Thursday, May 09 2024 5:47 AM

I dreamt about it again. About the unfinished art project or art degree component. I dreamt again about figuring out how to get back to art school in Europe and complete it and show it. This memory of an uncompleted visual work of art is a repeated occurrence in my subconscious mind. Something complex I was working on, a piece that was supposed to be exhibited as part of my final thesis show. Something challenging for me to make, something I had a hard time being satisfied with. Last night, I went back to check on it. And it wasn’t there. Either I hadn’t finished it or I had never even started it. It was unclear. Either way, I was deeply dissatisfied with this state of things. But at least, in this most recent version of the dream, there were friends with me, also artists, and we were hatching a plan to go back there together. I think this is a sign my social life has improved.

Last week, I spent a few good hours at my studio last week. Relieved, for once, of picking-up-kid-from-school duties, I took this opprtunity to spend about five uninterrupted hours there, in my happy place. I spent part of it re-organizing my space and purging it of superfluous materials I’ve held onto, unused for too long. I always begin my studio time this way: organizing, tidying, sorting. And then I get down to the business of cutting and pasting. I worked seriously on a collage I had started months ago, driven by a strong urge to get it done. Only the second in a series of about ten pieces I’d long ago pledged to create, for a future show, so long ago! Possibly a whole year. Hard to say. Too long, in any case.

Maybe this particular piece is taking so long because the size of the canvas is much bigger than what I usually work with. Going bigger was one of my recent resolutions. Taking up more space with my art, with myself. I am often appalled at how small my life has become, and how small I can feel in the world. This too needs to change.

Maybe this piece is also taking longer because I’m trying to tell a story with it. My assembly of collage elements onto canvas is usually guided more by abstract notions of composition, by the aesthetic arrangement of colours, shapes and textures to create symetry and contrast, harmony and balance. The pieces I make are not usually story-based. Neither is this one, exactly. But, I am trying to tell some kind of  story about a party. Not a specific story about a specific party, exactly, but the story of a quintessentially Montreal party.

After over twenty five years in Montreal, I’ve definitely attended my share of parties. There are recurring character types at these parties, regardless of the subculture I am bathing in at the time. There are the aspiring artists, the bros, the hipsters and the posers, a drama queen or two and usually, at least one person seriously studying to become some kind of circus artist. And, of course, there are always all kinds of attempts at seduction going on, overtly or covertly.  Among the elements I’m playing with, I’ve pasted a found sentence printed in big, colourful, bold letters, that reads: “J’aurais du la Frencher”. Translating to “I should’ve French kissed her”, the so very Montreal franglais  appeals to me as much as the notion of sexual regret behind it. Regret, of a sexual nature, was definitely once a recurring element in my history of Montreal parties.

Now the recurring element is more often doubt than regret. Existential doubt, the ever-present wingman to my financial and life logistical struggles, has slown down my artistic practice considerably. It’s time to kick that tendency to second guess everything out of the way. Truthfully, it’s always easier to make something and complete it, when there’s external motivation, like an invitation to a group exhibit or a grant application requiring accompanying support materials. Right now, nothing like that is happening. No one out there is expecting anything from me. But clearly, as my dream communicates, I am expecting something from me. Some past self of mine, some version of me that may be mostly hidden behind cobwebs, but still very much alive, keeps sending me the same message: Go back and finish the work. Have the show. And invite friends to participate, since that will make it more fun.

Okay. Message received. I’m on it.