Part One: Making Failures

During the week of the MFA seminar two artist talks especially made me think of ideas or questions that pertain to two different sides of my own practice,  Making and Method of making, ideas discussed in the talk by Noel Ivanoff, and Social Culture, discussed by Bepen Bhana. I will post my writings on the two talks as separate posts.

Post One: Making Failures.

One of the most important things to come out of the MFA seminar for me was the idea that its okay to make work that may not succeed, that the trick is to keep making. In the year since I graduated I have found my practice becoming stilted as I have been trying to only make work that is ‘good’, work for competitions and for sale. This has meant that there was no room for failures and each blank page becomes a frightening prospect when it is finally clipped to the drawing board. In this kind of behaviour pattern it is easy to forget the simple pleasure of making, making for the sake of making, regardless of whether anyone thinks it is any good.

Noel Ivanoff as well as Mikala Dwyer both spoke of failures and the generation of work in their artist talks, the importance of generation, or re-generation and the recycling of works or ideas within a practice. Both artists were honest and unembarrassed to declare that they had thrown out entire skip-fulls of ‘failures’ and this honesty helped me to realise my own fear of failure.

To me, Noel’s practice becomes about crafting work to a meticulously high standard and the repetitions needed for such a high standard, for every performance or artwork there is the need for countless, and invisible hours of practice. The repetitions themselves, repetitive artworks and the repetitive movements and actions needed for his artwork speak about human nature, they hint at the way we as people make sense of our world, our ordering systems; we line up, we box off, we categorise. In Noel’s work the method itself, describes meaning.

During Noel’s discussion there was a point where he laid out for our inspection some of his works, one that he described as being a failure. When he disclosed why he thought it was a failure I agreed, yet there were others in the group who disagreed and saw the mistakes as the paint asserting itself against the artist’s wishes. For me, that one work, the ‘not quite up to scratch’ painting summed up how I feel about Noel’s practice and opened up questions about some of my own ideas.

What makes Noel’s artworks intriguing and fascinating for me is the flaw, the fault, the one screw not flush with the woodwork.  In that fault is the fallibility of being human, despite an endeavour for perfection, that seamlessness can never be attained due to the nature of the material and an ‘oh so human creator’.

Is that then where meaning lies? In the imperfections, not the ideal. In the broken, the dodgy, the outcast? The one that is thrown away? How does this idea apply to society? Do the archetypical outcast characters from our society, the deranged, the homeless, the whore, become metaphor for human fallibility? Reminders that the quest for perfection, for idealism is just that, a quest, with no attainable climax or conclusion?


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