Wednesday, June 20, 2012

Jason in June.

What a wonderful month it has been so far; culturally rich with ballet recital, harp recital,  Jason Pollen's visit and the Contextural Summer Residency at ACAD.

Here are folks at the first workshop in Calgary with Jason - Artpoint 1
As I attempt to blog about Jason's workshops and lecture I realize that I cannot improve on what Terri and Arlee (two posts,  here and here) have already written.  Their blog entries give an excellent flavour of the events, and have splendid images to boot.  

Thanks to the folks at ACAD for seeing the benefit to the wider community in having Jason speak to us there.  Thanks especially to Dale for his truly professional work as our Tech Man behind the scenes. And for not batting an eye-lid when asked for another mike... so that I could introduce Jason without being hidden behind the lectern (I am, after all, less than 60" tall).

After lecture day, Jason and I visited MOCA, Calgary.  Here is the work of Iain Baxter& - a detail taken from Now Playing which comprises 120 mono prints.  I call this image "Do bears play water polo?" Sorry Iain.
Iain Baxter&  Now playing

And The Aveune outside the Harry Hays Building - "This Way Up" - for the texture...

As I was beginning this blog entry, Linda Hawke sent me her reflections on her experience at Fabric Construction and Collage.  She has given me permission to share this with you. I hope you are reading this too, Jason.

"Lessons Learned from Jason Pollen

One student’s reflections on two days with a teacher who knows his stuff
By: Linda J Hawke, June 19 2012

Jason Pollen is an elegant and challenging teacher. I had the opportunity to experience his thoughtful mix of directed instruction and open-ended exploration when I enrolled in one of the surface design workshops he delivered in Calgary this June. From the start of our two-day immersion in Jason’s world, my 14 fellow students and I were tasked with setting aside our habitual ways of working in favour of being open to new approaches. In return, the New York artist shared his scrupulous observations, his technical expertise, and his unwavering commitment to the creative act. Jason’s considerable artistic experience is palpable and it shines through his relaxed demeanour at appropriate moments. AS he demonstrated the use of fusible webbing, Jason shared a story from early in his career. He was looking for a way to bond fabrics together without altering the delicate translucence of silk. At the suggestion of an adhesives industry professional he explored using a fabric with a low melting point as a bonding agent and developed a spray-on nylon that acted as an adhesive with the application of heat. As a result, Jason single-handedly invented fusible webbing but did not pursue a patent because he couldn’t imagine a commercial application. Hindsight proves the modesty in that conclusion.

In addition to fusible webbing, Jason introduced acrylic inks, a water soluble graphite stick, and black mounting board as supply staples. I found them intriguing, seductive, and just different enough from my usual materials to demand close attention and require intuitive responses in handling. 

One-on-one, Jason connected easily with his students through the works-in-progress they showed him. He did not offer unsolicited feedback - students specifically invited his guidance. Once engaged he got right to the point. He seemed to effortlessly assess aesthetic compositions and his observations were shared openly with no apparent reserve. The work in question was treated as a presence of its own, as if it were a third party in the conversation. His words never felt like criticism yet they had an impact that led to changes for the better in both this artist and her work.

Because Jason is invested in each student reaching beyond personal boundaries, we do.  His approach is like that of a doula who is genuinely concerned for the well-being of the individuals in his care but nurtures equally what he believes they are about to deliver. For artwork to be birthed whole and alive, the creator must work from a place of confidence. That sense of confidence is his point of contact. His challenges tested students’ resolve and attempted to free us from comfortable habits that inhibit growth. In Jason’s world we are all artists seeking the creation of our best possible work. He offered his wealth of experience, sincere goodwill, and impeccable eye as a bridge to this possibility. It is the individual’s decision whether or not to cross.

I wasn`t sure where that bridge had taken me until the workshop was almost over. Looking at the companion pieces I had been working on most of the second day, I realized not only had I never made anything quite like these before, I had never imagined them. Having experimented with textiles for over 20 years and employed a diverse range approaches, I was searching for cohesion. This work was coming from a new place and resonated deeply through my whole being.

Jason’s feedback to these pieces immediately drew my attention to areas that were not working – two fabric shapes did not seem to fit. I removed them (easily, as they were ironed on with fusible webbing) and like magic, my piece made sense. The changes reaffirmed the emerging artistic voice I was seeing and I wondered how I could have ever thought those bold circles had worked. The shadowy impressions they left behind remain a testament to the process of trial and error and the power of seeing and creating without complacency.

The work I made over the two days with Jason looks nothing like my previous work. It looks like itself. Maybe I will never make anything that looks like this again. But I have made these works, felt their power, and acknowledged their connection to untapped sources within. Taking Jason’s workshop led to major personal breakthroughs for me in what I create, the way I create, and the way in which I think about being an artist. Most importantly the experience brought confidence in working with the unexpected, in responding to new materials, in committing to the messiness and revelation of the creative process.

Still, I wasn`t really sure what I had experienced until I began to write about it. And it was at Jason’s suggestion that I attempted to put into words what the workshop meant to me. He is that intuitive, that perceptive, that dedicated to leading his students to what they need.

In keeping, Jason`s real gifts to us were the lessons imparted indirectly, through what he modelled but didn`t necessarily dictate. No doubt the full impact of Jason’s teaching will be realized over time as I continue to work and apply what I have learned. But here are some insights that come immediately to mind:
-Trust your hand. Physicality is a direct line of communication to intuition and the senses, where lots of juicy raw material is awaiting.
-Intuition and the senses are where the real creative action happens. The trick is to bypass the mind in favour of a visceral response. Creation begins in the body, in feeling, in movement.
-It takes all the senses to make and assess a successful work of art. Sight, or sight informed by intellect alone, can’t be trusted.
Through this workshop and reflection upon it, I came to more fully understand the central role that the senses play in art-making. The sensory information that they constantly and instinctively receive, lingers within us. Some bits capture our full attention. Others lodge in places that rarely see the light of day. Still others pass through us with barely a trace. But most of what we experience leaves an impression: a glimpse of colourful graffiti on a passing train, an overheard musical phrase through an open window, for instance, can stick with us. These seemingly insignificant fragments contribute to the multi-layered complexity of human experiences. Tapping into this stored ‘b-roll’ is a way to access a constant stream of imagery, context, and data. In its raw and unsorted state it is an extensive resource for creative work. The trick is to access the archive without overthinking it. If the artist can accomplish this, then her art feeds back to us our own raw experiences, sorted by intuition, processed through the hand. Jason invites us to continually discover and respond to resonant fragments by being present in our world and actively responsive in our work. For those of us fortunate enough to learn from him, a lifetime of artistic exploration awaits."

Participants in the second workshop at Millarville

I know that Linda is not alone in these opinions, for I am fortunate to have had several artists open up to me.  They have told me how beneficial this workshop was to them.  It has taken artists through their blocks, given validation to others, and opened new ways of working to many.  For some it was a chance to relax into some work without any self-imposed pressures or simply away from the pressures of every day, put-food-on-the table jobs. People were given the chance to work in different ways with new materials and colours and gain confidence in techniques that they would have shied away from previously.

Am I proud of my own involvement in all of this? Yes, of course.  But more importantly, I too have grown because of the experience.  Thank you to everyone who supported me in this, you gave me no indication that you were bored to tears of hearing about... tables, cables, labels, venues, menus and dues...  You were my backbone and my fuel.  We did this together.  
Are you ready to help me again? - Would I do it again? You bet yer!
Some artists from Britain and the States have already expressed their interest in coming along and seeing Wild Rose Country.
So if you are interested in a workshop with Jane Dunnewold  please write to me and get your name on a provisional list ( no firm commitment required as yet) ... and I need a suitable venue with long tables, so get in touch with your ideas.  I welcome all the helpful advice I can get.
And the final workshop, Artpoint 2
I have limited myself to showing you 4 pieces of work... in progress.
Let me know if you want your name adding to the images please, and full recognition will be given (it is just that I took so many photos and didn't record names, I'm bad).

As for me - I buzzed around the workshops - being tech, washerwoman, keeper of the tea-cady, electrician and security guard.  So now is my time... And so I begin
I realize that I must work hard, very hard.
Let go. And do.

Kenneth F. Bates wrote in Basic Design in 1960... and I paraphrase:-
Our problem is to find a line that will be well designed to go with a shape. "Mere intellectualizing about the line is of little value.  A line is not "found" by thinking about it!  It is "found" by trying to draw it...  Freedom in design is a matter of searching, and the result of many trials - of developing a keen sense of discrimination and tasteful selection.... The number of preparatory sketches is as much the work of the artist as the number of hours of practice a pianist needs to memorize a concerto is the work of a musician.
Thank You Jason, for all your encouragement and support.... See you back here again soon.


Mary Ann Tate said...

Thank you very much for sharing this. I enjoyed reading Linda Hawke's reflections about the workshop.

Wen said...

Jason is not only gifted- he IS a gift. Lucky ones who can experience his gentle nature and pointed art experience. What a wonderful read. I'd get it published!

Karin Millson said...

We have Linda to thank for this.