Beyond the Studio: Preparing for an Exhibition

Beyond the Studio: Preparing for an Exhibition

As a platform to reflect on the influences shaping my studio practice, Word and Image has been a welcome retreat into writing and reflecting on theory. However, for this blog post I’d like to shift my focus to the art itself and share the process for this project itself and where I'd like it to end up. As you might already know, I've had the privilege of working with the Blackbird Foundation to create a body of work centred around the enigmatic beauty of arctic, isolated landscapes. But what exactly does it mean for an artist to create a body of work, and what happens to it when it's complete?

A body of work is more than a mere collection of artworks; it is a cohesive assembly that often explores a shared subject matter, content, or artistic process within a specific timeframe. Think of it as a symphony of creativity, from initial sketches to complex, resolved paintings, culminating in a harmonious whole. Presenting this body of work to a gallery allows artist and curator to carefully select a smaller, curated collection for public exhibition. 

I began creating the body of work before I was totally aware of what I was doing artistically. Following my road trip around Iceland in October, 2022, I found myself instinctively drawn to paint the landscapes without the constraints of overthinking and analysing my intentions. Embracing the tactile nature of paper, I embarked on a series of miniature portrait studies based on photographs taken in Jökulsárlón. The absorbent quality of the paper created an interesting matte finish and allowed me to seamlessly blend colours, unlike my usual medium of wood.  Over the subsequent months, I continued painting landscapes (on wood and paper), both barren and featuring lone figures, trusting my instincts without a preconceived plan of where the paintings would end up. This deliberate approach became one of my most valuable decisions, granting me the freedom to create more art in a shorter span and experiment with various subject matters, compositions, colour palettes, and mediums. It was a rekindling of my passion for painting, an escape from the scorching Australian summer and everyday anxieties, transporting me to the sublime, fantastical settings I was painting.

In April, I invited the public to view my work during an open studio weekend. Although I remained uncertain about the direction this art project was taking, it was liberating to let the public see a body of work in its infancy, while it was still in a process of making and far from being resolved. It was also a chance to offer a behind-the-scenes glimpse of my creative process. Around this time, I also applied for the Blackbird Protostars Program, hopeful that it would elevate this project to something grander, refined, and organised. 

As the body of work takes shape, I've composed poetic inspiration for ten resolved pieces, including six miniatures and a self-portrait - reaching the halfway point towards my goal of exhibiting this collection in its entirety. But, creating an exhibition-worthy collection involves meticulous planning beyond completing the art, encompassing finding a gallery, framing, advertising, installation, and securing funding - all part of the process that makes it deeply satisfying to see the white gallery walls finally adorned with the story I've longed to tell. While quietly handling logistical tasks with Blackbird's support and advice, the most daunting aspect has been speaking this dream into existence and sharing the end goal publicly. Once it's out there, it becomes real, transcending a mere project to become a committed journey leading to an exhibition. Thank you for joining me on this ride! The cat's out of the bag, so I have no option now but to make this exhibition happen!

Melissa

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1 comment

Very stark, sometimes haunting landscapes which I am sure you enjoyed at the time but the self-portraits have an almost vacant possibly uninspired appearance to being in such a wonderful but beautifully bleak environment, as I am writing this I can possibly see the reason for the facial expression. Many years ago I had the opportunity to work in Saudi Arabia for a short while and visit the Desert, there was also a strange beauty about the barren and starkness, I can appreciate the tranquillity of being alone in such an environment. A Quote from Marcus Aurelius “When you arise in the morning, think of what a precious privilege it is to be alive – to breath, to think, to enjoy, to Love".

Brian Winter

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