On finding satisfaction in making, teaching, and waiting
Rifqi Amirul Rosli (he/him), artist and art educator, 2021
In the past year I have been really struggling to keep up my art practice. I find it difficult to practice without a source of income. Luckily, I teach part time just to keep things afloat. I am thankful for it however. Last year seemed like a blur to me because so many plans and job opportunities have been either postponed or cancelled due to the pandemic. Since I was a practicing artist, I only relied on art grants to work for exhibition after exhibition. There was barely time to work freely—I guess it's due to survival.

Last year, I felt I was waiting a lot. Waiting for proposals, waiting for job opportunities and waiting for something stable to come by. It really dulled my passion to continue creating new work. As a freelance artist and educator, you are expected to wait around and also be okay if the project falls through.

However, during the earlier stages of the pandemic, time really had slowed down for me to think thoroughly on what I always wanted to do. I’ve also tried to minimize spending to get through the days. Like many other creatives, we are stuck in this limbo. I wasn’t allowed to work in my studio for a while due to the COVID-19 restrictions. That affected my work greatly, especially when I was doing a duo show last year. Once it was opened again, I had a few sleepless nights just to chase some deadlines.

I’ve also learned that many of us were in such a rush to ‘restart’ the economy once some social distancing measures were better. The process with digitization too was a huge trend of discussion. Some were embracing it but some were more forced into it. My practice had always been studio based and it affected my work greatly as there were so many limitations from making the art to viewing the work in a space. This rush to digitization was pretty surreal for me as it was the only way that art could be appreciated, socially distanced. But aren’t we all tired of our screens already?

My teaching classes were also via Zoom, making cohesive and effective learning a challenge as I had to pick up digital classroom teaching techniques fast. The schools I taught at were expected to give the same amount of effectiveness and objectives even when online. And they were as demanding. I think that was the downside of contract teaching when you are just expected to carry out the lesson. It almost becomes a chore to do because you are not physically there in person to conduct.

There were some initiatives that I had made during the past few months which was starting up my own online studio workshops. That had gave me more freedom to structure lessons and to collaborate with friends without the red tape from an institution or the top-down instructions I receive from companies to ‘just execute’ the lesson. Sometimes, self-initiated projects are the best things, but the downside also requires being resourceful—in terms of finances, stability, scheduling and time.

This year and the last one was a busy year of scheduling things meticulously. Travelling to many places in one day just to get some coin. I’m still trying to find satisfaction in it. Slowly I guess!