Sabbatical from art

I’ve been on a break from making art for over two weeks now. It seemed like a radical idea at first—how could I possibly stop making art? I would be wasting my days away!—but it was an idea that stemmed from deep inside me.

These feelings came about when I was making a series of rainbow art—the perfect playground for experimentation, where ideas flew rapidly onto sheets and sheets of paper and I would post them on social media in tandem. But at some point I started to feel bogged down by the process, daunted by the submissions work for the Pameran Poskad exhibition, and the backlog of art that I had yet to photograph and post. Somewhere in there I also hated myself for having to make every photo meaningful—that it is not just about capturing an image of the art, but the photo itself has to add value to the art. So for practical reasons I decided to stop making new art and just focus on putting up the remaining pieces. I also wanted to organise my art spaces and pack away materials I was done with, such as baskets of scrap construction paper, failed experiments and even the digital clutter I had accumulated through taking countless photos of every piece of art.

It could have been something simple like this.
But it had to become this.

Aside from giving myself a break I was also curious to see what would happen if I stopped making art. I had these remaining tasks to complete, but as they got checked off I looked forward to see what would happen when I reached a point of emptiness.

I started having fun with other forms of creation like baking and cooking, that I would previously deprioritize as I had to perform my “life’s work”. I realised again that it is in my nature to make things, well beyond the boundaries of art. With my partner I explored more local parks and neighbourhoods, watched more TV which is an indulgence for me, cleaned the house and made more time for loved ones. Not that these were things I never did before, but that now they were not competing for my time and were given full access. I felt freer and more whole. Still I wanted to observe what would be left as things settled down into moments where I might have the entire day ahead of me, who would I be without art?

With time slowing down, the yearning for quiet things inched their way out, apprehensively. Recently I just began meditating and practising yoga again, things that used to be part of my routine but grew distant over time. These practices helped me understand myself better and process thoughts and feelings that would otherwise have floated stagnant on the surface. I even started writing as I am doing now.

I began yearning to make art again, which I appreciate being aware of, because I don’t want to take art-making for granted without knowing how I feel about it. After having worked on many rainbow coloured pieces, there is a yearning to work on something black and white.

I’m grateful to be able to stop and sit, to have a static perspective of the moving world, before deciding which direction to venture out again. I think there is a season to make, a season to clean, and a season to sit. I was joking with my partner that I am taking a sabbatical in a sabbatical. I took a break from my previous job two years ago to find myself within art, but within art I am taking another break to find myself without art.

If time affords I want to sit for a bit more and stare into the emptiness of what remains.

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