Jonathan McCree is a London based artist with 20 years’ experience exhibiting his work in the UK, Europe and the USA. He joined the Arts Lab team in September 2017, seeing the project as an opportunity to explore and develop his work with collaborative practice and audience engagement. By way of an immersive introduction to Arts Lab, Jonathan spent a weekend at Dartington first to give a talk at the Lab on his work, and then to take part in Stephen Park’s first weekend workshop What they don’t tell you at art college.
Reflecting on this weekend, Jonathan writes:
‘Some thoughts about the other weekend have started to coalesce, so I thought I would share them…
Somehow the most rewarding aspects or moments of the weekend, both during my talk and Stephen’s workshop, were when the most challenging questions were asked, often in resistance to what was being said and done. In other words I liked the juicy, difficult moments!
It seemed to me at the time, that resistance was always encountered when the tasks, ideas or conversation started to question the autonomy or uniqueness of the individual. I had the feeling that people were saying ‘hands off this part of me, which I hold to be sacred’.
Phrases like ‘this is not me’ or ‘this is not my practice’ seemed to surface. I remembered that when I used to teach, the only job I really felt that I had was to try and locate and pull the rug from under students feet! Of course this is challenging and the willingness to ‘let go’ comes with confidence.
It often amazes me and always fascinates me how at some point this always happens; as if a student might be saying ‘now I have too much to loose’.
Years ago in my own practice, I reached a kind of impasse, which I was not happy with. Instinctively I felt that the way out was to challenge everything I felt to be ‘me’; to throw away my ‘strengths’ and investigate certain areas or ways of making, which I felt might be specifically ugly, bad, wrong, or just plain not me. The process was startling. I undertook this by myself over a long and sometimes difficult period of time. And I suspect is now a part of my everyday thinking. I wonder if a space like Arts Lab has as part of it’s possibilities, the chance to provide a safe place of fixed duration to encourage these questions.
It occurs to me that there might be an interesting workshop to be done around the language we use to describe ourselves and what it is we think we make. As it is often the words that circumscribe the physical, which seem to hold us up!
I think that art and art making has the potential to be transformative. However I also think that we only ever make those transformations ourselves. I don’t think that art has any answers as such; doesn’t contain truths. Philosophically, art embraces and can sit with paradox or paradoxical thinking, and that to me is what makes it potentially so powerful. Art, or organisations like Arts Lab, have the opportunity to pose certain questions, which might open up these spaces, either in us or between us.
Don’t know if any of this helps… it may just be the start of a conversation…’
Jonathan will be running a weekend workshop at Arts Lab in February 2018 called ‘Do be do be do be do, the touching eye’.