10 January 2015


Preface: Fictional Final Goal

I have a photograph, taken when I was around three, of me and a friend standing on a patch of grass in front of a house. In this photograph my friend, who was the same age but much taller than me, has his arm around my neck in what appears to be an affectionate headlock, and we are both dressed-up. I am draped in a curtain and he looks as though he is wearing an adult nightie or negligee. I have no memory of this event, and yet I know exactly what it is supposed to signify. It is a wedding.

Overview: Fictional Final Goal

This work is by two people. One of them is me, and the other is slightly different. At the time of writing, I am a woman in my early forties. I am a practising artist or craftsperson and the anxiety I experience on a daily basis - the angst and frustration that proceeds from everyday urban life - finds an acceptable outlet through my creative practice. Calling yourself an artist legitimises material output that would otherwise be considered abnormal: evidence of emotional or mental instability. Consciously showing this material output to people, further increases the potential for acceptance. If you make things and show them openly to other people in an exhibition you are an artist of some kind, and the things you make are some kind of art. If you make things and hide them in cupboards and boxes, you are something altogether different.

The German psychoanalyst Alfred Adler* advanced the notion that the ideal self we strive towards is not, in fact, an adult creation. According to Adler the mental model of a successful, happy life, which governs and guides our desires and aspirations, is based on an image we constructed when we were very young: an image that is formed by the time we are six. The kind of grown-up we think we should be, the idea of adulthood we strive towards both consciously and subconsciously, was established by our six year-old self as a model of perfection and success. This model is fixed, and consequently we are always struggling towards a future self that is unrealistic and unattainable because it was generated by a child.

These objects were made by a woman who is dissatisfied with contemporary expectations around her role and responsibilities. These expectations are genuinely held external assumptions as to what she should be or do, and are revealed through her material relationships with others and in parallel with her internalised self-image. The dissatisfaction manifests as a series of materially obsessive rituals, designed to subvert the domestic norms by which she feels bound. She attempts to remake her environment as a reflection of how she really feels, rather than simply following the patterns or instructions handed to her.
This work is by two people. One of them is me, and the other is a person that does not call herself an artist of some kind. She and I grew up together until the age of six. She makes things and hides them in cupboards and boxes. She makes things for herself – to express and to understand her own private logic – and not for an audience or public. She is not concerned with the discourse of contemporary craft and has no desire to find out about it.

*Alfred Adler (1870-1937) was a contemporary of Freud, who founded an independent school of psychotherapy based on his ideas of "Individual Psychology".

Ornaments/Armaments: Fictional Final Goal

It is difficult not to have ornaments. Small statuettes made of ceramic or metal, sitting on shelves gathering dust and having private conversations with one another. Most of my ornaments are inherited, but not in the genealogical sense of the word. They weren’t handed down to me by relatives. They are fragments of other times or of specific events: things that were temporarily placed somewhere and no-one ever moved them. I have never purposefully gone out and purchased a small statuette of any kind, with the intention of placing it artfully on a shelf.

Small porcelain figurines are adapted for mildly rebellious domestic acts. Ceramic mammals and birds deploy smoke, nail varnish and barbed shrapnel, and are lashed to wooden handles for throwing at unsolicited visitors.

The Hay Wain: Fictional Final Goal

What I should do, as a sign of real commitment to domesticity, is embark upon one of those very large pieces; one that is taken from a famous old painting that everyone would recognise. Something highly detailed and complex, requiring such patience and dedication that my mother-in-law would no longer feel the need to buy me kits for banal flowery bookmarks. Obviously I will never complete something like this, but just owning the kit might be enough to appease her. She may not, however, be so easily fooled.

A large cross stick pattern is cut into tiny individual strips and stuck back together with tape. The pattern is painstakingly reconfigured to reflect alternative versions of the 'ideal pastoral scene'.

Laura Potter, Skew (1/6) © Laura Potter
Laura Potter, The Hay Wain (constructed detail) © Laura Potter

This exhibition, curated by Tessa Peters, opens at Marsden Woo Gallery on 14 January and continues until 14 February. It is supported using public funding from the National Lottery through Arts Council England.

For more information, please see our previous blog post and the show press release:

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