‘I’M NOT OK’ was made after a trip I made to the cemetery a few years ago. I’d been visiting my father’s grave and as we were driving out I caught a glimpse of a floral wreath that appeared to spell out the words ‘I’M NOT OK’. By the time I’d looked back to see if this was real it had passed out of view and so I was able to confirm in my mind a wreath that said those words – so let’s assume it didn’t really say GRANDMA or AUNTY BERYL.
Was it a joke? Who would commission such a wreath – the deceased as a last wish or a grieving relative? It reminded me of the words on Spike Milligan’s head stone ‘I told you I was ill’.
Grief or mourning is something that pops into my work from time to time (see Obituary stuff), I had to do something with this. I had to do something funny.
I made loads of drawings – I couldn’t get it out of my head. It became a mantra – I’M NOT OK, I’M NOT OK, I’M NOT OK…
It was going to cost £300 to have the wreath made from flowers so I decided to make it myself from paper mache. That’s what I’d been working with, it’s what was at hand and it was perfect. PM is associated in my mind with carnival crafts – bright effigies made in Spain or South America. It is solid but not permanent like stone but it would last longer than fresh flowers. I’d be able to play with it. My wreath needed to be ridiculously bright and jolly. These words needed to be difficult to believe – like their counterparts in the ‘How are you?’dialogue – ‘I’m OK’.
I was working to a deadline. I wanted it ready for the Bloc Open Studios to be part of an installation. I was turning my studio into a psychedelic grotto by covering every surface with fluro rawshchach printed newspaper. Would I’M NOT OK be a bit obvious in this space? I didn’t want to say look at me I’m crazy. It wasn’t even about me. I didn’t have time to paint the words – but this was OK. I let them blend in with the newspaper – maybe even get a bit lost.
Working with words is HARD. People read them and either take them at their face value or try to read more into them. (Of course – I’m not complaining). This means it’s harder to be flippant or just aesthetic or lack conviction. Words add meaning to other things. Putting those words in that environment meant people thought something was trying to be communicated to them. I’m not sure if this is a good or bad thing. I wanted the grotto to be a bit overwhelming so in this respect it worked. Maybe I wanted them to be a bit more overwhelmed – to step inside and lose themselves. Its wrong to expect this sort of thing from an artwork.
DH: Yeah, its really important that I wear my, that the influences are worn on the surface of the work. They don’t shy away from the influences. Influences are vital. And I think if theres enough influences, even if they are quite tight or a specific area, something new can come from that. It can move beyond its influences.
LG: Its like this conversation we were having about you going to see Martin Creed and me going to see Gabriel Orozco.
DH: He, he he yeah!
LG: And us both thinking ‘oh no!’, what do we do? I saw a few pieces that looked a bit like what I was doing, you know and at first your initial reaction is ‘oh no’, a million things pass through your mind and one of them is ‘now I cant do that any more’, which is, you know, silly. ‘People are going to think Ive ripped him off!’, but mainly my fear, the reason I said ‘oh no’ is because I really liked what I saw so much and I was scared that I’d have to copy this now, I cant ignore it, and one reaction ive had to that is to get it out of my system and just get some paints out and do it. Not copy it but do the thing I was afraid of having seen that work.
Taken from a conversation between myself and Dale Holmes. For more please go to the Bloc Projects website.. and follow the links to Discourse.
I can’t seem to get anything done without preparing a giant To Do List. I’ve started to live for the ticks and smiley faces.
I spend more time on this than the actual work. Maybe I could make it into work to save time…
(Everything on this list has since been completed.)
Started, in a semi random way dictated to or guided by circumstance. Two little flowers become eyes. The kind of flower you draw as a kid, in your school book, or while talking on the phone. Its relaxing. Meaningless.
Taking doodles to a logical conclusion. The work is repetitive and absurd. I’m simply finding something useful to do with all this dead matter. Each new intervention is like a way to keep going, finding an aesthetic reason to exist. Each line is an extension of desire and boredom. (I was listening to someone talk about Shopenhauer at this point)(Art is the only response to desire and boredom).
The doodle is semi-psychadelic, I could have a problem with that, or I could be re-discovering it. Falling in love with it, seeing it with fresh eyes. It seems overindulgent, the build up of pattern ad-absurdum. Associated with mind-blowing drug use, new age, false consciousness and groovy posters. Especially the way it comes out of the eyes. I can’t help it. Im drawn to the eyes. I don’t care if it looks like visions coming out, naive. I’ll embrace naive if it helps get the job done.
This endless doodle of boredom is filling time and space. Use, usefulness-uselessness.The way it looks, overly frilled, pleated and patterned, is a bit baroque. Indulgent and difficult.Hallucinatory, fractalised, mathematic. A physical effect, illusionary, invoking a so-called mystical experience, contact with the infinite, an infinite number perhaps. Relaxing, meaningless, endless.
(apologies for blurry images)
His face has shapes drawn over it. These shapes are my attempt to work out, think about or remember Pythagoras theorem. Around is shaded in. Shape-form Flat. I can’t remember it, is it about Area? Working out the area of a triangle? It might be more complicated than that…Right now I don’t want to find out, I shouldn’t look it up, I need to figure this out by myself. Solving these simple problems of space, area and form can be done through drawing. Drawing is a tool for thinking.
The drawings I’ve made are not actually about Obituaries or death, or even defacement, although all of these things are involved and can’t be denied. They are even important, however, they are only a hook, some thing that makes the real subject matter richer, or less abstract. Like a plot device (Hitchcock’s MacGuffin in the hands of David Lynch). The real exercise is solving problems of surface, picture plane, illusion, form. Creating space. these images of the dead are a surface where I can play with illusions.