Wednesday, 15 September 2010

ENSIXTEEN EDITIONS - THE BOOKS - 'Night and Day/Day and Night'

As one of the invited speakers at Manchester Metropolitan University’s ‘The Story of Things’ conference on narrative – in all kinds of formats and manifestations – I reviewed my working process, inspirations and agenda in a tight twenty-minute slot.
The event tied to a wonderful exhibition of the same name which local artists and collaborators Jonathan Carson and Rosie Miller (AKA Carson & Miller) had curated – an ‘artistic intervention’ of sorts in which they sought to juxtapose elements from MMU’s impressive and exotic Special Collection. Ceramics, stage wigs, fascinating film from the North West Film Archive (researched with the help of Marion Hewitt). . . all contributed to a genuine ‘cabinet of curiousities’.
Each speaker drew from their own field (journalism, photography, archaeology) in a discussion of their relationship to storytelling, with the usual mix of artist/practitioners and academics/researchers.
I felt I did a pretty reasonable job of stating my case, and had created such a ruthlessly stripped-down ‘script’ for the day that I was able to relish the speaking of the words – the performative aspect of public presentations that has consolidated through years of tutoring and which I really enjoy. I was able to take pauses and let the audience (academics, artists, librarians et al.) appreciate the details from the images I had selected.
While talking I surprised myself with how passionately I felt about the Ensixteen range of issues. Creatively I have to ask myself if these books – these modest paper testaments to what I see as the higher qualities and baser instincts of life – are the thing of me that might outlive me?
My testament?
(Never underestimate the ego of an artist.)
They’re a humble mark on the cave wall, certainly, but I can’t say I feel any particular comparable pride in all the many, many published pieces I made in my years as an illustrator, or the countless frames of the storyboards I made in film and television.

Why don’t I seek out a more professional, broader outlet for the work If they’re so important to me, you may ask?

All I can say in my defense is this: I feel I stepped out on a journey with Ensixteen’s ‘bio auto graphic’ series and the road’s still stretching away into the distance with no end in sight – and that’s good. I literally don’t know where I’m going with it all. But that’s not a cause for fretting. The unexpected is good in this context.
Everything’s copacetic.
I am touched by the enthusiasm of readers, enjoy the act of surrendering to instincts honed over a lifetime and excited by the experience. I feel in many ways they – the books – express my drawing skills at their peak after such a long time allowing them to be shaped by professional, commercial contexts.
Don’t get me wrong, I always felt great pleasure at the delivery of a job – a craftsman’s pride in his trade, perhaps – but as many a poor movie trailer has said: This time it’s personal (in that stupid husky voice, you know the guy).

Anyway, as a gift to the delegates I made a freeform, curate’s egg of thing – a new edition called ‘Day and Night/Night and Day’ which sought to offer a 24-hour record of my head/thoughts – weaving up into the conscious world from sleep and on through typical varied episodes in a day. The parallel upper and lower segments of the page attempted to get across the endless, intertwined strands of our outer and inner selves. It’s dense and highly experimental in the way it juxtaposes images and words.
I was rather pleased with it, and have since made a 2nd edition for wider distribution at book fairs.

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