especially poetry. I am still trying to evoke silence and stillness but I am working on it. I can find that in the writing of John Burnside and the paintings of Mark Rothko. I want that and see it as my writing and creative goal even though much of what I am doing seems noisy and brash!
It’s good to have a goal isn’t it.
Today’s photograph is from my kitchen on a cold white day at midday.