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Tutorial 3 (15.05.2024)

 

I didn’t know what to expect from this tutorial. I got a lot more than I could imagine.

Th past couple of months I went through a tough time, for professional and personal reasons. There have been moments of deep self-doubt, lack of purpose and consequent anxiety attacks.

I lost my rhythm and stopped making art. There are reasons for that but I don’t see them as valid reasons not to make art. I resent myself for not being strong enough.


With his usual compassion and gentle support, Jonathan helped me face my own demons and renew the commitment to myself.

We talked about the Success and Failure class which made me feel even worse but also felt like a wake up call to react and start climbing out of the dark hole I sliding into.


JK briefly talked about the assessment 1 feedback.

With a bit of distance, I can now say that it hit me harder that I’d like to admit. I wish I didn’t care about it.

JK apologised for it, I appreciated it although it wasn’t necessary. It reflected the judgement of one person (who was not Jonathan) and I have to learn to be ok with it and move on. If ever, it wasn’t his apology to make, and the fact that he made it anyways just confirms the  great teacher and wonderful human being that he is. What I care about now is moving on, it shouldn’t have stopped me from posting on the blog and from sharing my work. I have to resume posting personal stuff, and accept that it might be read by someone who doesn’t know me and certainly doesn’t get me. Art is personal.


JK was very understanding, which gave me a sensation of comfort but also made me feel like I didn’t deserve his compassion.

He said that these ups and downs happen. From an art point of view, they bring reflection and they also bring painfully in front of you what you ought to have done.

But if I use this to energise myself and use this reflection to move forward, it could be a very useful process.

I have to hit the reset button. 

 

JK asked me what is the intention now, what is the planning for the next few weeks?

I travelled and worked a lot lately (for my professional job), so the past month and a half has been more about collecting than art making. I want to go back to some old ideas, now that I have a dark room. Maybe taking inspiration from the Rorschach test, make photograms with the materials I collected. Organise my archive (I’ve got so many rolls to develop, scan, print).

 

My anxiety has been an obstacle to trying something new. I studied all the theory and now I am terrified to screw up the practice. For example developing film. The ABC of darkroom work. I had a bunch of undeveloped film rolls. I knew that I had to learn how to develop them, but I was so afraid to lose the images on it. One night, I felt an urge to DO something. My body was asking me to act.

I accepted the fact that I might loose all the pictures. If it happens, I’ll make new pictures. That’s literally the worst that can happen. You have to be a little fatalist sometimes. Miraculously the film came out right (I still have to scan it, so there might be some traces, but I can see images on it!).

It was a crumble of happiness exploding in my body. Something I hadn’t felt in a while. The sensation of personal satisfaction an gratification really made my day.


Developing film has a similar discovering effect to images emerging from the developer. Some of these films have been sitting there for a few months. The feeling I get when the film comes out is exhilarating, it’s like rediscovering the pictures all over again. They have new stories to tell.

That night I realised that I cannot afford not to do this, not to find time and space, as limited as it can be, to practice.


This brought back a comment from the feedback that I had thought about a lot. It could have been better written, but it had a valid point.

I need to be more flexible in my medium and practice and find other ways to make art when I am away from the darkroom.

Travel is part of my life and is part of my practice. If it's true that I want to explore alternative processes, I have to find out what that “alternative” part means to me.

There are many processes that I could use without a darkroom.

When you are constantly on the move equipment can often be unavailable, but you have to find a creative way to overcome the obstacle and turn it into an opportunity.  

For what it’s worth, I could even just make sketches, write, work with digital manipulation: MAKE.

Travelling cannot be just a time for collecting. It needs to be a time for making.


I also reflected on my practice routine. I tend to do everything all at once, in a very obsessive way. When I can, I am able to work in and out of the darkroom for 14 hours a day for many days in a row.

After our class on quantity vs quality, I reflected on how I should try to improve my practice routine, doing something - might be little and short - every day. It’s like checking in with myself, something that anchors me to my practice.

In the past few weeks I resumed practicing yoga and meditation every morning and I can see the effects of this daily routine on my life, on my energy and on my anxiety.I have to find something similar to anchor myself to my art practice.

Like in meditation, when you practice every day, 10 minutes can be enough to get you in that state of mind. Much more so that 14 hours straight.

JK suggested to try tracing paper and close observation of images. It could be one of my prints or stuff I find around. Just mark lines on top of it. That’s something I can do everyday, everywhere. It could be the same image for a week and observe what emerges from it. There’s something ritualistic in repetition that is important for me.

JK says my images can be great materials (especially the desert ones), as they evoke multiple images in one.


We talked about my connection to the desert. I feel the need to explore this environment and I don’t know quite yet why I am so attracted to it.

Maybe it’s my inner landscape. Vast, isolated, hot and cold?

JK noticed that there’s a whole spiritual practice/philosophy of the desert, as a place of meditation in most religious traditions: the isolation, the harsh environment, the extreme thermic excursion…it’s a space full of transitions.

The hidden life of it intrigues me as well. The desert feels so alive to me.

I need to record this, and remember this feelings when I am back in the darkroom. Work on the same images over and over again.

Practice and hard work beats talent every time (Anslem Adams).


We talked about how I built my darkroom, one piece at a time. It took longer than buying a whole kit directly, but the great thing is that now I know how to do that, I have searched and chosen every little piece of equipment, each element has a personal connection (thanks Daniel and Holly). It is mine, I know it inside out (including the enlarger I managed to fix by myself!).

 

JK asked: “Do you feel the need to find something that is the core of your practice (theme or technique)? Or do you think you want to keep exploring and playing with different techniques?

I think I’m on the road of finding my core theme-s but for the moment I don’t want to choose one specific technique. I’d rather want to keep experimenting and tell a similar story in different ways.

My artistic path up to this moment has been constantly changing (discipline, places, tools) and I found it more enriching than dispersive.


We briefly talked about the research paper. I looked back at my blog posts, trying to find connections and recurring themes.I’m particularly interested in perception, invisible realities and some kind of spirituality.

One of the first ideas was to explore this theme in the medium of photography, Sugimoto being one of the main reference artists.

However, I’ve been spending a lot of time in the Middle East and Morocco, and I noticed I often record the scents that I smell and the emotions they evoke. I started thinking of incorporating incense in my work. I am doing a commercial job that involves incense. It feels like a sign.

So I started toying with the idea of  doing a research on olfactory art. And I found out it’s a very vast topic! Although there is not a lot of research about smell and photography.

One of the reasons I think I will choose this topic, is that I have no idea how it might influence my practice. I like the challenge.

I think going in the direction of researching not just another medium, but another sense altogether might spark a more interesting dialogue between my research and my practice than if I did a research that involves visual arts or photography. I don’t know what is going to come out of it but it’s intriguing. 


So what’s next: I have to get my shit together and do what I ought to have done.

(I realised I was swearing a lot during the call, which is unlike me. Maybe I’m losing it or maybe it’s a symptom of release and not caring, which I see as a good sign, ironically).

JK told me not to be too hard on myself. This is life and this is the way it works. That I’ve done the best thing in being honest about it. What am I going to do with it?

JK said that he feels that anyway I’ll most likely choose the most challenging road. That he can hear in my voice that I’m more excited about the second option for the research paper, not just despite being the most challenging one but because of it.

That kind of excitement is fuel. Unpredictability is an element that I should use in my practice.

The best approach is to start with a question to which I don’t know the answer, and that will push me to explore and research it and then come to a conclusion.

JK added that If someone says that it’s difficult, I’ll probably just dive right into it.

I laughed - he’s not the first person to make the remark – and commented that I should stop doing it, or at least do it more responsibly.

He said something that stayed with me:

rather than being responsible, be kind to yourself.

The point is not succeeding, is accepting the possibility that it might not work. So be kind if it doesn’t work. That’s the only way to get to a point where it might work.

I am dealing with a contradiction that generates stillness: my instinct to go towards a challenge over and over clashes with my fear of failure. I am simply terrified of making a mistake, even if I’m fully conscious that it’s a necessary step to art making. It is very hard for me to take that first step. I feel like my foot weights a ton. And then when I finally manage to take that first step, I start running.

JK recommended a few books:


- Art & Fear: Observations on the Perils (and Rewards) of Artmaking by David Bayles and Ted Orland 


-The Creative Act: A way of Being by Rick Rubin

 

 

We ended the tutorial manipulating some of my desert pictures on Photoshop. I don’t know if he played around with it on his own or if he planned to share them with me, but I loved to get another artist’s point of view on them and see how he reacts to the material. It encouraged me to push further in experimenting with the same pictures, cropping, dodge and burn, masking…go back to old images and see if they tell you something new, something different, something other.



Next Steps:

 

-       Keep digging into the desert. What else is there in this landscape that fires me.- The line in the feedback talking about  finding other ways to make art when I’m away from the darkroom could have been formulated better. But it wasn’t wrong.


-       I have to find flexibility in my art making- Find a daily ritual. Could be retracing the lines of my photographs, with marking paper, doodling, playing with photoshop. This is what anchors me in my practice also when I am traveling.

 

-       Plan to test out past ideas and projects : Rorschach test,  photograms, desert pictures. Use the powders to dye or transfer scent to the prints

 

-       Reflect on alternative work that I can make when I am away from the darkroom. Open to other possibilities.

 

-       Follow my instinct towards challenges. Be kind to myself when I do that.

 

 

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