Thursday, March 06, 2014

Solo Exhibition 2013

In a recession the first thing to go are "luxuries" like the arts. People are trying to cover their bills and don't have extra cash to buy a painting or three. For the artist this means slim pickings financially but also a chance to try things that you wouldn't usually. While working on a small scale or developing a bread and butter line of cheaper work to keep things ticking over while the economy tries to kick start itself again you could also experiment with different techniques or subject matter that you never had a chance to while you were on the treadmill of painting what sold.

Alongside trying to extend my bread and butter range over the last few years I've been studying with The Learning Connexion completing my Arts and Creativity Diploma (Honours) with them in 2013. Studying gave me the freedom to try new things and break away from my usual pet portraits. I could try collage, charcoal nude studies, mixed media- in other words without the constraint of painting what I thought I could sell I could just have fun. It's important creative people recapture that pure joy we had as children when we finger painted without a care in the world before we were told it didn't look like anything and wasn't good enough.

It's difficult to allow yourself the freedom of having fun as an adult. There's always something that needs to be done urgently on the housework front or there's the feeling that you should be out there in the big wide world doing something important like saving pandas. That art is a somewhat selfish pursuit. And as for putting your work out there... Who the hell do you think you are? You're no Monet (or as a picture framer once said to me "You're no Ralph Hotere". To move past this, to try something new and put it up for everyone to see was why last year I had my first solo exhibition at Electra Gallery in Waipukurau. I knew I was unlikely to sell anything, especially as this area is still reeling from the 2013 drought and a downturn in the economy. Instead it would be my chance to showcase the different art styles I've been learning over the past few years as well as demonstrating how my artwork has moved on and developed.

"Fem" a mixed media work on a re purposed gold leafed frame

I had six months to prepare new work but soon discovered that this was still not long enough, even for a "mini" exhibition. I was still working on my largest painting to date the day before it opened ending up pulling my first all nighter painting until an hour before I was due to deliver the paintings.

Paintings and my "Kitty Bling" sculpture displayed in the gallery's front window

Kevin Annand who manages Electra was waiting patiently as I turned up over half an hour late and was encouraging about the different work that I was hanging although he warned me that gallery sales were down to what they had been in previous years. When I returned the next day I discovered what a great job he'd done in displaying my "Mini Exhibition" at the front of the gallery.

Some examples of my work including "The Committee" the painting that resulted in my first all nighter

The exhibition last two weeks and I had some good feedback from people who went along to view it. Everyone differed in their opinion as to which piece was their favourite. The CHB Mail ran an article Kevin wrote about me (accompanied by two photos) which was reproduced in the Electra Newsletter the following month. Unfortunately all this publicity didn't translate into sales.

"Arabian Knight" in oils

Well not immediately anyway. Kevin kept back two small bunny paintings and one was sold early in January 2014. Would I have another solo exhibition? Definitely. Perhaps in a couple of years and goodness knows what I'll be creating by then.