The Shelagh Cluett residency in Varanasi was a gift. The invitation was special in that there was no demand to produce work - which offered an important pause. Varanasi is a city where contemporary art has little or no place, but beauty and ritual prevail. The residency gave time to consider the purpose and trajectory of ones own work – a rare freedom.
I had been to Varanasi 33 years earlier and though much has changed the essence of the ancient seething, noisy, wonderful colour and ritual remains the same. Several locals noticed that I had not left after a few days and wanted to know why - as a result I had calm time with boatmen, shop keepers, cows, holymen and old ladies on daily circuits of the old city.
To return to art/life after Varanasi is difficult - but rich. Similarly on return from a residency (courtesy of the Gulbenkian) to Galapagos in 2007 I made a video with friend Fiona Shaw about not making art in a place of pure nature. At this point I don't know if work will emerge directly from the time spent there.
Free time forces one to reconsider value, meaning and intention of ones work. Part of the residency required giving a talk at the Alice Boner Institute. I spoke about ritual and art and the (sometimes) overlap of imagery and symbol in my own work... from cow , to snake , to egg and the limitations of body in relation to the sacred.
Thank you to Shelagh Cluett and all of you on the board for the time to stop.
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