It’s an odd thought that this time a week ago, Andrew Wood was nothing more than a name on a rather unusual job-poster, and I knew nothing whatsoever about fine-art ceramics. Both have rather taken over my time and attention since then. I have a knack for finding opportunities to get entirely out of my depth in short time frames, so that in itself comes as no surprise at all. Looking back it occurs to me that most of the important things in my life have come about from sudden decisions to jump into things I was in no way equipped to deal with. Apparently I like the challenge of a steep learning curve, and opportunity to see the world from a new angle.
Andrew Wood is a Stroud-based ceramic artist with quite a history, which I am now in the business of becoming fluent in. I confess this blog is partly a warm up because later I will be writing press releases for his open studio event in May. I did not know, until after I’d landed myself this opportunity, that Andrew founded Prema arts centre, in Dursley. Prema is where I saw The Tempest, with a minimal cast and a lot of hat swapping. It’s where I studied Tai Chi for 2 terms – both significant events in my life. An arts centre in a village, Prema was a place of magical possibility and wonder in my childhood and I can’t begin to unpick all the threads of influence there. Grow up with an arts centre on your horizon and the world is a very different kind of place, and being a creative person seems like a much more viable option.
I’ve always loved clay work. I have something bordering on a fetish for hand-thrown pots (there was an awesome potter in my childhood as well) and nowhere to put them. I have a longstanding fascination with the fine end of art, although I’m fairly uneducated, but I like to look. I did once hold a ceramic ash-tray made by Picasso. What I’ve never encountered before is clay worked very much in 3d and yet presented on a wall almost like a flat piece of art. I’ve also never previously encountered anyone painting onto clay with oil paints. The art I’ve been looking at over the last week is like nothing I’ve seen before. I’ve dusted it, getting to know the colours, textures, shapes. I am reminded of the suggestion that writing about any other form of creative expression makes about as much sense as dancing about architecture.
You can see some images of Andrew’s work here – http://www.andrew-wood.com/the-shape-of-things-to-come but it really doesn’t do the experience justice. The photographs don’t capture the intensity of colour or the physical scale of the work – it’s big. The free-standing piece at the bottom is nearly as tall as me.
One of the things I’ve learned in the last few days, is that a process has been underway in the fine art world that seems entirely comparable to what has happened in publishing and music. A narrowing of possibility, a closing of doors, a caution and conservatism that limits scope for everyone involved at the creative end. Twenty, thirty years ago it was a lot more viable to make a living by making art – be that fine art, literature, theatre or music. It was also a good deal more feasible to make a living at the popular end as well. Something has gone awry there, and it is right across the creative industries. I had been nursing a hope that some other spaces might be different, but the recent crash-course and what I’ve been picking up about high brow literature and theatre indicates a depressing universality.
Perhaps it is in part because I grew up with an arts centre in my awareness that I am so convinced that collectively we need art, and we need it to be viable for creative people to make a living out of what they do. There’s a curious circularity to all of this.