Well, the first post in a long while and I’ve been working on myself. That is to say, I’ve arrived back in London with all its art and artists going on after 7 long years in the wilds of Spain and it’s taking some readjusting. My mantra of the week is “ambitious”. I’ve been repeating it to myself to remind myself to play a bigger game rather than to just use the excuse “I’m far too busy being a mother to be able to even think about making art or even having the time to make any… let alone make a living as an artist or have a ‘career’…” and have been visualising myself finding a studio and making some fab new work, including installations and some huge paintings and paperwork… I even bought some paper and thread (I have some materials!).
To encourage this type of thinking further, I googled “ambitious artist” to see what kindred spirits I could find. My search proved fruitful as I found “the most ambitious art installation ever attempted at Monterey Museum of Art” and thus stumbled upon the work of Ingrid Calame. Ingrid literally traces marks – spills, stains, tyre skids etc. that she finds on the street, then takes her tracings back to the studio, where she builds them up in layers and then makes huge, intricate and often colourful paintings from them. She likens her process to an attempt to map the world around her.
I love the fact that her work is process-based, yet could be read as conceptual. She makes ‘abstract’ paintings from a process that is very literal in terms of being a ‘true’ representation of what she observes. She uses simple, traditional techniques like pricking holes (cartoons) through the paper and then pouncing pigment through it to transfer the drawing onto the wall. These processes are often time-consuming and laborious, and she uses a team of assistants to help her make the tracings onto large architectural tracing sheets, then assemble them into paintings in her (large and ambitious-looking!) studio.
There’s an air of calm about her when she talks about her work and a sense of complete surrender to the process. I imagine it to be quite meditative – following the lines already layed out by some accident or incident on the street, then repeatedly working on these same lines over and over – layering and choreographing them to make a new drawing come alive. Then there’s that wonderful part of the process that reminds me of painting by numbers – filling in a specific space with a specific colour right up to the line. I always felt happy when doing those paint by numbers kits – no decisions to make, except which space to paint next – just following your intuition.
It was great watching this film, as it reminded me just how good it feels when you’re on a mission through a process, especially with drawing and painting – you know exactly what to do next step-by-step and you become totally absorbed in what you’re doing, until hey presto, it’s done and you have a finished piece. What a great feeling. Thanks for reminding me Ingrid! I feel all ambitious again…
Update March 2015
Here’s a short and sweet video interview about Ingrid Calame’s latest tracings… and I realise this has filtered into my work, as I’ve been working on rolls of tracing paper for the last 4 months or so.