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…
Peter is artistic director at Applecart Arts, which has been around as an organisation for the past 15 years. He is also a producer, actor, writer and musician. He was the first person I spoke to after I applied for the residency at Applecart. On the morning of this conversation I felt like using pens, so I took them with me rather than the usual acrylic paints.
I appreciate Peter’s directness and openness about the lack of diversity in the arts and what he would like to change. He wants to focus on stories often ignored, i.e. not the stories of straight white men. I appreciate how he can talk about privilege seemingly without embarrassment – stating it is there and what he would like to do differently about it. Taking up space and willing to step out of the space.
On the morning I went to meet him, he was working on a funding application for a big project Applecart might take on. Every time I meet Peter, Will (and others at Applecart) they seem to be exploring a different big idea/project. I often get this sense that I really couldn’t handle being involved in so many different projects, ideas and experiments. I generally find reasons why things aren’t worth putting my time into, not wanting to waste energy. I asked Peter about his experience of this, and he described how he thinks you need to be unafraid of failure, or rather push ahead despite the fear of failure, as that’s when something probably really matters to you and when something can be done excellently. He said that he looks at the world to make it better – and I guess that you can’t do that without risk of failure.
We talked about creative expression and he described how as soon as your creativity is viewed, it becomes something else. This is why he keeps his music as ‘just for him’ and not to perform to an audience, whereas acting is for an audience and he thinks of it as work. I found it interesting, having different practices to meet different needs or in different ways. At the moment I find my art to be split in two quite distinct camps; one side is portrait commissions where I get totally lost in recreating an image of a person or animal. This is made ‘for’ someone else, and they have some input into what and how I am working. The other side is more about expression of my inner worlds of thoughts, feelings and the unconscious. It’s about the process just as much as whatever strange thing emerges. I might not enjoy it and I might not like it, but it is usually supportive of my well-being. There is also something in the middle, which can be in response to things I overhear and my experiences of being around other humans, which is where this project sits.
I want to contribute in a meaningful and helpful well to the well-being of the people around me, rather than only staying in the reflective personal space. Sometimes, particularly in my organisational development/consultancy work, people scathingly mention “navel-gazing”. I’m never sure what they mean, as they are people who appreciate reflections on experience and vulnerable sharing. Are they just irritated with that particular conversation, did it touch a nerve? However, when writing this, it made me realise that maybe navel-gazing is what I want to avoid in my creative practices. I don’t want to end with personal reflection and only learning more about myself, but connect to other people more intentionally and ultimately make some kind of positive impact.
I’m also aware how some of that probably comes from my reluctance to take up space/have the spotlight for a sustained period – so finding a balance will be a continually interesting thing…
To learn more about Peter and his work, take a look here.