I have just signed up for a 2 year (4 years part-time) on-line Diploma of Graphic Design. It will add another $20000 to my HECS debt but what the HEC? Am I waking in fright at the thought of another round of study? Not yet - I'm still in the honeymoon phase and I haven't started the work yet.
I am having an identity crisis of sorts - who I thought I was, who I am now, who I might be. Me and images - the complex relationship goes on. At the end of my PhD I had come to the conclusion that images were not an 'end in themselves' as I thought they were. I still respect the images that emerge from my unconscious but they have lost some of their hold on me. They used to possess me completely but now......maybe I am just tired and it's too soon to say. But my relationship with them has certainly changed because I have changed irrevocably.
That in itself is a good thing, except I am wandering in a new land without the co-ordinates that served me in the past. It's good to question identity, in the end it is not who we really are anyway. Except life goes on and I can't walk naked through the landscape as my 'avatar' does here. I need to find my place, and find some clothes so other people know who I am and what I am about, and they want to know.
A conversation I had yesterday rattled me a bit. This person had just finished reading my thesis and gave me some very positive feedback, asking questions like: 'well, what's next? Are you going to try and publish, deliver papers at conferences?' This person thought I had written well, and liked my journal entries the best of all. My plan had been to keep writing, try and get a paper published, but somewhere in the gruelling struggle to the finish line that idea got sidelined and all but thrown out of the box.
I have fallen into another kind of void, but this one is brightly coloured and seductive, shimmering with the formal aspects of image-making - colour, shape and design. I admit there is a guilty pleasure in playing around with software and its chicanery. The guilt comes from an unnecessary but well entrenched attachment to traditional forms of art and a lifelong habit of making images out of suffering rather than joy. But there was this dream, right at the end of my study, where I am surfing in crystal light-filled waters, diving under to find a white shrine with nothing inside it. That should have told me something, but what?
The doll in the image above is me of course, walking through a strange new world. It occurred to me yesterday, when this person asked if I was still recording my numinous dream images, that I had forgotten about them. But when I think about it - maybe I am still recording them in different ways - like this image above.
After 8 years of study, with a grinding agenda unsympathetically driving me on, I feel I still need a framework. And maybe that's why I signed up for the graphic design course. This will be different, in that the focus will be on certain types of images and certain ways of conveying a message, but it doesn't mean I have abandoned who I am. My unique sensibility will prevail as it does for everyone, so maybe there is no need to fear losing my identity at all. We are always in a state of flux. As the retirement age moves further into the distance, the other practical reality is that my new skills just may allow me to work into old age if other streams of income dry up.
All I can think of to sort this out is to go back to the core of what I do - keep drawing, and keep writing. And that is what I am doing here.
image: Frantom, original digital image compiled from a traditional drawing and a manipulated, collaged landscape.