Last week we went down to Northgate High School in Ipswich for the opening of the Beneath the Surface exhibition of work by Jevan Watkins Jones made during his residency as an artist there over the past two years. The work mainly consisted of the large ceramic mural made by year seven pupils on large white tiles donated by a local tiling firm. Jevan had done a huge and very beautiful drawing based on the pupil’s drawings of people in the playground and this was used as the basis of the large mural. The pupils had filled in the images on the tiles with oxides and glazes.

The other work was based on prints of cells and two very large photo-grams which I unsuccessfully photographed in the stair well. There was also a text piece on a window. These all part of Jevan’s legacy work. We had a look round the art rooms and there was a lot of high quality stuff going on. It made me think about working in a high school where there was this level of enthusiasm and effort going into the art. I have become a specialist in working with a general population of pupils who may or may not like art. It is a long, long time since I worked with volunteers. Perhaps it is time to start.

I enjoyed Jevan’s studio and again he was very generous with his sketchbooks and prep work. We had a chat about our various projects and his upcoming show at the Drawing school in London. We discussed the advantages and disadvantages of a diverse practice which I have been thinking about since. Jevan was concerned about the way the residency had diversified his work in a way and made it difficult to focus. I liked that about his work though, the way it covered drawing, science, photo-grams, computer work and sculpture and so on, just in this show. But, thinking about it, and doing some writing about the diversity of my own work I am more troubled. At least Jevan can think about his own work as an entity he might want to get back to but I am not sure what my work would be like any more if I was left to my own devises. My work over the past year has covered an enormous amount of ground in a wide range of media, some because of teaching, some as my ‘own work’, some in between, some because of the PhD. Trying to write down what the common threads are is very difficult, apart from me, ‘all made by the one hand’ as someone said of my NUCA show.

Perhaps that’s a warning. Keep making extremely diverse work and forget what it is like not to? Along the way I can remember things that have seemed to make it OK to have a diverse work pattern. I remember seeing a show of Braque at the RA years ago and thinking that here was a chap untroubled by the idea of making his ‘typical’ work. I wonder how much of an artist’s style comes about post-mortem. Is it the modern manner to have a range of work or styles to suit every occasion? I have been thinking about this and attempting the beginning of a Catalogue of My Own Styles or A Personal Art History.

Jevan emailed back:

Thanks Paul great blog and thanks for turning out I really appreciate it. It’s my last week in London this week and we had the thrill of meeting HRH The Prince of Wales at a reception in Winsor Castle on Monday eve and I sold two drawings there, so that’s fab! I will email again in response to your blog on the issue of ‘diversification’ the story of are times but I feel on reflection, as you reassured, genre variation to a healthy degree is lively & good but I do feel there is a depth of substance compromised that a dedication to a single discipline gives…..will keep thinking!!