This is a question I’ve been asked by more than one person (one of which was only six), about the work I have on display at the Fine Art Degree Show in Wolverhampton. I don’t mind that I’ve been asked this question. It is a very honest, and expected, question.
But being asked this throws up a worry in my head. It bothers me that what I’ve put in the show doesn’t look much. I’ve answered each time I’ve been asked this with, rather apologetically: ‘Well, this is it’. But should I feel the need to apologise for lack of stuff?
On face value, it looks fairly pitiful. Four bronze balloons and a sound track. Is that it? Physically it is quite small. In terms of hours spent creating these objects compared to the number of hours in ten months, it is few. Is that all I have to show for ten months work? As my six-year-old son asked: where is the rest of it mummy?
I didn’t explain to him but the rest of it is under the bed at home, in my head and in my sketchpad. It is also on the Internet and flowing around the ether through my thoughts over the last 10 months.
But it still irks me that it does not look, to the six year old at least, that I have done much. It is niggling me. Should I have more to show? Does it look as if I haven’t tried hard enough?
So I have been doubting myself and asking myself: what was I trying to achieve? Is it to make a point, encourage thought about a particular idea, or to show what I am capable of in terms of art practice? I argue that in this case, for me at least, it is the former rather than the latter. But perhaps there is something missing if the first impression to the viewer is: where is the rest of it? If that is the case, that makes me feel that I haven’t fully succeeded in my aim. The viewer shouldn’t need to ask the question. I don’t know whether people have understood my piece or not (I haven’t had the chance to do much eavesdropping). But my six-year-old critic thinks there should be more.
I’m supposed to be exhibiting somewhere else in two weeks time and I’m wondering if I should include more work on the same theme. I do have it. I have a video (more than one in fact). I have drawings, paintings, photographs, binders of photographs, I have a poem, I have text, I have sketches, and I have some word clouds. I have the original balloons. I have plaster balloons. What do I include and exclude?
The decision of what to show when the end of a project is reached is a really hard one. It can be temping to show everything, or almost everything. After all, I want people to know how hard I’ve worked so they should see it all, surely? They need evidence. They need to see that I can draw and paint. But then does all that quantity cloud the message?
What I really need to know is: is there a happy medium between the two?
I think I still have a lot to learn about this: what to show and what to leave at home. I don’t know where the happy place is.
In this case, I would like to stick to my gut instinct and believe that what I have in the Fine Art Degree Show is loaded enough to be sufficient for ten-months thought and work. But on some days, when I am asked that question, it feels as if I am fighting against the tide of popular expectations.