Since moving on from studying Fine Art at Falmouth, I feel as though I´ve been pulling myself into focus. I want to articulate what filled those three years, the work I did, the artist I find myself to be today. I want to feel a sense of what I have to offer in the world. Who am I now I´ve fledged the nest, the community that was Falmouth 2013 - 16? We arrived as individuals, grew together for three years in that very particular place and time, and now that time has passed, who are we as individuals once more? All of a sudden we find ourselves dispersed and exposed, perhaps exhillarated, perhaps apprehensive, probably confused. When we meet people from now on we may find ourselves answering the question "what do you do" with "I´m an artist"... or perhaps not. Either way, what the heck does that mean?
I´m sitting in the stone entrance of a very old, abandoned, round building set up high on large, weathered rocks. It´s a paloma, once used to house carrier pigeons; what a view they had, those birds! I can see a cluster of farm buildings and the derelict house over by the 12th century church San Fiz, which I know houses some impressive ancient fresco paintings and stone carvings, and a Catholic Priest on sundays who changes back into a Lacoste jumper after the service. The wide valley falls out before me and I can mostly hear birdsong- balckbirds, magpies, crows and the local Eagle, seen but not heard- farm machines in the distance and not much else... The hills are rolling with gathering rain and the view is thick with green, especially the chestnut trees which are fit to burst this autumn and thankfully not all dying of disease like their English cousins.
I´ve been here a month now but I still feel as though I´m in a suspended reality. Uni finished with a stumbling, runaway train rush, followed by a jam-packed summer of festival catering work. Then I graduated, moved out of Falmouth, shed the cocoon of my student life and stepped onto a boat from Newhaven to Dieppe three days later. I have a fair amount of mental processing to do!
And here I am in lushest, greenest Galicia, North West Spain, living in a little off-grid log cabin with my good friend Elena, who after 30 years has returned to Spain for a new chapter to begin.
It´s quite unbelievable, the beauty that surrounds us here, and the kindness and generosity we´re met with any time we ask for directions or advice. And rather than paling in comparison to the sublime mountains and skylines, the miniscule beauties around me and the small pleasures of everyday life are only enhanced.
Keeping in touch with what friends are up to with their art practices after leaving Falmouth is mainly possible via brief glimpses on instagram or facebook, about twice a week over sporadic wifi that usually lasts the duration of an Estrella and tapas. (By the way, England has a lot to learn about serving snacks with drinks!) In terms of staying in the loop, I feel like I´m attempting to catch pieces of paper that are blowing away down the street in different directions: the moment I stop to catch one the others escape and the one I was bending to grab flutters teasingly from my fingers. I don´t think I´m the only recent graduate to feel this way. Perhaps it makes no difference whether you´re in Bristol, Galicia or on the Moon. All the same, I´m grateful to have this opportunity to write on the topic of where I´m up to with my life and art since Uni. I look forward so much to reading what others have to say, about their residencies, shows about omlets at Back Lane West, performance art masterclasses in Berlin, new collaborations, art scenes elsewhere, Space 37´s new guise in Bristol or London or wherever they may be...
I wonder what it is I´m doing here... am I art-ing? Life-ing? Learning? Am I dossing around, or Flamenco dancing on tables with a bottle of vino in one hand and a beyond reasonably-priced tortilla in the other while I wail in fluent Spanish and a group of candlelit olive-skinned señoras clap furiously in rhythm? Not quite... this morning I poured water in my homemade terracotta fridge...
However, while the pace of life here is a considerable step away from the whirlwind of organising art events and political action, group tutorials, spontaneous performances, cooking Indian Street Food, playing gigs at Jacob´s Ladder and being home in time for tea, I have a clear sense that I´m never doing nothing... I´m not trying to make art, or pin down new ideas particularly. My days have more "space in-between times", and I do things with more patience and focus, whether I´m weeding around the lettuces, moving hay or building a firepit. I pay more attention to the basic things. Cooking, for example, requires more holistic consideration of what needs to be used next. We buy, grow and eat food in a way that makes more sense to me- from real normal people at markets, and fresh, before it goes bad. It takes more planning, but it´s much more satisfying than staring at a supermarket shelf full of plastic wrapped peppers. I feel more in tune with the food, the locals, the vegetable garden, the season and my stomach.
Because my daily experience is less saturated with what you or I might call "being busy", other unexpected things enter in to fill the gaps. It´s a bit like being in a boat floating down a calm river, compared to in the middle of a stormy sea. In the sea, I had to put more energy than I realised into keeping the boat afloat, seeing where I was going, shouting over the wind to be heard. That lifestyle was sometimes chaotic, and sometimes thrilling and full of energy. When things were working well I was riding the waves. Moments flew by like gulls on the wind. Now I´m on the calm river, there´s less chance of hitting the rocks and meeting watery doom as I float downstream. I can see things coming. I´m able to look more closely at how the plants grow on the bank, the reflection of my surroundings and myself, notice the pattern of little circular shadows cast by water boatmen. And what´s more, drifting along in the little boat I have the inclination for the first time in ages to write songs, and pictures appear in my mind´s eye of moments from other times. Ideas I´d forgotten about return to me.
Then I have a worrying thought: this river is wonderful and I´m learning so much but is stepping outside like this actually irresponsible of me? Theresa May just became Prime Minister for example and I don´t know enought about it to have an informed conversation. Am I just here fannying about in a field in Spain, becoming more and more entrenched in blissful ignorance, while serious political drama goes down back at home? Do I have a responsibility to add my voice to the fight, or is it ok to drop out for a while, refuse new information and spend time looking at the things around me and inside myself that are already there?
This is the first time for as long as I can remember that I have to go out of my way to see art. There is so much new stuff being thrown at us all the time these days, and I know I was consuming it constantly when I lived the life of Internet Age art school. Without this time to gain some distance and hold a space, I think my time back at Falmouth would blur into an abstract sensation in my head and heart, unarticulated and ever more distant. If I had immediately let myself get more and more busy after finishing Uni, perhaps the essence of that unique time might have slipped from my grasp.
I´m really appreciating this period of indirection. Learning by doing, thinking while gardening, singing while washing up. I trust that the next step will appear when the boat pushes its helm onto the bank... and I love that I won´t know what that step is until I arrive.