In January 2023 I started a conversations project during my residency at Applecart Arts. I sit down and have a conversation of approximately one hour with someone I am interested to have a conversation with. Whilst there might be particular things I am interested in, I don’t have questions planned in advance and what happens is organic. Whilst we talk, I paint. What I share here is the painted/drawn outcome of the conversation. Afterwards, I write up my reflections which come from the conversation. Then, they go into my gallery of conversations, which you have found yourself in here…
Annabel Miller is an artist and curator. I know her because we’re second cousins! This was the first painting conversation with someone I’m related to (as far as I know).
I had been keen to speak with Annabel as when my aunt Jill (Annabel’s gran) died suddenly at the end of last year, I’d felt a particular mourning as I had wanted to talk to her since my accelerated art/making over the past year. She was an artist. At her funeral, Annabel spoke and she said how every time she made something new, Jill is who she would show. I thought, ah-ha, this is someone I could talk to about Jill and art and have some of that experience through Annabel! Then I thought I’d love to have one of these painting conversations with Annabel anyway.
I asked her about how she’d show Jill her work and she explained how Jill would be quite direct in her criticism. She gave an example of a painting where she wrote in the painting, what the subject of the painting was; “the limping man”. Jill had said to not make anything too obvious as it leaves it more up to the viewer. It was a funny coincidence as I often put words/writing into paintings and had been thinking whilst painting before Annabel arrived at Applecart, about whether I wanted to just paint the thing I wanted to paint, and have the words as the title instead of actually in the painting, for similar reasons.
I wonder about why I do like putting words in. I think I sometimes want to get a point across and that’s easier with words. Also I love making people laugh. Writing this made me wonder if I do it to help me connect with the viewer/express myself clearly which is an anxiety of mine. Like, maybe people won’t think the art is very good if it’s confusing. Writing that, I’m not sure if that really matters to me.
We also talked about what it’s like to have a critic like that. Annabel said sometimes she’d think “oh why can’t you just say it’s all wonderful” but at the same time, knew then that when Jill would say she liked something, she really meant it.
This also makes me think about me and family/close friends and art. I’ve noticed that people that know me well sometimes say very very little about what I draw/paint. Or they might say “ahh you’ve improved a lot!”, with what I perceive as surprise/relief. I wonder about whether it’s harder to show more creative expression to family as they knew you before and they find it kind of weird to see you step out of where they have placed you. I also wonder if there is a sort of mini panic of “oh I have to like this person’s work” which inevitably makes it harder to enjoy. I honestly don’t mind if my family (or anyone) like/don’t like what I make. I’d rather they didn’t feel a pressure to like it or not like it. It’s ok because I’m not doing it for them, I’m doing it for me, other people just get to look at it.
If you’d like to find out more about Annabel’s work you can head to her instagram here.