In my previous post ‘Artistic Regression‘ I outlined two possibilities that I could explore to give meaning to my work: Reconnecting with the inner child artistically, or philosophically. Here, I will expand upon each idea.
The idea of expressing an outlook of positive nihilism stems from the observation of differences between how children and adults think and what we can learn from their naivety. Cause of upset for young children is much more instinctive – If they are hungry/thirsty, are uncomfortable (too cold, too hot, soiled nappy etc.), lonely or in immediate danger (for example, maybe a big scary dog barked at them.) You do not see young children worry about the way they look or whether they have been productive enough for the day. Young children do not comprehend racism or sexism and they don’t care if their peer is less intelligent than themselves so they do not limit their social interactions.
As adults, there are many things we worry about or give strength to that are simply not necessary or absurd so the idea of positive nihilism is a reminder to release ourselves of the un-necessary stresses we put on ourselves due to societal or personal pressures. It is a reminder that in the great span of the universe we share, our lives are insignificant and meaningless, that there are many things we do not know – if there is an afterlife or correct religion. Thus, we should embrace the potentially short life we have and live as happily as possible and in harmony with our habitat and peers. It is illogical to worry about the things we do not know and it is daft to debase our experience of life with un-necessary upset.
The website below defines the stages of critical thinking development.
The imagination of the child is perceived as being much less limited than that of an adult. As adults, we are more likely to be perfectionist and/or curb our artistic limits to the perceptions of others. We often limit our expression with notions of beauty, sanity and directly observable skill. However, give paint to a child and they will happily scrawl away. A child could be at the age where they are only able to produce nonsensical scribbling or at the age where they are starting to be able to depict content. Either way, they appear to find more joy in the process than the finished artefact. As adults, we have far more life experience, we have observed more arts and potentially had more surreal dreams. [1.] Thus, the content of our imagination should surely be more expansive than that of a chid? Perhaps then, it is simply our inability to access our imagination without disruption that leads us to believe children are more imaginative?
Mica Hendricks is an illustrator and graphic artist who describes herself as a ‘busy mockingbird’. Mockingbirds will employ the birdsong of many other species to create their own, unique performance. In this way, the mockingbird rearranges reality in the same way that the artist creates. Similar to the mockingbird’s ‘art’ (audio,mimicking other birds), Hendricks is not bound to a specific subject, but does work within one media (2D visual arts) and displays a strong theme throughout her work (portraiture).
One of Hendricks’ projects is her on-going collaborative work with her 4-year-old daughter and this is the work that interests me. The project came about when Hendricks’ daughter caught sight of the brand-new sketchbook that Hendricks was doodling a face in at the time. Typically of children, her daughter was immediately filled with an overwhelming desire to also draw in the book her mother was using. Cleverly tricking Hendricks with her own words “If you can’t share, we might have to take it away if you can’t share.” her daughter convinced Hendricks to allow her to finish the doodle she had been working on. Hendricks told her daughter that she was going to draw a body for the lady, to which her daughter exclaimed that she wanted to do it. The result was unexpected and fantastic. The previously perfectionist Hendricks had leant her work to the limitless imagination of her young daughter and in doing so found a way of letting go of her own controlled nature of working. Much to the excitement and critique of her daughter, Hendricks finalizes each image herself. After Hendricks’ daughter started to ask to complete more works, the collaboration soon became a fun regular activity for the pair. (Hendricks describes the whole process on her website here.)
Hendricks’ artistic tool kit for this project includes:
- Ballpoint pen (standard quality, used for base and finishing touches)
- Sharpies or Prismacolor brush-tips (Used for colour blending)
- Acrylic Paint (Used for highlighting)
- Watercolour Paint (Used for highlighting)
The motives behind the project were purely recreational fun with her daughter and Hendricks keeps all of the original images to give to her daughter when she grows up. For this reason Hendricks seldom takes commissions for the project. (On her website Hendricks states “…we’ve decided not to put the pressure of custom work on her at age 4. We have so much fun with these, I would hate for it to seem like a job for her.”)
It is important to express and consider the motives behind any collaboration to avoid any unethical impressions being expressed, such as exploitation. (In particular, artists who collaborate with others are often accused of exploitation for fame or profit, so it is extremely important to ethically consider every aspect of a project in order to maintain artistic and professional integrity.)
The original image that sparked the project.
The above image is particularly interesting in showing the way unlimited aspects of a child’s imagination: The red surrounding the caterpillar-woman is a chrysalis.
The above image shows how the imagination of children is not concerned with things such as notions of beauty or artistic challenge. This slug-lady provoked comedic joy from Hendricks’ daughter.
(Source for all images: http://busymockingbird.com/2013/08/27/collaborating-with-a-4-year-old/)
I have decided to focus on making tea bowls as I feel the procedure of drinking from one embodies a sense of tranquillity. The tea bowl demands much more attention than a mug/glass/cup as they are typically held with both hands. Therefore, the user is much less likely to multi-task whilst drinking. Thus, the tea bowl is more likely to engage the user and be able to effectively portray the desired reminder of the importance to take time to relax.
Recently my work has taken a focus on what could be described as ‘artistic regression’ – drawing inspiration from the naive artistic methods and media’s used in childhood. My prior idea of portraying memory lead to this exploration and has been softly inspired by the work of Mica Hendricks.
I am currently sticking to the form of tea bowls as I feel they encapsulate meditation due to the soothing and consuming nature of their utilization. I am currently in a very experimental stage, testing out methods of making. My experiments include:
- Faux papier-mâché – Using paper and porcelain slip (in place of a glue solution) to mimic the process of papier-mâché. Upon firing, the paper should burn out, leaving behind the porcelain which should maintain the structure and texture of the process.
- Bubble blowers – Adding oxides to bubble blowing solution and blowing bubbles to pop on a ceramic artefact. This process works well on paper when acrylic paint is added to the solution. My hope is that the use of oxides will achieve a more ‘mature’ aesthetic (due to their natural palette), whilst portraying a naive process, ultimately creating an interesting juxtaposition.
- Finger painting – Crudely applying coloured slips with my hands. Potato stamps.
The idea of artistic regression will change the comment of my work from one of taking time for tranquillity to one of reconnecting with the inner child. When combined with imagery, this could be in an artistic way (Rekindling the ability to access unfettered imagination, like that of a child.) or it could be in a sociopolitical way (Portraying what I can only describe as positive nihilism – the idea that life is meaningless and we are insignificant but rather than seeing this in a negative light, embracing it as a motive to live as stress-free as possible. The mind of a child is a suiting subject to portray this notion as their mind is more consumed by instinct.)