The power of inventing your own problems…

At a recent lecture, Yve Lomax talked about the importance of inventing your own problems, and I realise this is one of the key lessons to emerge from completing my recent MA.

I now feel able to define my practice; to articulate the issues it addresses, as well as position it within wider conceptual / theoretical thinking together with the work of other artists. This gives me a starting point – a foundation – from which to take on new challenges; To ask myself what questions they raise in relation to what I already know about my practice. If I can’t frame this question, then the exhibition, opportunity, or commission simply isn’t right for me – it doesn’t take the work forward.

As an example, I recently posted about the Spinach ‘Object Abuse’ challenge, which I chose to re-frame as the question: ‘what does an abused collage look like given one can argue collage is an inherently abusive medium in the first place?’ This resulted in me making something that pushed the abuse of materials to an extreme degree; I built layers of paper up only to selectively erode them, destroying parts of the image in the process but also creating surprises. It took the collages in a direction that feels exciting and full of potential.

Being able to invent – define – my own problem focuses me on specifics that have the power to drive things and stops me floundering, unfocused, in a sea of too many possibilities.

Did I need to study an MA to reach this point? For me, yes; I think the unknowns in terms of being able to define my practice were too extensive at BA to allow me to frame a question. However, perhaps I’m remembering this wrong? May be I always worked this way but the questions were wider – less focused – at BA and consequently more of a struggle to work successfully with?

Object abuse seems to be working for me as a concept so I’m going to extend its framework to apply a series of actions to collages – erode, fracture, shift, tear, patch, peel, adorn, build up, graffiti, re-draw. This is a problem that focuses on games, but it may prove productive.

Claire Manning, 'Madge Stuart n.1001', 2013
Claire Manning, ‘Madge Stuart n.1001’, 2013

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