This is my third day into a week-long “residency” in the gallery space next to my studio. I can feel the goalposts shifting a little already. I’ve stapled a roll of fabriano paper round all of the walls and I’m listening to music while I draw.
Day 1 I started with my own material, and focussed on one song. Because I was familiar with it I could anticipate the twists and turns, changes in tempo and melody. It’s fun! I had a really good day away from my studio table, a whole-body drawing experience. I could feel it doing me good, loosening things up. I could also hear things in the music I couldn’t hear before. Thank goodness for bluetooth headphones as I don’t think my neighbours would relish hearing the same song over and over again all day!
Day 2 I’d arranged to work with sound artist Bill Laybourne. This was a completely different proposition. This was going to be a mutual improv, reactionary sort of thing. I play what I hear, he plays what he sees, then loops it back to me, adds in texture, repetition, and also edited spoken word. This I cannot anticipate and the resulting marks on the wall are very different, they are more expansive and freer. Using contact microphones on the paper picks up the sounds I make, and he manipulates them too, and feeds them back to me. Very interesting experience. I feel much more immediately connected to the sound. And the sounds inspire a selection of marks I’ve not been using… the textures, patterns and flow is different. I can see it on the wall in front of me, and as I work I start to encroach upon the drawings from Day 1, absorbing, weaving around, riffing off them. When I have a period of sitting and looking back on it, I see areas that really work well, and others that really don’t. I have a brief internal discussion about whether those areas I am dissatisfied with should stay, or whether they should go through a sort of remix to sit them into the Big Picture. Having landed upon the remix analogy, I decide that I can do whatever the hell I want. It’s my drawing! There are times when it is about the feeling and the experience, and there are times when it is about the aesthetic. This, I decide, is both.
So on Day 3 I decide to do the remix. I look at the tonal qualities, areas that I feel need to be rebalanced, and I look at areas where transitions do not flow, and work on them. Much of this is done without music, in silence to start, and then without my headphones, but with a couple of radio plays instead. The words wash over me and I don’t really pay much attention – so I’ll probably listen to them again today.
Day 5, tomorrow, I have another visitor, Andy Jenkins, who I write songs with for our band The Sitting Room. I don’t really know how this will go, but I think I’m going to mic up the room to capture what we do, then we can mine the recording afterwards, just in case there are any gems we can use.
At the start of each day I have been making word collages to get my brain in gear and to try to minimise the impact of what’s going on in the rest of my life for the day. This works well, and I hadn’t thought that the exercise would have much more purpose than that, but it has occurred to me that these could also be mined for lyrics, or at least starting points.
I feel a sort of opening up of possibilities here, and it is really exciting!