Emma Godfrey

Getting lost in other people’s art | How to get out of a creative rut


Being creative when you are busy

Finding time to be creative even when you are busy can be really difficult. Like many of the things we love, being creative is often pushed to the side as ‘real life’ takes over. For me, in the summer, that tends to be keeping up with the website while responding to enquiries, helping clients with questions, as well as the weddings, family photography sessions, processing and travel. Since starting a part-time fine art BA with UCA last year I have been looking for ways to balance the two. Recently, with an assessment deadline looming I found myself in a creative rut.

I find that my best ideas come when I don’t expect them. Archimedes apparently had his best ideas in the bath. I need a whiteboard in the shower! But when you are flitting from task to task it can be hard to take the time to let your mind wander. J likes to do something mundane when he has a problem to solve but recently I didn’t seem to be able to find the trigger I needed to move on with the piece I was working on.

Finding inspiration

The solution finally presented itself when I gave myself an unexpected day whizzing around galleries in London. I’d wanted to try to see the Tacita Dean ‘Landscape’ exhibition at the Royal Academy of the Arts since I started looking at her work. Dean works with film and doesn’t present her work in any digital format. This means that getting to see her art first hand can be difficult. The length of the films also means making sure to take time if you want to see them in full. Her new work ‘Antigone’ was on for just a couple more days when we were able to pop back to the UK.

If I can I always take public transport. Here in Switzerland it can be really easy to find connections and I’m always happy to walk a bit. As well as the environmental impact, there is something about sticking in headphones and staring out the window that is conducive to ideas. I dressed for sunny, heatwave London and got caught in one of the few rainy days. Dashing between the buildings was a great way of noticing snippets and letting my mind wander. By the time I had made my way from Marylebone to the Photographer’s Gallery, my mind was already whirring.

Taking time to follow chance

I hadn’t really researched the artists showing at TPG London but it was on the way and free first thing in the morning. I ended up watching all of Alex Prager’s films. Suddenly finding new directions to develop my moving image piece. I prefer to go to galleries alone sometimes. It is nice to get lost in other people’s work. I never worry about whether there is any connection between what I am doing and the work, just whether it engages me or not, then I give myself the time to be inspired.

Alex Prager’s films are awe-inspiring in their scale. I was immediately drawn into her female protagonists’ psyche. The heightened emotional states she evokes are entrancing. And, even though the films are not feature-length, I felt much the same way as after a captivating drama. Not having expected to spend so much time at the exhibition, there was a little voice in my head telling me I had to get moving. I ignored it. Sometimes finding inspiration and boosting your creativity requires letting yourself follow the threads of serendipity.

Slowing down and letting yourself be creative

I made it to view ‘Antigone’, bagging myself a comfy chair and settling down for the screening. A sharp contrast to Prager’s La Grande Sortie, Dean’s film was slow, quiet and mesmerising. Shown as two synchronized screens, occasionally with two overlapping audio tracks, it took time to settle into a way of viewing. Your attention was grabbed by a movement on one screen only to be pulled to the other. It made me think of the way our attention is constantly in demand nowadays. Sometimes I find travelling in the city to be exhausting. I read every sign, finding my concentration pulled this way and that. There was something about the pace of Antigone that felt perfect for getting lost. For me, it was a piece all about questions, searching, stumbling and the blindness of not knowing where you are going, of who you are.

The creative process can be a lot like this. It can take time, and you have to let it take time, to let the darkness clear. Taking time to watch or do something slow, to let inaction and boredom overtake you for a while can help you connect more deeply and really rediscover your creativity.

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