I have recently been working with artist and art psychotherapist Andy Ridley to begin the process of documenting, through photography, around thirty prolific years of making art. Andy’s work includes life drawing, painting, collage and three dimensional artworks. As a researcher I often work with archives and share Andy’s interest in making sense of the records that we keep as individuals and as a society.
Andy hopes that by photographing and creating a digital record of his work he can review his processes and take note of the shifts, processes, progression and cycles to be observed in his style of working. Ultimately Andy plans to create a website and use the photographs of his work to share his art with others, and also to help him to work with and to continue to develop his art.
Working through his sketches, drawings and paintings and photographing them with him has been a fascinating process, revealing the scale of work involved in developing and working towards artworks as finished products. It also made me think about space and the way in which artist’s work can be determined or restricted by the space available to them. Given enough space an artist’s work can progress and expand from the sketch pad to large scale painting and sculptural work. The artist can also store decades of work and developmental material.
Andy currently has access to affordable studio space, increasingly a rarity in property market-driven London. A report in the Independent today highlights the problem facing many artists who cannot find a space they can afford to work in.
Sometimes art is intended to be transitory. An artwork can consist of a passing moment in the case of performance, body or live art. Photography can act as a tool to record impermanent artworks, like those by performance artist Marina Abramović. Instead of displaying the “original” artwork in galleries, future displays of the piece take the form of verbal or written accounts of the performance or of photographs or film which documented the piece. The performance could also be re-staged by the artist, in which case it will probably differ from the first time it was created or shown and a new piece is then created.
In the case where artworks cannot be shown in galleries or seen as an original piece by many people because they inhabit a particular geographical location – such as Earthworks or Land Art – they can also be recorded, shared or displayed through photography.
In Andy’s case the photographs of his work on paper are a means to work further with his art and to share it, but I think it is also a form of insurance against the loss of the “original”. Andy refers to his art an attempt to make a record of experience and a way to deal with impermanence as is his desire to record the work itself.
© Drawing by Andy Ridley/Text and Photography by Angela Stapleford – Community, Education & Photography, May 2014