Artist Ruth Koffer offers insight into the process and vision that went in to her latest exhibition in Aberystwyth, Observations from the Life Room.
Observations from the Life Room is an extensive series of drawings produced in response to working in public spaces, in classes, with models, with people, in connection rather than in isolation. Making art can be a lonely old business and it’s easy to feel separate from other people while engaged in working towards an exhibition. Since regularly attending a life class, I noticed my creative output flow more easily, with less angst and with brighter colours.
As the project has developed, I have found myself in museums, galleries, private views, demos, in my centre, in my art space, drawing and surrounded by people. It is exhilarating and supportive.
I was delighted to discover that this year’s big draw festival theme is drawn to life. It makes perfect sense to me. The more I draw from life, the closer I get to life… which is exactly what the big draw is promoting: well-being through drawing.
There is an element of my process when working from life that is about spiritual practice. Repetition, rehearsal, acceptance of the vulnerability of our situation as humans. I try to connect with the vulnerability of the model, and allow that to settle in my psyche so it is not so necessary to keep up appearances. In the life class, I can take my mask off. I can accept my physical and emotional experience, and invite the whole lot into my drawing. I practice the Buddhist meditation, just sitting. It’s a vessel in which to observe one’s experience… a bit like the life room is. We are only here for a finite amount of time. It’s a strange predicament. Somehow it makes me want to reach for the primary colours when reflecting on impermanence. When life goes pear-shaped, there is an opportunity for a deeper awareness to emerge, like looking through a frame or a window. We can drop the facade/net curtain/salty glass and see clearly for a while. What I see in those moments is something really bright and intense and exciting. I press hard with my chalks and hold my crayons tight. They are my raft. Without them I’m gonna be looking through salty glass for the rest of these precious days.
Alongside the life room in AAC, I worked in MOMA, Machynlleth with movement artists, meditators and musicians. They performed/sat while I drew them. I shone my intense primary coloured light of appreciation and celebration on their practice while they generously invited me into their private worlds. It deepened my sense of community and fanned the flames of respect and admiration for all art forms. I have a need to prostrate myself before anyone who works at their practice, before every artist in the world. My tutor at University of Brighton said that other artists are my brothers and sisters. He said I needed to keep them close. He was right. For a long time I tried to work away from the art world. This project has had the effect of me lying in the gallery face down in prayer pose saying, sorry I abandoned you. Thank you for maintaining your position as a temple of the arts.
I welcome you to visit the exhibition/private view/ in conversation and engage by drawing it. I’m passionate about breaking down barriers between art/ artists and public/audience. Maybe if people draw at arty events more, then they won’t feel so intimidated…maybe they will feel part of things. Intimidation makes us react defensively. We need to feel accepted and acceptable.
My sister, Kate Tempest will be in conversation with me about my practice on 11th October. 7-9 p.m
Dates: Exhibition AAC 31st Aug- 29th Oct
Private view 6th Sept 7 p.m
There will be 5 workshops running alongside the show if you fancy getting stuck into some drawing from life. Check out Ruth Koffer’s website for more details.