It was a dark and stormy night...

This is my first opportunity for a long time to blog about creative pursuits. Actually a lie. This is the first time I have made myself blog despite many blogging opportunities. Haha, no post truths here. The reason for my blog posting after so long a gap, is that it is effective procrastination for an even harder writing task.

For Hard Light (BIF 2015) I titled all of my pieces using common (cliched) pairings of words; Safe Haven, Tragic Drowning, Approaching Storm and so on. Cliches fascinate and repel me. Words matter to me. They even make me anxious. Writing does not come easily. I ruminate and edit multiple times. I am horrified by my own poor language choices, spelling and grammatical mistakes, especially when I miss them. I adore the wonderfully precise construction and poetic vocabulary of great literature and this puts me off writing anything. I worry about communicating meaning effectively in my own minimal missives and sometimes I fail. In a public realm such as this blog and other social media how am I to know how often I fail? You see my anxieties coming to the fore already. 

I spent much of my summer holiday making new cyanotypes in preparation for the next Ballarat International Foto Biennale (BIF) in August 2017. There are 20 new pieces, all made intuitively and relatively quickly; a departure for me. I am also keen to show this new work in Melbourne and am making contacts in my search for the ‘right' gallery. All of which brings me to the crux of my problem. Writing an artist’s statement. How to explain the various strands of my influences and ideas without sounding either too obscure or too flouncy in that artspeak manner that drives me bananas when I read it? I care not for the fashionable weasel words of curators, as much as I admire their temerity, and I don’t want to make my audience suffer. You will not hear me using such cliches as ‘notions’, ‘ juxtaposition’, ‘ephemeral’, ‘interrogate’, ‘construct’ nor the convoluted and meaningless language tangles of the many artists who fail to communicate in their artist statement. Here is a great example:

“I’m fascinated by the construct of strata in any context. For example- geologically, as a visible record of the continuous deposition of natural and human-generated matter; sociologically as an arbitrary categorization system affording both separation and unification of humans; and psychologically has a chronological composition of our experiences. In all these contexts the juxtapositions of and transitions between disparate elements result in descendants and harmony, muddy vagueness, and sharp clarity. Each layer shifts, settles, and adjusts to make room for the knees and elbows of the next; the pigment or character of one stratum irrevocably colors it’s neighbors; a disturbance in one level beans or fishers outward through multiple others. It’s an infinitely additive process what we at present perceived as the top the surface the current thing is inevitably absorbed, buried, reclaimed by, and in the process serves to inform whatever comes next.”

Artist statements and curation statements are notoriously hard to read and tend to obfuscate rather than enlighten. Funnily enough the example above and many of the ‘bad artist statements’ on the website could describe my work. That is the thing, they describe everything and nothing. Did artists in the past have to write artists statements? No. What we know of their creative thinking and ideas comes from the artists’ letters, essays, diaries and conversations remembered by acolytes. The artist statement is a thoroughly modern ‘construct’ (see what I did there!), originating in the 1990s along with the need for artists to apply for funding, study grants, residencies and commissions. Given that I know the pitfalls, having researched bad artist statements on-line. Hilarious reading, btw. Now is the time to bite the bullet. This might be me…

But hopefully not.

© Wendy Catling