Being immersed in the creative process in a welcoming space like the Capel Y Graig is a gift with long-lasting repercussions. The interior, with its tall Georgian windows and high ceiling, returned to its original pastel colours with circular roses and bare, suspended light bulbs was inspirational, as was the changing light in the space. The surrounding landscape that I travelled through each day to it, from Dolgellau or from further up the Dyfi Valley, was also inspiring and gave me an overwhelming sense of expansiveness that contributed to working at the Capel Y Graig.
All year I’ve been contemplating the creative process, working with its fragility and strengths, unpredictability and elusiveness. I am most aware of the creative activity during the physical processes of making, where intuition and chance take part amongst hard physical work, usually in the studio. It took a few days to think of the Capel as a studio too then, rather than a place of worship or for an exhibition. I continued with the threads laid out during the Creative Wales Award and while working, questions presented themselves. I drew and wrote these in small drawing books, alongside making new work each day.
In a large space, where and how can an artwork begin and end? Can I work as fluidly physically with materials like I can in the small drawings books? Can something from floor to ceiling embody this same fluidity as in the notebooks or something in the palm of my hand? In what ways can the objects occupy the ceiling spaces? If I don’t think of ‘finishing’ and concentrate on ‘beginning’…what sense do the objects then convey? How to get a to-ing and fro-ing into the work? How much space can an object own around it and how can it suggest that it owns more…or less…? How to get a temporary sense to a heavy thing? So many thoughts presented themselves each day, some clear and formed, others not.
For me, unformed thoughts occur while putting something together, moving it around or walking in and amongst it. Maybe while turning your head or giving a sideways glance you see things incompletely. It is a particular kind of seeing and making work, visual…physical…and very embracing of all of oneself, but not always directly. Becoming fluid at working is part of the work too then and a great ability to develop I think – hard won and important to look after.
It intrigued me to see how, at the Capel, the space could become so integral to the work. This and many other things enabled by working there were welcome lessons and something that I could not have done in the abstract, nor in my smaller studio in Cardiff.
The Capel is conducive to looking and talking. Near the end of the residency I was very fortunate to have visitors who spent time carefully looking at what I’d been doing. Those gems of discussions were very important, both useful and memorable for the insights and observations that were shared. There were other memorable times too – cups of tea brought in by Avi – and conversations about art, about life, about dogs…while looking at piles of stuff heaped on the floor, draped on the tower or leaning against the walls….half-made artworks seen through the corner of one’s eye…
It’s not only what one does during a residency that is so special but also how it enables you to develop afterwards. I have the feeling there is a lot more to what I did at the Capel than I have understood and so it should be. I am looking forward to things being revealed now that I am back in the studio in Cardiff.
Thank you Avi Allen. Thank you Arts Council of Wales. Thank you mi familia.