Written Sept 2017
The New Artist Fair at Old Trumans Brewery, London, had a great reputation for supporting up and coming artists and making significant sales and contacts, so I chose this to be my main show of the year. Realising I had gone to enter too late I sent an email directly to Oliver who called me straight back and offered me a cancelled space, expressing enthusiasm for my work. This set me up to really look forward to the whole weekend.
This year I made the decision to cut back on showing my art and spend more time at home actually painting and progressing my style. Apart from a regular gig at the Artyard cafe in Enstone I stepped back from regular shows because they can be so time, financial and energy consuming. My art still has to fit in between my day job as a Psychologist and so I stepped back to ensure I had the time to really immerse myself in my art.
This paid off because the best feedback I received over the weekend was from those who have seen my previous work and said I had stepped it up a level. They are seeing a change in style, and going by the public’s reaction this is for the better.
Whilst the structure, composition and flowing lines of the Geisha series last year still remain strong underneath I am now deconstructing and reconstructing it with a ‘felt’ expression of emotion rather than a cognitively planned use of colour. With my ever moving mind the principles of starting from the eyes and overlapping them to convey more than emotion within one figure or a merging of figures remain. But I am now creating more depth from the eyes rather than relying just on lines and shape. From here personality develops in a more abstract way.
Feedback from my neighbouring artist made me realise that this process continues to reflect my work as a Psychologist. Connection with my clients start and remain intensely with eye contact but from there I gain a sense of who they are through peripheral vision and through my intuitive vision of their internal self. My portraits feed off the page as a representation of the continuum of internal energy as it exudes the physical boundaries of the bodies outline and connects with others, or myself as therapist. I had a discussion with another artist about framing and how I felt with some of my work a frame would close in the expression when I am trying to allow this to be open and to seep out and reach the viewer. In some cases though, such as with Dian and Digit the frame brought more focus to the distress and intimacy of their relationship. When I am with seriously distressed clients my sensory focus does become more narrow as a way to contain the emotion.
Other responses I loved were to the colours. I have been fighting dilemmas recently of how the classics and current popular work appears to really lack colour to me and it is somehow muted and subdued. Living with fibromyalgia means I am needing to find a way out of the fog it creates. And going by the public’s reaction I’m not the only one.
Tucked away in the furthest corner of the show I wondered how anybody would even know I was there. But I watched people walking past and as they scanned the room they took a second glance and their body soon followed into the corner with a mesmerised curious expression, as though the art had a magnet drawing them into the corner. Whether it was the eyes or the colour or just because they were likeable animals I saw more emotional reactions than I’ve ever seen towards my art.
The two buyers of the prints I sold of ‘Dian and Digit’ both provoked goosebumps in me. They left in tears as they became more and more immersed into the image and overwhelmed and happy to be taking it away with them.
An added element to this connection was, I believe, because there was a passionate story behind the images. Apart from Dian and Digit I had met all of the models in my paintings. I had always aspired to be Dian Fossey for a short moment and 20yrs ago I went to Rwanda and did just that, meeting all of these gorillas in my paintings. The moment I told the viewer this it added another element to their experience of the work but I believe it also showed in my own connection and passion in the work itself.
People still bought my prints and coasters of last years Geisha series but for very different reasons, it was more about pattern and colour. In some ways I feel once they had made the emotional connection to me and my art they
understood better what I was trying to achieve in the Geisha work. My aim in my own personal development and that as a psychologist is to encourage a more emotional openness and I feel this year I am starting to achieve this in my work. Rather than by being an explicit illustration of emotion in my first year of self-portraits, emotion is coming through unconsciously and is now reaching the viewer intuitively rather than cognitively.
One last observation I made about my weekend at the New Artist Fair was that I was no longer one of the newbies on the scene. There were many other artists there now looking to me for support and advice. This is what I love about these fairs, that we are not in competition with each other but are there to help and support each other. We are all struggling with the same dilemmas and issues in getting recognition.
I certainly have a long way to go in my art but in the 2 years that I have been exhibiting and really committing to my painting I am really excited about my own progress. I finally feel I could become worthy of exhibiting instead of now feeling quite embarrassed of the early works I showed.