Specialising (preceded by a foreword) / by LW


According to a wonderful little calculator I found online, it is 541 days since my first and last post. Oh dear.

Upon arriving in Sydney last week, I had a conversation with the dear PT about whether I should re-start my blog whilst here. He stated his concern that blogs should only include images, because most of what is written on blogs is just plain boring. After extensive discussion, we came to the conclusion that if anything is to be written, it should fulfil the following three criteria; to be:

  1. interesting

  2. lucid

  3. beyond reproach

I am not overly hopeful of my ability to fulfil such lofty standards, but at least it's something to aim for, right? I hope I do not disappoint, PT.


Until my arrival here, I had been thinking about my ability to make work without my beloved tools, steel, workshop and welder. It dawned on me that I could try drawing. Drawing beyond my sketchbook. Drawing that is, simply, just a drawing, not a plan for a sculptural work.

I suspect I haven't actually done drawing for drawing's sake for at least a decade, so this was quite a daunting idea. (Though, amusingly, heading to the art supplies to buy materials that came in brown paper (!) did actually give me the sensation of being a real artist!)

How does one start a drawing? In order to get going, I decided to begin with something familiar: to do a drawing of a machine. A machine, however, that does not need to function in physical reality. A machine that perhaps I, as artist, can put some 'meaning', or 'poetry', onto, as I am loathe to do in any of my sculptural works (and which, in effect, goes completely against the grain of my PhD argument for sculpture that is generated through its own logic.)

I spent two days completing this drawing. And now I have a drawing for which I have no means of deciphering value. It does not sit within my specialised knowledge of the sculptural field. I genuinely feel out of my depth in ascertaining its artistic worth.

So, this poses an interesting dilemma. I think it is fair to say that as artists, we do tend to specialise, at least to a certain extent. As our body of work becomes more consistent, coherent and known, specialisation increases. However, as artists, we also aim to push ourselves beyond comfort, to find that which has not yet been created. Occasionally, this may mean we find ourselves working in a field well beyond that which we have spent many years perfecting, both within and external to university. In this unknown field, what tools have we to critically analyse our own work? Even gut-feeling, that which is perhaps at the core of an artist's ability to read artwork, stumbles a little, as it confronts self-doubt.

So this is my question: is it actually a lack of knowledge that prevents an ability to judge, or simply a lack of confidence when outside one's comfort zone? Or, potentially, is the former exacerbated by the latter? How much of our ability to criticise our own work is based in learnt knowledge? Or are we simply using well-practiced-gut-response to gauge its worth?

I think it best to finish this discussion with a quote I recall from my teenage years (I do not know who this should be attributed to, as my search engine skills have failed in this instance):

A specialist is someone who knows more and more about less and less, until eventually he knows everything about nothing.

Oh dear.

Machine for human interaction, #1