Monday, October 26, 2009

Baby steps

The end of August marked the sixth month of my full-time art practice, so I took stock of how productive I'd been so far, tallying up the hours spent on various projects. This was not as hard as it sounds, since I note down my activities daily using a timesheet.

The timesheet is a concept I borrowed from lawyers. A unit of time is six minutes. This makes it easier to manipulate the figures using base-10. Hence:

Stretching watercolour paper, 5 units (half an hour). Writing an art proposal, 70 units (7 hours). Writing an exhibition review, 146 units. Attending an art opening, 10 units. Keeping abreast of art news & blogs, 5 units. And so on...

When I looked at my results, I was disappointed because I always expect more from myself. After a while, I consoled myself with the fact that dealing to my art practice for an average of 4 solid hours per day was not so bad after all, given I was still trying to find my daily rhythm. It was also reassuring to know that a large bulk of that studio time was devoted to painting, writing & preparing proposals (all the proposals came to no fruition, but that's okay, I'm still learning).

The results also helped sharpen my daily goals. I now tell myself every day that I have to get over that 4-hour mark. This helps when the day starts to drag after lunchtime!

Here are some organizational tips that I find very useful

If something can be done in under 2 minutes, just do it immediately before you forget. The '2-minute rule' is especially useful when having to send brief email replies.

At the end of your day, plan for the next by deciding on 2 things to accomplish before 10am, be it making a telephone call or finishing a drawing.

Take note of the things you tend to do when you procrastinate. For some, it's attending to emails and surfing the internet (I'm guilty as heck). For others, it's going to the coffee shop on the pretext of planning in your diary.

Wednesday, October 14, 2009

OK so

As much as I want to be as open as I can about art, I don't like art that is only about the art world. I have a great aversion toward insularity of any kind, be it in people, in religion, and yes, in art that is made for other artists to applaud at its own cleverness.

(I don't like films that are about film, for that matter. Festival In Cannes, a film starring Greta Scacchi, is an example of this. By contrast, a director like Tarantino references other people's films as well as his own but his body of work rises above simple fanboy discourse and, to me at least, his films offer interesting points of discussion about feminism. [Had to edit this part because I just remembered how the debate went exactly:] And to digress even more: I was listening to a friendly debate among friends recently about this. Somebody was pooh-poohing the idea that Tarantino is more of a feminist than Sofia Coppola has ever been (which is my take on the subject). Not that Coppola has ever claimed to champion feminism, but as only the third female director to be nominated for an Oscar, she unfortunately carries that torch. My friend said that Tarantino's pro-feminism is incidental in the way that Coppola is 'incidentally' misogynistic and the reality is that Tarantino merely displays a fetish, if you like, for strong women - the same way R Crumb has a fetish for big women. The use of the word 'incidental' was interesting.)

Sigh. It's very difficult to talk about art in this way. I feel as though I've painted myself into a corner. I guess the lesson is that one can't really talk about art, only around it. For instance, I don't know what the function of art is, I only know what I don't want it to do.

To change the subject

I like books immensely. Books present a welcome distraction when I'm trying to write art proposals. You can tell it hasn't been a productive last few days for me, hehe. Having just put down a CK Stead novel, Talking About O'Dwyer (not one of his best but engaging enough and generous toward its characters), and Yasmina Reza's novellas (brilliant, stylish, some might say too stylish but young people like myself don't mind that eh!), my next plan is to attack this pile of books awaiting my attention:

Tash Aw's Map Of The Invisible World
Nicolas Bourriaud's Postproduction - it looked interesting in the library & tiny enough for me to handle. Let's hope the translation is better than what I remember of his earlier book, Relational Aesthetics
Frank Sargeson's bio by Michael King
Janet Frame's autobiography - am looking forward to this one. CK Stead wrote an illuminating article about Frame here.
David Mitchell's Cloud Atlas - a few eminent writers have praised this but I don't know if I will in fact give it a try... It's been sitting on my shelf for months now
Lloyd Jones' Here At The End Of The World We Learn To Dance - another one I'm looking forward to
Mark Haddon's A Spot Of Bother

...Oh dear. These will take me into the new year, I'm sure.

OK back to work now.

Saturday, October 3, 2009

Two loving poems about fathers

The first one is by Bill Manhire, who Lloyd Jones said is the best living New Zealand poet (I don't concur, as I have my own favourites). In Our Father, I love how he builds up a sense of height in the poem, from a child's foot to a child on his dad's shoulders to a tall pole out of reach. Parents are indeed larger than life.

Our Father
by Bill Manhire

On one trip he brought home
a piece of stone from the river,
shaped like a child's foot

and filled with the weight
of the missing body. Another time
he just walked in

with our lost brother
high on his shoulders
after a two-day absence;

and it seems like only yesterday
he was showing us
the long pole, the one

out there in the yard now,
taller than twice himself,
that still hoists

our mother's washing out of reach.


This next one is by earlier New Zealand poet James K Baxter who has a new book on the shelves 37 years after his death, a fresh selection by Sam Hunt. There is such love in this poem, as he describes his father's smile like 'a low sun on water'.

To My Father In Spring
by James K Baxter

Father, the fishermen go
down to the rocks at twilight
when earth in the undertow

of silence is drowning, yet
they tread the bladdered weedbeds
as if death and life were but

the variation of tides -
while you in your garden shift
carefully the broken sods

to prop the daffodils left
after spring hail. You carry
a kerosene tin of soft

bread and mutton bones to the
jumping hens that lay their eggs
under the bushes slily -

not always firm on your legs
at eighty-four. Well, father,
in a world of bombs and drugs

you charm me still - no other
man is quite like you! That smile
like a low sun on water

tells of a cross to come. Shall
I eavesdrop when Job cries out
to the Rock of Israel?

No; but mourn the fishing net
hung up to dry, and walk with
you the short track to the gate

where crocuses lift the earth.