One of the major deadlines in my calendar this month has been the On The Edge arts festival taking place this weekend at Temple Works in Leeds.
I submitted a proposal for a demographic ‘map’ of the light industrial area surrounding the building. My studio is on the periphery of the locality and I take a walk up there to get decent coffee at least once during the day.
In the course of these walks, I encounter a fascinating mix of people which I have been wanting to explore and document for some while. I thought the arts festival would be a good opportunity to do this; I envisaged a massive 6m run of drawings of these encounters. My plan was to work in situ, but prior access wasn’t possible. So I’ve had to create the space in my studio.
I had allowed only this week to do the work: it has to be installed on Friday. It took me the whole of yesterday to wrestle with the roll of paper which had a will of its own running counter to my vision, and to set up my studio for work, as well as go out onto the streets to record and collect my material.
This morning I came in the face the blank sheet of paper. Imagine it. Six metres in width, and one and a half metres high. To be filled in three days. Facing blankness is disconcerting I think for most artists. Especially when marks cannot be erased. There is no painting out or over on this paper. Every mark I make survives to tell a tale. I gazed at it with not a little horror and awe.
And so it has been an intimidating morning. I am living on my wits with nowhere to go and hide. It took me an hour to settle on my medium; after starting with charcoal and then moving to oil I ended up with acrylic thus breaking a few rules in the book there.
This is to be a temporary installation. Propped against a rough wall, it doesn’t want to be polished. But after the first few figures it was looking a bit too rough. Forcing myself not to return and meddle is hard, because I plan that the mass of figures will make the piece work rather than individual elements. But still it is a tightrope experience.
I have no plan other than to just draw on the order in which I encountered the passers by. I do not know what it will look like. I don’t know whether to wish Friday to come quickly or slowly.
I do know that I am most certainly On The Edge this week.