Transformation | The Open College of the Arts
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Sometimes it is good to have a deadline so short that there is no time to think, no time to ponder and no time to reverse decisions. Of course I would rather not be in this position very often but, when it does occur, there can be several benefits.
On a recent trip to Mexico with Jono, my business partner, an opportunity arose to build an installation in a gallery which had a two week slot between other shows. Galeria Thomas Flechel looked attractive and enticing with its plate glass windows fronting a leafy sunlit courtyard. There was no brief and there was no plan but, if we could build something in two days then there would be an exhibition. A private view was hastily arranged and Jono and I sat in the gallery to ponder our next move.
We had brought some neon light tubes with us which we had been using to build beacons in the UK (see my previous blog post) but did not have any means of fixing these or, indeed, any notion of what to do with them.
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I believe that artwork is never finished and never static but rather that it constantly evolves and changes as one idea flows into the next and one method of making informs another. Everyone who has drawn and sketched ideas or experimented with materials to answer a brief has an amazing resource to refer back to. Collected ideas, textures and references in sketchbooks form a vast library of possibilities. Allowing previous work to be the basis of new work can be a healthy and at times, essential, tool for creating new forms with spontaneity and soul; Being spontaneous allows the creative mind to respond intuitively without giving space for doubts and preconceptions to cloud the artists identity.
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And so, while we sat with our cool beer and looked at the gallery floor, the notion of the minute cracks in the concrete struck us as symbolic of the beautiful openness and honesty of our friends in Mexico; Friends who gain strength through their vulnerability. We explored this idea with pencil and charcoal rubbings until we had the form of the sculpture that we were destined to make.
It would have been easy to reproduce those cracks in light by laying the neon on the floor or fixing it to a wall but we were both sure that this line of light should dissect the gallery space. Nearby, a local market was being refitted and a pile of waste metal was lying conspicuously on the ground watched by a lethargic Mexican workman. He agreed that we could have the waste and we triumphantly wheeled it back to our gallery and set about strapping it all together with cable ties. We were drawing in three dimensions.
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The installation was simple, effective and a huge contrast to the two year project which we had recently finished. After our two days of thinking and building, and after reflecting on the success of the private view, we concluded that the short deadline had made us respond intuitively and honestly to a brief which was just to do something that we had not done before. Following the show the material was returned to its recycling destiny – but I hope that this unexpected intervention will remain in the minds of those who came across it.
Video of installation set up at
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Posted by author: Neil Musson
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5 thoughts on “Transformation

  • Thank you for posting this; it is fascinating to see the process. As a Sculpture student, I find it very hard to find examples of contemporary work with the context and process of its making. This, and the other projects on your website, are illuminating (no pun intended!).

  • I have just realised that Neil is a Textiles tutor. A fellow student said to me recently that she saw no reason why a writing student would go to a visual arts study visit, or a musician to a photographic visit because it would contribute nothing to their studies. Neil’s work shows that we shouldn’t think inside boxes, but be open to all influences and directions. It seems to me that the most exciting creative spaces are often between disciplines.

  • Thank you for sharing this process. Very intersting to see how you catch the inspiration available and build on previous work – justifies the value of sketchbook work in the most illustrative way for us new students trying to get to grips with a sketchbook practise.

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