Time to take stock

by Chantal

One of the weekly workshops at Debut Contemporary

It has been nearly six months now that I have been with Debut Contemporary, being mentored by them and exhibiting with them in London. That time will be coming to an end in the next two weeks. It been a time of forming relationships with other artists, making useful connections with art professionals, growing in confidence, and having some  interesting work opportunities such as exhibiting with Roberta Moore, hosting the Alice in Wonderland art event at Debt gallery, having work auctioned by Hugh Edmeades from Christies and now being part of Flagstop in LA. The downside to this has meant very little studio time. I have been travelling to London to attend the debut workshops on Tuesdays and at other times investing a lot of time into networking, marketing and promoting to “get my money’s worth” out of this time. Alongside family commitments and a patchy health period the studio has been without me most days.

Talk at the Courtauld Institute organised by Debut


I don’t regret the six months gone but I am ready for a fresh season, one that is all about creating and enjoying the process again. My time with Debut is drawing to a close, my health seems back on track and come September both my children will be in school! I am seeing glorious stretches of studio time ahead and it’s very exciting!

Looking forward to getting back to spending some serious time in here!

Last week I was tired and grumbling to my friend about a rejection to a show which I had decided my work was perfect for. I was doing that thing where you start to question if your work is “good enough”  because somebody has judged it and found it wanting. Instead of telling me that the judges were clearly all blind or had been bribed by wealthier entrants my friend proceeded to give me a good talking to about my perspectives and priorities in my practice at the moment. He said it seemed like I had lost a lot of the joy that I had when I first started making and that  I’d been approaching things differently in terms of trying to make work, with my focus being on achieving. He was so right. I’d stopped playing and exploring in my practice, and felt that anything I made needed to be justifiable. There was no time to waste time. My creativity had to be purposeful. But unfortunately thats not how my creativity works best. Thats just how I end up pushing myself into a mental corner.

He reminded me of a lot of things that I’d forgotten and suddenly the whole point of it came flooding back and I felt liberated. When had I suddenly decided it was a race? An external standard I had to work towards?  I went back to read what I think is my favourite art book, “Annette Messager – Messengers” and was inspired again by not just her work but the way in which she works with such a sense of freedom and exploration. It feels like her art practice is an adventure. She flits from one topic to another as she is taken by it and makes work from it. I have wanted to do that but started to get hung up on the art world idea of an artist focusing on their “thing” and not even knowing what my “thing” really was! I mean, I definitely have “some things” but was I supposed to pick one and what if I picked the wrong one?

Annette Messager, “Histoires des Petites Effigies” (1990).

So the take home message was just start making again – whatever I like! That was feeling pretty good and then yesterday it got better with a research trip that Dean and I made to Pitt Rivers Museum for our Majestic Elk project. It was the first time I had been to the museum and it was amazing! I felt like a small child chattering away in excitement from one cabinet to the next with thoughts and ideas. Then it clicked – this is how the work always starts for me. With wonder and with my eyes open. With seeing. How had I forgotten that? I had been doing plenty of looking at contemporary art lately, and plenty of thinking about theories and concepts, but not so much looking at the world. The Pitt Rivers Museum had three floors of wonders (not to mention the national history museum that its part of!) to take in and I am home inspired, excited and ready to start making and having fun!

My wise furry friend and me at the museum