One of the more interesting and engaging parts of my first semester as a Fine Art student at a BA level has been an excursion myself and my class made to a local exhibition space in order to set up a ‘practice exhibition’. The fascinating side of this activity was not that of ‘experiencing an exhibition for the first time’ as my Foundation class- being the earnest and not a little bit extra group that we were- made great efforts to have our final show work as accurate to the more real experience of showcasing our work in a professional setting as was possible in our limited space and with very limited funds. Rather, I enjoyed the more simple side of things on this occasion; taking the time and space needed rather to see our work in different situations and upon separate backdrops without the impending deadline of a graded show breathing down our necks. For myself, this largely led to me focusing more on a collaborative role than one of solo benefit. I shared spaces with a number of different sculptural works – my own being wall based on the whole – and spending hours ensuring that each piece worked with each other work in a space became an intellectual challenge that myself and my collaborators all enjoyed grappling with throughout the day.
Safia Rezai was my most frequent and keen collaborator in these experiments with space, us placing our work in the most awkward spot available in the Chambers, turning trying to turn our pieces into an acceptable and cohesive exhibition by moving them inch by inch across the bumpy wooden floor – the beautiful natural light slowly being lost as its eaten away by the beast that is a winter afternoon, matching the naturalistic bumps and cracks of her plaster sculptures with the fragmented and abstracted lines of my pastel and acrylic portraits on the wall. Funnily, her pieces though more naturalistic in form were cast from white plaster giving them an almost alien appearance whilst I had blended the strange lines and shapes of my expressionistic portraits through more subtle and earthy tones, making them thus feel more alive. As a pair, the sets were a mirrored hexagon of concepts.
It is interesting that our pieces formed mirrors of one another also, simply considering our usage of a large mirror left in the exhibition space as a way of further confusing ourselves in the set up process. The mirror was originally intended – in my mind – to give Rezai’s sculptures a more rounded and three dimensional space to be viewed in without forcing people to walk around them, whilst also framing their reflections against my pieces on the wall in an interesting way, however, this led into a further complication upon complication as we became obsessed with the mirror-world beside us being a factor of equal consideration as that of the real. For us to be happy with our composition within the space, it could only work as if doubled across two rooms. This process did not teach us only about the process of exhibition, but also a great deal about our own works.
In this context, it becomes easier for one to realise the true meaning of the subjectivity of art – ones experiences with and around a piece can change our view of it dramatically, even if it was us who set about creating the piece with one thing in mind in the first place. The creative process does not complete its journey with the last stroke of a brush against canvas; it is rather a constantly evolving life form hiding at the back of our minds, waiting to confuse us with its fickle heart.