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Neal Tait describes his methodology and I attempt to uncover my own thumb

Neal Tait describes his methodology and I attempt to uncover my own

This is a post from the weareoca.com archive. Information contained within it may now be out of date.

Pottering about on the internet, I found this lovely little video of an artist being interviewed by a group of schoolboys. Although the tone of the video is quite basic (it was made for the now completed Great Art Debate project) the values and personality of the artist come through clearly. Some artists have quite complex frameworks built around their work which makes it difficult for them to give a full and accurate description in words of why they do what they do. Neil Tait leaves what can be unsaid, unsaid, but still gives his interviewers a very clear pragmatic picture of his process.
As an artist who has put myself back into an institutional setting after twenty years to interrogate my own methods and rationale, I found it invigorating and inspiring to see someone so at ease with paint and creativity. I recognise his description of art as something he does to think about his surroundings in a unique way. Whether or not this work is then exhibited for public consumption is less relevant to him than for some other artists.
I’ve had two shows recently which have enabled me to explore this developing schism in my work between the public and private; a posh show at the Talbot Rice Gallery and a more grass roots show at an artist run space in Edinburgh – The Embassy Gallery.  At the Talbot Rice I exhibited work which explicitly addressed issues around audience. I am trying to understand that public side of art, why we go into a gallery and why we look at art, from a practical perspective. In other words what aspect of my own art practice is public or relevant to an audience? What is the difference between me having a studio on my own and just getting on with it, and me taking the results out of that space into the social sphere?
For the second show, I tried out the exact opposite. I made work using an entirely internal and opaque language, or misused a known language, to create an impenetrable art work about my own private mental space.
I suppose this is the point in the blog where I reveal my amazing pronouncement on the results of my experiment. I’m afraid that may take a little longer.  My first tentative working conclusions are that I will need to keep up a multi faceted artistic practice which allows room for both the public and private. In the same way that my brain copes with these different spheres, so my art, if it is to enable me to think freely across my whole life and experience, will need to be big enough to exist in these multiplicities.
The images are by Emma Drye:
You are my audience – 2013 (tin, toys, aluminium sign, acrylic paint)
Perfectly safe 1 – 2013 (convulvulus, pond pump, cordial, acrylic paint, bark chippings)
Perfectly safe 2 – 2013 Detail (oil paint on gesso)

Posted by author: Emma Drye
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5 thoughts on “Neal Tait describes his methodology and I attempt to uncover my own

  • The first thing that struck me about the video was that I could see the artist’s breath! It must have been really cold in his studio- no wonder he was wearing that lovely gown. I found it interesting what he was saying about finding a special place through painting, where he can exist and think about the world. Anything can be the staring point, then be allowed to develop before it is ‘understood’, these moments of openness leading to surprises. I can relate to what you are saying, Emma, about the schism between offering up art for public consumption and just doing it on your own. Having recently visited the Edinburgh College of Art Degree Shows I came away thinking that the balance was too much in favour of the public gaze. All preparatory work was hidden from view. Personally, I like seeing the workings out, the awkward moments, even the ‘mistakes’. These days, artists are encouraged to be business people. That can be a good thing, but needs to be balanced by the nitty gritty of messy studio time. That’s why I like Artists’ Spaces and Collectives, where frames, mounts and pedestals are not necessary. I wonder if that is because I am an artist? It would be interesting to find out whether the non- artist viewing public prefer the polished end of things.

    • Students studying art are expected to produce the type of work that is considered appropriate to the course and this can conflict with the type of work that the student feels they should be producing for their own sake. A good post graduate course should encourage you to pursue your own concerns whether or not they are fashionable or contemporary or supposedly relevant. Perhaps this is the cause of the public versus private dilemma.

      • Not really Jim no – it’s not a dilemma as such – I am genuinely interested and feel it is a sensible thing to investigate at this point in my career. I am not aware of any institutional bias at ECA or maybe the bias suits me so well it is ph neutral. I think I can recognise the individual research interest of the various staff for what they are and pursue my own on my own terms. Heaven knows my own work bears no relation to the work of my own students! I am intrigued by your use of the word ‘supposedly’ in front of the word relevant. What does that imply?

  • Olivia – I too found I was missing the prepartory work when i went round the Edinburgh College of Art Degree show. I wanted to know something more about the journey the artists went through to get to the final piece.

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