Well, degree show at Gray’s School of Art has passed and I find myself revisiting my main degree show pieces. I am in a time of reflection. A time where I am in perhaps a little bit of in limbo. I took a short break from making to truly reflect on an epic and marvellous journey through art school. I may have stopped making for a short period but that does not stop my mind from working, reflecting and ruminating.
One of my favourite pieces from the degree show was one I titled “Teeth”.
“Teeth” is made from acrylic on canvas (2m x 2m). Usually I would prime the canvas with white gesso and then paint it black – either with acrylic or poster paint. I enjoy the uneven texture and loose density of poster paint (considering it may not be an artist’s first choice of medium). However, as a rule I tend to only really use poster paint as a sort of base/ground. For “Teeth”, be that as it may, this was my first time using black gesso on a large scale. I always feel like the works that I make on a small scale always look incredibly different on a large scale. It’s as if the monster has grown. The darkness has grown and the sheer scale is definitely an important element which creates an impact to the viewer. I say this because even just the under layer of the gesso on the large canvases created such a smooth, velvety texture which evolved into this magnificent, flawless and impeccable darkness. After the application of the gesso, although it was already so beautifully aesthetic, this was not the end for this piece – it was just the beginning.
The next step for this painting was the longest step. At least with the ground it was just a case of applying the gesso, with this part it wasn’t as carefree. I took a small brush and painted a little rectangle mark in a repetitive fashion until the whole canvas was covered in little white marks.
Originally, when I was working on a small scale – just experimenting and playing around with shapes and sizes and patterns and repetition, I one day decided to try what my little marks would be like in reverse ‘colour’. Instead of black on white, what would it be like white on black? And I guess this is a recurring way of how I make work. Often I do not know what I am making until I have made it, and usually I start on the small scale before the big scale just as to not ‘waste’ materials (especially when materials can be so expensive!). Often, as I have mentioned before, I make the work first, then analyse after. I make the work whilst I am in a certain state of mind – whether that be sad or stressed or overwhelmed or even sometimes happy or excited. Then afterwards, is a time for reflection. A time to ask why? Why did I do that? Why did I make the mark? It is within this reflection where I get my answers. I am almost analysing myself and my thoughts. It isn’t easy for people like me to have organised thoughts. There is often overlapping voices and conversations which can be hard to follow because there are so many all talking and thinking over one another so by just taking that time out to allow all these voices to do what they need to do – I can then take the time to reflect and listen to what they have to say.
Originally, I didn’t really have a name for this piece but when I completed it just came to me and I felt like it was very fitting to the context of my practice. It is both obvious and inconspicuous. Visually, it could look like little teeth due to the size and shape when up close. However far away it looks completely different, to me it almost looks like some sort of optical illusion that you would find in a science museum. There is a fine line between science and art. I had never thoroughly thought about it before until I hade feedback on this piece of work. It is art but the context may be considered both conceptual but also scientific in the way it is made and created. It follows a pattern. A technical, technological, systematic and orderly fashion. It is not just about how it looks but it is the preciousness that goes into such works. I enjoy the connection here within the work of both the conceptual ideas of depression, anxiety and OCD but it also marries in with the ore methodical aspect which could relate to its own kind of science behind it. Although to someone else reading this, it must just sound like a ramble of madman – there is undoubtedly logic behind the work.
The methodical aspect to the side, this piece much like my other works has an extensional conceptual demeanour. It is all about the darkness that comes with such issues. I may sound like a broken record, constantly repeating the same sort of topic within my work but it is what truly encapsulates me. By creating this work, it helps me get through the daily struggles and conflicts that are forever going on in my mind. The conflicts can be between something so unimportant or something that often I cannot even put my finger on – which can be the most frustrating thing! The work is a combination of a therapeutic outlet, about conquering the darkness and using the repetition and mark-making to create something playful yet with a serious undertone.
The name for the piece ‘Teeth’ is a name that came to me not only for the aesthetics but also I feel with having such conceptual and abstract work that it can help the audience engage when there is just a little something to give an incline to what the work is about. ‘Teeth’ is a title which could be considered both abstract yet also simple. Yes, physically it could look like teeth to some people but others have also seen it differently. At the degree show opening I had many variations of what people thought the marks represented. Some thought it was teeth, others thought it was fingerprints, nails – and the list goes on! However, the reason I titled it; ‘Teeth’ was to make an internal link between mental health, specifically anxiety in this case. A common anxiety dream that sufferers may experience is dreams about teeth. Whether that be your teeth falling out, or you just suddenly having no teeth or your teeth are black – whatever the dream may be there is suggestions within the mental health realm that these dreams are a common symptom of anxiety sufferers. The anxiety doesn’t necessarily have to be a diagnosed condition for these sorts of dreams to appear – it could be something small that is just playing on one’s mind. But regardless whether it a big worry or a small worry or a worry that you can’t even realise why you are worried or feeling anxious in the first place – these dreams can be pretty common. I myself have a recurring dream when I am feeling really anxious. It starts off fine and dandy, I am just going about my routine day – which is something I can also struggle with – distinguishing what is real life and what is ‘dream life’ so this for me, can especially be overwhelming. So, I am going about my normal day and I suddenly realise that there is a little trail behind me of just stuff. It can be hard to make out what this stuff actually is. You know what it is like in dreams, it can be confusing you are one place one minute and then you are suddenly transported into another place just like magic. So the next thing I know I am in a room full of mirrors and I see my teeth are missing – not all of them just a few. I start to wobble them one by one until they come out. That’s it – that’s the dream.
I realise I have perhaps gone off on a tangent but it is important to me to get everything out and everything that comes to my head when I’m talking about my work – which can evidently be a lot!
‘Teeth’ was one of my favourite pieces that I displayed for Gray’s Degree Show 2018. I think that it has this playfulness and quirkiness about it in the beginning but as you look into it further it is perhaps a lot darker than what it may seem. A recurring thought within my practice is just because you cannot see it, doesn’t mean that it isn’t there. There is a lot of debate about mental health, two sides to every story you could say and that’s what I hope to create within y work. Not everyone will want to dig deeper but the ones that do, well I hope that things have and will get better for them.