A room With a View

Line-drawingI have made it safely to my residency in Japan. After a few days of panic in Tokyo, I realised that I could always take refuge in the Tokyo Metro (pronounced in a musical sing song as ‘Toe-key-o Met-er-o’). I’ve been travelling the London Underground since I was a small child and Tokyo is really no different. That’s if you ignore the cleanliness, the abundance of public loos, the absence of delays and the polite queuing system. Oh and that there are two systems running consecutively with stations in common.

backgroundTokyo if not conquered at least less terrifying, I have come out to the residency at Lake Kawaguchiko at the foot of Mount Fuji. There was obviously some sort of list in setting up the venue: Mount Fuji check, attendant mountains in shades of indigo check, lake to reflect both check, white egrets to pose by lake check, Buddhist shrine check… I could go on, but you get the picture. The residence itself is a story of two halves. By chance I am at the front of the building which is wood and paper, sliding screen doors, Fuji in full view and many tatami floor mats. The back is a more prosaic metal structure with views of lesser mountains, though still startlingly pretty. There are four other artists working here and together we have a marvellous studio, a library and a big communal kitchen for experimental cooking and the drinking of sake.

Pine-treeThe residency is aimed at improving our working practise and to that end I have set myself a nightmare print in the hopes that it will improve my cutting and registration skills. It’s a nod to the art classes of my childhood and is based on the view from my bedroom window (I know, but how can I help being smug?). As you can see, I am in the middle of cutting it so I’ll keep you posted…

Des Res

In a week or so I will be setting off to Japan for an artist’s residency of several weeks to further my Japanese woodblock printing skills. At present details remain sketchy: I know I am the British artist, but don’t know who my four other companions are or which countries they will represent. Interestingly this worries me far less than the thought of crossing Tokyo. Printmakers always have plenty in common; I and the noodle sprawl of the Tokyo subway less so…

On the face of it, an artist’s residency seems like a bit of a jolly. Five weeks to indulge. Indeed, ‘aren’t you lucky’ is something I have been hearing on a very regular basis. I wouldn’t argue with the fact that I am lucky, but what I see as luck may not be the same as the luck implied in the comment. Artists like me have the luck of possessing the drive to stick with a technique and work through the catastrophes, goofs and setbacks to get to a point where we can be good enough to be considered for residencies. After that, luck is out of the equation: selection committees select, they don’t tend to pull names at random from a hat (at least I’ve never been on one that’s done that, however dull the evening and close the pub).

The residency also brings responsibility. I am giving up earnings, cancelling a workshop or two and putting family on hold to go out there. I’d better have something to show for it when I get back. I’m gambling that five weeks far from my comfort zone will result in a move forward in my work. I don’t doubt it will be a marvelous trip and I am certainly not asking for sympathy. I’m more explaining that a residency has to mark a point of change for my work or I will have failed and not be lucky at all: I’ll just have been self indulgent.