Working In Series
What is a Series?
Simply put, it is a group of pieces based on a common element or group of elements. You can base a series on subject matter, a technique, a particular set of materials, a group of visual elements, or a compositional format. A series can be created in an afternoon – as in a group of quick collage studies – or last a lifetime. Many artists keep several series going throughout their careers.
· Working in series allows you to explore ideas more thoroughly, give them some breathing room.
· Working in series gives you the opportunity to try out different solutions to visual “problems”, and explore multiple possibilities.
· Working in series gives your art practice focus and momentum. Rather than face the blank canvas with too many possibilities to choose from, the parameters of your series create clarity of intention.
· By considering the series the basic unit of art making, you lose the preciousness of the individual piece, the fear of “ruining” it, which can keep you stuck. Get un-stuck by working in multiples.
· Committing to a quantity of pieces allows you to push through blocks and discover new solutions.
When I was in Washington DC (see Bike Trip Pittsburgh – DC, GAP, C & O) in October 2015 I visited the National Gallery where there was an itinerate exhibit, The Serial Impulse. Let’s face it, a series of anything is boring. I was about to skip and rush on to other things. But then, I thought, what is the art behind series? Warhol with his screen printing and John Jasper with his flag series. Van Gogh with his sunflowers and bedroom. Jane Freiliche revisited her subjects over and over again=pansies and peonies=she considered it a form of contemplation, meditation. The challenge isn’t in the product but in the exercise, not in simply re-creating as close to the original form, but to explore through process, to re-discover, to see anew after over-seeing. It’s what happens after we are forced to play a piece over and over, after a while we become numb to it, it becomes abstracted, then after perhaps the 100th viewing, screening, listening, we have a breakthrough and begin to see, hear, feel differently about it.
From the National Gallery, The Serial Impulse:
For centuries artists have made multi-part series, undertaking subjects on a scale not possible in a single work. This engagement was especially prevalent in the 1960s, as artists dedicated to conceptual, minimalist, and pop approaches explored the potential of serial procedures and structures.
For this week’s Hot Flash—try working in a series. Pick something and see how many memories you can squeeze from each “topic.”
*ice cream stand