Vanessa Notley

“I like not knowing, I like being surprised” – Interview with Sculptor Vanessa Notley

Dirk Dobiéy Insights, Interview Leave a Comment

“You got to have time in your life when you doubt what you are doing.” One thing that Vanessa Notley did not doubt is the fact that she wanted to be an artist from her early years. For the rest, the Scottish Drawer and Sculptor based in Sètes (Southern France), constantly looks at challenging herself and doubting what she does.

It all started when facing the choice as a teenager to go either to University or Art College. Notley chose the former as she thought that University would be more challenging for her. It’s only later, when she actually became an artist, that she figured it out: “[Becoming an Artist] was actually more difficult [than going to University] and it was even more satisfying. Being a student and going to academia […] wasn’t something that I had to confront myself with, whereas being an artist means always looking for difficulties.”

The Scottish artist explains how searching for answers and being uncertain keeps her engaged in her work: “Everybody gets bored, and the only thing I don’t get bored with is this! […] I like sort of having that troubled feeling: “How can I do this?” If I did not have that, if I were just a teacher, I don’t think I would have that difficulty and I like that difficulty. I like not knowing, I like being surprised.”

Vanessa Notley – Indiscret

Although she considers that her working and thought processes remain the same along the years, starting off with drawings, notes and cutting elements that will later come together to represent her vision, Notley notes that “there is always a discovery” that emerges from the repetition in her work and process. “I need to spend a lot of time almost doing the same gesture. By doing that, I learn so many new things every single time. I also get more aware of the touch, of the qualities the material has, but also the visual qualities, and the sound that it makes. The time that I spend doing this, also awakes a reason for it to exist.”

From her perspective, the real contrast between Art and Business lies in the fact that there is an obligation “to have a result at the end of the day” in Business. As she puts it, “in the end, art is a concrete result, but there is a lot of time, where there isn’t anything”.

That is where Notley emphasizes the importance of doubt and uncertainty along the process: “I think doubt is important. You got to have time in your life when you doubt what you are doing. That bit of uncertainty. There is a time where you don’t do anything, physically or tangibly. Things are being worked out, but there is no concrete result”.

Vanessa Notley – Chateau Bosc

Such stages are critical for her and are well integrated into her working process leading to her artworks, whereas it is difficult to conceptualize a company allocating time and resources without certainty on end results. If some companies successfully implemented a side-project culture, where their employees can allocate a bit of their time to think or develop side ideas, this practice is not widespread: “It would be incredible to think that you could actually have a business environment where people would be able to just “see what happens”.

Please read the full interview with Vanessa Notley here.

Interview and Blog Post by Thomas Castéran and Julia Kierdorf

Picture Source: Vanessa Notley




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