The Meaning and importance of Collaboration

I had always believed that my role as an artist meant time alone – just the canvas and me; and actually the majority of my time is spent just so.

I was approached by teacher and Dance artist Marie Louise to work together, I had to challenge my long held beliefs about how to work creatively. No doubt, fear of exposing ideas, the way I think and work had to be entrusted, and accepted to make this work, so I grew. 

We would begin sessions by warming up, moving in the studio space, working with drawing materials, and inevitably drinking coffee and eating Rich Tea biscuits. 

I became aware that we shared a language, and a sensibility, and that working on a project could and would expand both our practices, and create something unique and fresh.

Four years on and several performances and many hours and cups of coffee later, here we are producing a film that gives an insight into a most wonderful time of learning and opening to possibilities. Something truly real.

Breathing the Line

“…we began with no sound but ‘the breath’: taking in, letting go, and resting. Volume grew out of line. Movement and gesture became fixed in paint.”

This short film is the culmination of several years of work between dance artist Marie Louise Flexen and I.

In our earlier collaborations, I played with capturing the movement, and physical representation of the dancer, in the simplest and most direct method of ‘drawing’. From those came the need and desire to evolve the work – with, form sound and colour.

The challenge, but at the same time our absolute goal, was to remain as intuitive, improvisational and fresh as we had been in those earlier, shorter bursts of drawing collaboration.

As professional artists, we know what pleases, what often become easy, unthinking movements and marks; it was important not to fall into this trap but end up with an engaging  work. I spent time between our 3 sessions, simplifying, rubbing out, and whiting-out sections that were unnecessary, not honestly raw or intuitive.

There was always a synergy, a conversation, a way of drawing from each other as artist and dancer; a response and interaction that fed our next move or mark.

The way we work together has evolved so gradually that pauses happen when needed, impetus and swift movement is informed by the rapidity or quality of a mark or application of a colour; we work in tune, and intuitively.

Colour enhanced our toolbox, but there was’t a pre-prescribed palette. Its ability to absorb and create reaction were not lost on us. The dancer brought her own colours to the collaboration in her choice of clothing and intuition took its place in what came. I adore the dancer’s response to the final painting … she embodies the piece.. it’s spine tingling.

The soundscape in which the piece sits was created from the sound recorded by Steve in the painting studio; we discussed ideas around stillness, echoes, and sounds that would enhance the different shifts in the process. The boom of the canvas is one of my favourite sounds, which once stretched and primed.. signals ‘possibility’.

What is created in the final film, thanks to the videographer and sound maker is a structure that lightly holds the conversation between the  dancer and artist. It is a  film that lets the audience join a private creative conversation. It is giving the opportunity to share our journey, watching something new and beautiful emerge.

Acknowledgements and Thanks

In the development stages we were mentored by Miranda Tufnell, and my thanks go to her and her gentle encouragement to explore and evolve this collaboration.

The production of the film’s soundscape was down to Steve Skinley, who created  a score around the day to day sounds from the painter’s studio. Thanks to Peter Anderson for his work creating and documenting the final film.

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