What is it that I actually do?

Yesterday morning, as I was sewing yet more eyelets into a piece of cloth, I was listening to Grayson Perry’s 4th Reith Lecture, I Found Myself in the Art World, on Radio 4. The part that made me stop sewing and really listen was when he was trying to define what it is an artist actually does.

He describes how a friend asked the question ‘ What do you think a contemporary artist does?’ to a group of children on a education programme at the Whitechapel Art Gallery. One precocious child replied, ‘They sit around in Starbucks and eat organic salad’…. (that isn’t the bit that resonated)! After further discussion and thinking about what artists did, she asked them the same question again and the same child then said, ‘They notice things’.

Now that is just so true! It is what I do …. I walk and notice and experience a place (mostly North Norfolk in my case) and then I try to think of ways of representing that place that moves beyond language into materials and processes. I’m trying to say ‘Look what I have noticed … What do you think? … What does it mean to you?’

Then I started to think about the word ‘notice’ and its meaning, so I went to the dictionary.

Notice: 1. mental awareness, attention. 2. a printed or written announcement displayed publicly or inserted in a newspaper etc.

Well …. first definition – yes it applies to me, second definition  – not really….?

So I went to the Thesaurus to widen the definition. These are the words included in the sub-category that I thought applied to me:

Notice : see, cognize, attention, information

With further looking up I got more words to describe ‘Notice’.

See (I have a problem with ‘see’ as we don’t only notice with our eyes but also with our ears, skin, mouth and nose): observe (eyes again), discern, perceive, make out, pick out, recognise, take in, discover

Cognize: realize, sense, become aware of, become conscious of, note, mark, discover

Attention: regard (eyes!), heed, alertness, readiness, watchfulness, vigilant, all eyes, all ears ( what about all nose or all skin?)

Information: communication, narrative, announcement, information, advice, representation

(For someone who is trying to produce non-verbal work that is a lot of words but sometimes words can kick-start a train of thought).

The four words seem to fall into two categories

1. see, cognize, attention 2. information

The first is what I do and the second is the result. I notice and then make something to communicate my response to the viewer.  It isn’t a printed or written announcement in a newspaper but it is an announcement and it is displayed publicly. So you could say, I notice, and then I make a notice … interesting …. but a bit of a ramble  – sorry! Sometimes you just have to set things out.

Here are a couple of photos of a new small salt cloth if you have made it to the end!



6 thoughts on “What is it that I actually do?

  1. Caroline Taylerson

    Went to Studio 21 with friend. Most exciting exhibition that I have been to in ages. The desire to touch was very strong. Went to the Paul Klee the following day touching did not seem relevant in the same way. Pottery and sculpture are both tactile experiences. Touch is such a basic human need and is very evocative and very powerful. More ramblings . Caroline taylerson

  2. ersimarina

    I admit that Starbucks and the organic salad are tempting but what you’ve written here is much more interesting. You got me thinking. I seem to use my senses without immediate awareness of what I take in but eventually it comes back like a flash, mingled with emotions and ideas. A diferred discovery, so to speak. While I actually see things I rarely think ‘that would look good on paper or on fabric’ but when I sit down to work the image jumps back into my mind and guides my hands. Artists are strange people, organic salad or not.

  3. Ulrike Hutchins

    But of course!! the second definitions DOES apply to you! You give notice with your artworks, your books, your drawings. You are making the viewer aware of what you have seen, heard, felt and experienced!

    Oh, and thank you for a brilliant workshop last weekend. I am hearing sounds differently now.

  4. Ulrike Hutchins

    Oooops, my hearing may have improved but my spelling has not. I missed out a letter from my email address!


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