After doing shows with Wastelanders, I decided to find a job in London to sustain my financial needs, also to experience working in another country.
I found a retail job as a sales assistant in the central London, where the company is a quality services oriented and have been known for its organised and product quality. It is weird to talk about a little retail job experience as billions of people in the planet have similar experiences, but this is an interesting observation for me and through working there , I found out more about myself as a person and how the social status, different kinds of relationship showing in just a clothing shop; moreover how aesthetics of my own artwork changes after this experience.
There is no easy job in the world, but there are jobs that are “easier ” than others and I would consider this is the one; the company values good services, and sales job does not required much more than quick reactions to customers’ needs and manual works. However, it would always slowly take away the last bit of mental energy you have, you can experience alienation on site, you become a part of the machine, doing all things to keep the ball rolling. As I am in that environment, I always think to myself: “That’s not really me when I am working”, “Extract the good one inside me”… As soon as I “separate” my sensitive self from the working self, I feel more comfortable and easy to serve other people.
But besides the identity of a “sales advisor”, I am also an artist; my interests always related to the relationships of individuals, and how individuals create image, or spectacle of themselves showing to the outside world. Inside a retail shop, as I discovered, the relationship of a sales advisor and customers is quite a special one, for me it is like a forced encounter with a stranger, but we are natural and don’t feel strange about it, because this kind of relationship is like a night-blooming cereus: it happened just once and we defaulted that it will never happen again. This kind of encounter don’t appear in our memory card and it is definitely not worth to mention; therefore the customers come and go, you can see they are aggressive, polite, indifferent, careful……towards a sales advisor.
I also like to compare this job to the story of sisyphus: the greek king that punished to push stone up the mountain again and again. Everything happened but not really happened, people we met but not really met; and make me think of one time my tutor said “every artist is just solve ONE problem over and over again.” It seems impossible but as I think deeper about it, it seems true because no matter what we encountered in the latter days, we always refer back to the very first hurting memory we have, because human we are so vulnerable and small that can only tolerate one trauma and needed whole life to solve it…
Back to the job. As an introvert and socially awkward person, this job gives me the opportunity to face many different kind of people and talk to them actually( normally I just have the courage to talk to certain kind of people). Customers always have a purpose when they approach me, sometimes is a question, the other time is a request for me to do something; and as soon as they called me or started to approach me from a far distance, you can guess their purpose from their facial expressions, this is the fun in my job. Also when I make the response, for example when the customer ask for certain size of a product, after you checked and told them the result, you can see their expressions as they are happy, disappointed, not believing in you or just don’t care.
So I start to make diary about customers as a whole, I used image of my own face and modify it into different emotions/ expressions customers made that I can remember. At first I painted the portraits using acrylic paint, but then I want to make it a reflection of myself of my own memory. This is something similar to record, but also a kind of story making. As I wanted to change my way of making art, before I often started from a concept, not related to any life event at all, thinking artists’ ideas are all “floating in the air”, however this time is a more life-oriented and start from something happened in a period of my life.