The Self-Inflicted Tribulations of the Artist

Come the Raw Prawn  is on display at the Museum of Tropical Queensland in the Colours of the Coral: Reef Art Exhibition until 31st August 2014


Whilst cursing myself and wondering what on earth possessed me to elect to create a gigantic paper mache prawn for an exhibition, I pondered the fact that in the throes of creative passion, many artists throw all caution to the wind. Creative passion cares little for reason, or so it seems. How much does this ability to disregard reason drive the artistic instinct?

 Why was I putting so much time, energy, and precious resources into creating a four metre long prawn in a studio space that was way too small? Why was I going to so much struggle to shape bits of paper and bamboo? As I worked, I pondered on what motivated me to make it so large.

 I knew I was endeavouring to create a sense of wonder in the viewer, yet I was aware that just making a big prawn would be seen as clichéd and boring. Then I remembered the marvellous sense of wonder I felt as a child when I saw displays of dinosaurs, or whales, or even biplanes, suspended from museum ceilings. Were these childhood emotions behind the apparently irrational desire to create a gigantic creature? Was this why ceilings often looked so inviting to me?

 As the artwork’s five segments continued to take shape, in the process occupying much of the lounge and the kitchen, and making our living conditions difficult, my sense of futility, despair, and failure grew.

 It wasn’t until, instead of aiming to create a realistic looking prawn, I let my emotions and the materials themselves dictate the process, that I achieved a sense of satisfaction. I finally felt I was starting to achieve my aims when, instead of gluing the curling bits of paper fully down and flush with the body, I let them twist upwards and out, using them and bamboo twigs to suggest the spikes on the head of the prawn. Similarly, I felt far more satisfied when I attached bamboo ‘sheaves’ to the side of the prawn to suggest the ‘armour’ on the legs.

 My aim, then, is to capture the essence of a prawn, and to trigger our innate response to one. By allowing the imagination space to ‘finish’ the artwork, I hope to avoid setting off the ‘ho hum, seen it before’ response, which often stops us from enjoying an artwork. I want to set the child in all of us free to imagine, to wonder, and to feel. I believe it is the failure to allow room for the imagination that makes Queensland’s many big objects, such as the Bowen’s Big Mango, seem clichéd.

About Lynn

Lynn is a visual artist and writer with over 35 years experience. She has a Master in Creative Arts degree from James Cook University.
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2 Responses to The Self-Inflicted Tribulations of the Artist

  1. Ellen says:

    I love the exhibition, Lynn. Ceiling space is so often wasted and especially for this exhibition of marine creatures, the ‘air’ is comparable to the sea. Well done!


  2. rosepoetartist says:

    Well said Lynn. For me also it is when I let go and immerse myself that the deep tranquility of creating happens.


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