I may have been remiss in concentrating entirely on putting on my show “Civilians” in The Garage in Brighton’s Kemptown. It’s not altogether surprising that as a visual artist I would prioritise the work and how it is presented over writing about it, but finally here is a written record of the process.

On reflection I suppose I have been documenting this show through social media rather than here on the website. If you check my postings on Instagram, Facebook, Twitter and LinkedIn you will see a fairly consistent set of mainly photographic progress reports and promotional ideas.

I have been incredibly busy both preparing the work (doing lots of glazing for instance) and transforming The Garage from a car shelter and general storeroom into a gallery. I almost met my deadline, although my friends and relations had to talk amongst themselves at the preview evening while I rushed around putting prices on everything – not something I would recommend.

I spent a lot of time working on LED lighting, a subject that was new to me so it took longer than I hoped. I did have a certain standard of presentation in mind. I have a perfectionist streak which luckily is balanced out by a preference for an informal style, not so much ‘blank white cube’, more like temporary exhibition space so it’s still obvious what The Garage usually is, although not to everybody at first glance – because the display is what grabs your attention, which is just as it should be. Some of my favourite shows have been in part converted work-in-progress spaces like the Regency House in Brighton’s Brunswick Square and the new Goldsmiths CCA space takes it’s lead from this kind of idea of the imperfect or unpolished space.

The Brighton Artists Open Houses Festival structure is fairly forgiving as it is only open at weekends which allows you to sort out any problems/ omissions / glitches in the weekdays in between, which is what I have been doing – especially during and after the first weekend.

What is it about deadlines that makes them so hard to manage? I suppose that as this is a one-man show there is no-one except me (and the viewing public) to hold me to account, it makes me wonder if this is the perfect format it first appears to be for this reason. I suspect if I was collaborating with others we would have seen this coming and planned a way round it in advance – we would in effect have held each other to account.

So what am I learning from the experience so far? I have been keeping a list so the key points to not get lost for future reference (shown below). Many of these are practical points about this particular show in this particular location.

'Learning from showing' notes for Civilians show May 2019

These points may have some future value but the most important things I have learnt I think are these:

  • Putting on a show of your latest work brings to the foreground all the things you have not finished off, makes them urgent and forces you to make practical decisions that you may have previously fudged or postponed.
  • Doing a show helps focus your ideas because you have to create a context to present them in, you have to organise your work to show it at its best. Working out a good title for the show for instance.
  • Never mind about the work speaking for itself, it may require some information to put it in context, this also gives people more reason to linger as visual cognition is so fast, it’s over before you can blink. People expect to read stuff on the walls of galleries.
  • If you have to invigilate your own show, text panels also give people something to discuss with you.
  • Holding an exhibition allows you to review your progress and address issues thrown up by exhibiting the work to other people. Showing your work gives you feedback from others but you have a reaction to it yourself, so there’s lot’s of information to take in.
  • Mounting a show means other work including other creative work stops or slows down.

I had not shown for some time before this. I had a lot of questions about the context and the space, I have addressed some but not all of those questions for myself. On balance I feel it is better to get going with something rather than to just think about it and hold out for something more perfect that may or may not come along. Most artists want a solo show of their work, I have now made that happen and I am pleased I did. It has answered some questions for me and posed a lot of new ones too – like what do I do next?