Vicki Clough Curates

Musings on art and life.

Negative Thinking- a stroll down a dark path

I have been thinking a lot lately about the nature of inspiration. It’s a feeling that is, like anything else, entirely subjective. Our own perception of the world, and the good and bad things we experience, have a rather large influence on what brings us this eternally transient and fulfilling part of the creative process. It is, in fact, the most vital part of being able to create anything.
At the same time, our personalities and the way we deal with life and it’s various ups and downs, changes over time, and so, in turn, would our idea of what inspires us. We learn to cope with suffering, we revel in our joy, and when we’re just coasting along, we sometimes forget to appreciate this steady existence for the comfort and stability it brings us. We are so taken in by our own drudgery , that we don’t stop to look around and see the world from a fresh perspective. This in itself can inspire us. Isn’t it interesting how this process works? And isn’t it amazing that we have such a wonderful array of different emotions within ourselves, that enable us to produce works of art, literature and music?

My own creative process has undergone many shifts and changes over the years. By thinking about this, I have begun to realise just how important it is just to be able to observe these changes from where my life is right now, and how my own inspiration has helped me to grow as a person.

Often, during times of change, I find myself fighting against the things happening around me, I create bazaar and unrealistic expectations of what I want to happen, and I usually end up being disappointed when it doesn’t go my way. I’m sure I’m not the only person who reacts like this to the unfamiliar and scary. I have recently started to see that changing my own perception of the “bad” things, is the only thing standing between me and truly being able to enjoy what actually IS happening. In essence I am changing my own perception of perception.. I’ve undergone this process before, and it now it reminds me of when I did my honours degree in GMIT, Galway. The lessons I learned in that year will stay with me for a long time, and I wholeheartedly hope that I never again forget just how far I have come.

When a lot of change happens at one time, it can force a person to shut down. Depression is a nasty thing that can creep up on the best of us but, for a lucky few, it can also be a great teacher and fantastic journey of self discovery. It’s become so widespread that it is (thankfully) no longer as taboo. For some time before, and during the year that I completed my honours degree, I suffered quite badly from depression. This reflected strongly in the art I created, and to this day, the images I collected and the embroideries I produced over that time, resonate within me in a way that actually makes me deeply proud of the person I have become since then.
I was encouraged to exhibit work that, to me, was incredibly personal, and gave the public a look at the deep darkness of the world I felt I had been living in for so long. At the time, I disagreed with this advice, even though I felt like the photographs I had taken were a part of my soul. The idea of using my depression as inspiration scared me deeply. To my delight, my work was a resounding success. I managed to sell eleven of the fifteen framed t-shirt transfer embroideries I exhibited. To this day, I still own two of these, I have every intention of hanging them side by side in my home one day.

Negative Thinking was the documentation of both a physical and metaphorical journey. One day, I hopped in my car and went for a drive in the woods near my (then) home in rural Loughrea, Galway. I had been working on the idea of making embroidered jewellery, using images of flowers taken in negative and under UV light to get vivid, unnatural colours. This particular drive was supposed to be for support work. I never expected it to result in the photographs I would later use for framed artwork. I had a pretty cheap digital camera that had one of those settings where you could take pictures in negative. The play on words project name came after.

My adventures into the woods were a fun and exhilarating way for me to change my own perspective. I was invariably alone, probably not the best company to go into the woods with, but hey, I’m still alive. And I learned some very important lessons during those days-

1) My own company is wonderful. I actually love spending quality time with me.

2) No matter how much you enjoy your own company, you should never visit the woods on your own and without your phone, in case your car gets stuck in a ditch.

3) Nothing is ever as negative as I imagine it to be. If it truly seems negative, then I need to look at it from another angle, it’s probably got a wonderful lesson on the flip side.

4) My inspiration will come from changing my negative view point.

5) If my car ever again gets stuck in a ditch, I shouldn’t try to drive through it anyway… That’s how I would lose part of my front bumper.

I do recognise that I am one of the lucky ones. A lot of people can’t cope with their deep, unhappy feelings the way that I can, and they require additional help, they are all troopers. Whichever side of the line you fall, I hope you enjoy my tribute to negative thought.

The Negative Road, photographic image, 2008

Going down a dark road, photographic image, 2008

Negative Reflection #1, photographic image, 2008

Negative Reflection #2, photographic image, 2008

Negative Reflections, pencil on paper, 2008

Negative Reflections drawing, ink on paper, 2008


One comment on “Negative Thinking- a stroll down a dark path

  1. Pingback: When the Work Fairy and the Thesis Monster team up | Vicki Clough Curates

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This entry was posted on November 24, 2012 by in Art, Curatorial Practice, My Own work, Photography and tagged , , , , .
Vicki Clough

Vicki Clough

Vicki is an independent curator and craftsperson with a focus on socially engaged and participatory art and events. In January 2016 she helped launch Reconstructing Resilience, a research and curatorial project that explored various forms of sustainable practice. As a freelance curator she has worked with the Riverdale Hub, Myseum of Totonto/Art Spin and was the Curatorial Director of Figment Toronto from 2014 to 2017. She has also co-curated exhibitions including JAYU's iAM photography project (2016 & 2017), Move to Stillness, for the Harbourfront Centre's Kick Up Your Heels Festival (2015), The Duel, AGO First Thursdays (2014), and What Are You Made Of? OCAD U Graduate Gallery (2013). She initiated the Toronto based workshop model and website Polymers in Action: Socially Engaged Art and the Environment as part of her studies at OCAD University, where she obtained her Master of Fine Arts degree in Criticism and Curatorial Practice. She publishes on anything that interests her deeply and moves her to the point of lengthy verbal expression.

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