Residency : Lea Cummings - August, 2013

ReConnect multi-disciplinary artist Lea Cummings took some time out from his drawing to share his residency experience with us.

You were part of our first round of residencies in 2010. How do you feel this one went, in comparison to your first residency here?
It’s been good, pretty similar in some ways, and very different in others. The things I’m working on are very different from what I did in my first residency, and the place is a lot quieter (the residency takes place in our ReConnect studios, where workshops run on Tuesdays, Thursdays and Fridays). Mostly I’m just keeping myself to myself, and do what I do. I’ve actually spoken to a few people that I had never spoken to before, even though we’re part of the same kind of workshops, but I usually just focus on the work. It’s not that I don’t like to talk to people, I just try to use the time I have here to make art.

One month is a very short period of time…
Yes, it went very fast. Time usually flies by when I’m working on these pieces. The things I was working on last time didn’t quite play with time as much, because it was more planned out, and I was trying to achieve something, whereas what I’ve been working on for the last few months isn’t like that. Time just speeds up and goes incredibly fast when you’re focussed 100% on what you’re doing. My work now isn’t goal based, I’m not trying to achieve anything, it’s not that kind of focus, there’s no anxiety attached to it. I’m just trying to discard all that way of thinking ‘is it good, is it not good’… It’s just about letting something flow, and covering the space. It’s really nice to work that way, there’s no right or wrong. And usually when I finish a piece I tend to like it a lot more than if I had planned it. I feel more detached and can almost appreciate it as if someone else had done it.

It’s interesting how you talk about filling space, because with your other work –audio work, performances- it’s conceptually also about filling a space, and inhabiting it.
It’s very true. These pieces I’ve been working on since ReConnect started relate a lot more to the audio work that I do, and some of my previous visual work. Most of my audio work is more like a stream of conscious collage, it’s not about writing a song with different parts and an established structure. I try stuff out, see what works and what doesn’t, using random things, it’s more experimental. So yes, it’s very similar to these works on paper. If you let your creativity flow, and don’t box it in by thinking too much, you get very interesting results in terms of what it produces. A lot of people have commented about the work looking like Aboriginal or South American art. If you look at artwork from different cultures throughout history, you can see certain similarities in patterns, colour combinations from people that have no physical contact with each other. It seems that accessing a meditative head state brings out universal patterns.

Talking about Aboriginal work, or folklore, they don’t really have any art history attached to them: the work is completely free, meditative, connected with nature, which seems to be what your work is attempting to do.
Absolutely, that’s exactly it. When you allow yourself that space, it cuts out all this noise, all this consumerist capitalist sh*t, it makes you focus on something a lot deeper that other cultures were closer to. If you can let your head state do that, it seems that universal things come out from it, which is amazing. You seem to tap into something very vast and intangible. I’m very interested in Rupert Sheldrake’s idea of a massive information field all around us that you can’t see but you access it every time you think, and by meditating you can pull things out of it. It explains a lot of phenomenon, and how when you do something creative you can feel things you don’t usually feel and you can express them in that way.

This is a very different approach from our previous artists in residence, who were very connected with the modern and virtual world, with their work being very organised and planned.
I’m naturally that way inclined, and I battle against it. There can be something very positive about being a planner type of person, it’s a good way of achieving things, but for me personally it’s also very negative, so it’s nice for me to do something outside of that usual way of doing things. It’s very easy to miss the essence of something and get caught in the mechanics of it.

Is the residency a kind of escapism for you?
Kind of, yeah. It’s good because it also has a set structure: for the most part I’m here at 10am and stay until 4pm. I’m always juggling a lot of projects at any one time, trying to make sure to spend enough time on everything so that it all moves forward as a whole, so it’s nice to have a month where it’s kind of suspended: I just have this one thing to focus on.

Where will you go from here?
I’m not sure, I don’t know. I think I’ll just keep going until I’m not feeling that ‘thing’ from it anymore, until it exhausts itself. Which it will do eventually, and then I’ll go on to something else. The way I feel does make a difference to the work as well: there are a couple of pieces that I don’t like, partly because I was overthinking them, and partly because I wasn’t feeling good when I was doing them, and you can really see that when you look at them. I believe emotions affect the physical world, and it’s why art has this sort of mystical quality: it holds something from its creator. That’s why mass-produced things don’t have that resonance.
The last couple of weeks, I have been doing some audio recordings in the stairs of the building as well. I like these hidden public spaces, they are public but very quiet, because nobody really uses them. I’ve been banging on the rails and produced an amazing sound in there, so I am now recording it and I’ll use it as an audio piece in the exhibition.

Lea Cummings will exhibit his work alongside the other artists in residence in our gallery in January 2014. He is currently working on a feature film with writer Sarah Glass, more details about the release coming soon.