Monday, June 08, 2015

An Artist in Learning (Holly Zandbergen)

Guest Post

I was at the Wimbledon Art Studios for four years. I zipped in on weekends and it gave me a chance to switch my head off and dive into a world of texture and colour. I love oil paint and used the time to learn through experimentation. Each weekend I would add another few layers of character to whatever piece I was working on. Twice a year, the studios open up to the public and about 140 artists show their work. My last exhibition was in November last year, as I was shifting to the blogging/nomadic lifestyle. The show is four days long, and if you get a chance, or someone to cover for you, you can run around trying to see some of the other artists work. I kept hearing about a new artist who used as much oil paint as me and so targeted her studio for one of these dashes. Out in the UK for two years from New Zealand, Holly Zandbergen finds flow in her art in much the same way I do. That partly explains the ever present sparkle in her eyes.

An Artist in Learning
Holly Zandbergen

One of the most memorable discussions I remember from my time at art school was one of vulnerability that came out of a lecturer's need to understand himself. He talked of his own past and what led him to become an artist. A very eloquent and intelligent man, he could have easily gone down the route of science or law. However, it was the sense of frustration and inability one strives to overcome through art that he could not resist and subsequently, chose to pursue.

"I am always doing that which I cannot do, in order that I may learn how to do it."
Pablo Picasso

In constantly working to improve oneself in art, there lies an almost obsessive compulsion to "succeed." However, to reiterate this notion of Picasso's, it quickly becomes apparent that true success comes through the process of making, rather than the final result itself. In this desire to learn, artists including both Picasso and my lecturer, are people who require the need to learn in order to feel a sense of fulfilment within their practice.

It is in this same compulsion to improve oneself through learning that I also find myself to be within the field of art making. I consider myself one who is hungry for growth more than one who is "artistically gifted." It is the experiences I have gone through, my reactions and my desire to learn that compel me to find a new understanding through the act of painting. This is not to say each painting is a success, far from it. Through failure and recognising it as an opportunity for growth, a new meaning is found.

Since beginning to paint seriously three years ago, I am learning what is essential in my own creative process. Becoming fully present in the moment before and during making of the work is crucial in determining its outcome, as I am able to react intuitively to what is occurring on the canvas. When painting in this state, the work will often unfold in a very effortless way.

The subject matter I chose to explore is also reflective of this desire to learn. In painting people and places of my own past, I am transported back into another moment. As I work through my own inner turmoil while painting, I gain a new understanding not only of the past, but also of myself as I am reacting now. It is in this translation of my inner experience into an external form that I am able to gain a deeper insight of myself.

Therefore, true success in an artist's practice can only be obtained through the pursuit to "do which cannot be done". In realising the necessity of opening oneself up to vulnerability and the possibility of failure in exchange for growth, the artist is liberated from fear and able to move forward.

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