I am an artist.
The first four days of the Degree Show have passed and I’m treading on surprisingly uncertain ground. I’ve been very out of place in my own body and mind and I wish I could pin a feeling down long enough to describe it to you. Uni is over. I haven’t secured a job yet. I’m moving to a new city. I’m still not 100% sure how I’ll cover rent. The ‘future’ I have attempted to plan and process seems like a lie I’ve been telling myself and others. The buzz-word of the week has to be LOST. I’m really fucking lost.
I popped into the Degree Show with some friends earlier today and while they were checking out my work I stood in the hallway trying to inhale and exhale my way out of a downward-spiral into complete self-doubt. I thought about how the work they were looking at symbolises the end of an era and I couldn’t picture when I would create another ‘final piece’ like those I had been expected to produce at the end of each university semester for the past four years. Without anyone expecting a ‘final outcome’ from me, why and when would I ever make one again?
Mid-exhale I strolled into the neighbouring studio in a desperate attempt to distract myself from the fact my pals were sitting in a giant, publicly-accessible pocket of my psyche. A woman who is exhibiting in that studio was sitting on the ground by her display, cutting out pictures and scribbling in a sketchbook. I’d spoken to her once or twice before so I felt comfortable enough to strike up a quick conversation. I had wondered what she was doing on the floor because I hadn’t seen anyone doing any kind of ‘work’, other than setting up the Degree Show, in well-over a month. “I’ve already moved onto my next project” she chuckled. “Next project?” I thought. “What does she mean next project?” It was only in that moment that I realised, although uni is over, the work continues. This is it. We are artists now. There may be no tutorials or deadlines but we don’t need permission to make the work. We can just make the work. Now is the time to fully establish our professional artistic practice. I’m actually laughing a bit as I type this because this seems incredibly obvious now, there was literally an entire ‘professional practice’ module to prepare us for this exact moment yet it still managed to take me completely by surprise.
I saw another soon-to-be graduate in the library earlier today checking-out books and doing research without being expected to do so by any institution or its staff and I witnessed this with that same ignorant confusion but only for a moment. The confusion was swept away by a gentle wave of inspiration. I love to read and I LOVE to learn and you don’t have to be a student to actively learn each day. There are so many books to be read, exhibitions to be visited, films to see and people to meet. I just need to keep reminding myself that I don’t need any further validation from anyone else. If anyone asks me what I do, no matter whether I’m spending my days working in a bar to get by or studying a post-grad course, I am an artist. I AM an artist.