I've been thinking recently about whether seeing an evolution in my arts practice is a positive or a negative and all of a sudden I seem to have had a cascade of thoughts on the subject which I thought I'd share with you!
It's commonly accepted that evolution in an elementary sense is necessary for 'survival'. Whether that's making adjustments to the way we live and work in response to what's happening in the world around us, or making radical changes to the way, as humans, we need to adapt to our changing environment. In many ways we have come to accept evolution as part of our day to day existence; for example we can now pay for a morning coffee with a 'Smart Watch' instead of cash and I no longer carry around a 10p piece in my pocket in case I need to make an emergency phone call from a bright red phone box in the street (if you're in the UK, this will resonate with some of you!), I can make a call from just about anywhere to anyone even from the middle of absolutely nowhere - how did we get to that?!
An evolution of sorts is happening all around us, every day, but does this, and should this idea, really apply to us as artists?
If we're making art we love, then surely we should just go on making the same thing?
And if I have an audience that loves my work, then why risk losing that audience by making a different kind of art?
The only flaw in this idea for me, is that I think we are naturally predisposed, even destined, to evolve. We're designed to absorb experiences and happenings and respond to the world around us. And as our experience of the world grows and changes, so we respond differently, maybe only slightly so at first, but sometimes with big leaps of change. I think about the art I was making at 18 years old and the art I'm making today - there's definitely been an evolution happening!
But do I feel a need to evolve my arts practice and what about the time frame? How often should l be looking to make an evolutionary leap of some kind? Should I even be looking for that moment, or is it a waiting game?
The answers to these questions will be different for every artist. But for me, the answers are closely related to my personality. I am constantly curious, I want to know how things work, I want to know what happens next or if I can find a better way to do something. I've never been one for standing still for very long!
And so it is with my art.
I'm keen to see some kind of visual evolution in each new body of work, which at my current rate of work is about every 12 months or so! But this evolution isn't random, I'm not playing hopscotch with ideas, styles or genres. It's steady, progressive and purposeful, I'm currently following a line of investigation into colour and shape and exploring what this conversation looks like for me.
The key for me though, in adopting this evolutionary journey, is being able to see tangible evidence of that evolution. My 'Wall of Curiosities' has been a wonderful thing to have up in the studio. I can visibly see the progression from snippets of ideas and responses taken from my previous body of work, through collages and mini paintings to the larger pieces I'm working on now. The threads are there, the reasons for the current evolution are up on the wall, plain to see. I can look back at this collection of responses as I work and remind myself of the direction I'm now going in and why.
But when I began with this idea I wasn't sure where it was all going, I knew I felt the need for an evolutionary response of some kind but I wasn't sure what it would look like. But I kept going, adding to the wall and giving myself time to reflect and look and notice different things every day. Gradually clarity emerged about what was interesting me the most about this seemingly random collection of sketches and my new line of investigation began to crystallize.
So, as much as I'm always at the ready to take an evolutionary leap, I know that evidence of the need and reflection on why, plays a huge part in the development process for me.
Evolution is natural for me as an artist, as this is how I am in life. Learning, growing, changing, reflecting, responding, modifying; making a commitment to seeing what else is out there, what it all means for my art and in turn what else I can learn about and share with others. All I know is that I need and want to evolve my work and that I'll just keep going on this trajectory, which feels a lot like a destiny full of positives rather than negatives.
But is this evolution necessary for my 'survival' as an artist?
For me, absolutely.
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