Adventures in Space and Time


Jane Ostler and Peter Porteous-Butler are two busy artists who juggle their work lives, personal commitments and look for time to do their art practice in the gaps that are left. They decided to use the delightful benefit of the SPACE Residency to Spotlight and hopefully prise open those gaps. 

The project brief to ourselves
How do you make time for art? Does time pressure affect your art? Do other things in your daily life have a large impact on what you produce? And what even is this time thing anyway?

Our responses

Jane and Peter batted ideas back and forth from their respective corners of Essex. The first output was Jane’s curious ‘Time Machine’ which Peter quickly added a conveyor belt with ‘Tins of Time’ on. This work informed what was to come later.

The Time Machine

In “Mme. Matisse doing the cleaning” Jane wondered if Henri Matisse’s wife held her own aspirations to rebalance the universe, and called upon the magic of a league of Mop Men to come and help her realise them.

Mme. Matisse doing the cleaning
Mop Shelter, a futile endeavour to protect oneself from life by cleaning?

Mop Man
Mop Man/Woman is a creation of Jane’s to bring vitality to the necessary act of cleaning. He/She represents the capability in all of us to grasp the metal and get on with things.

Mop Man

Time Tin Man

Time Tin Man derived from some vintage style advertising signs that Peter created. He eventually grew some legs and then arms and symbolised the mystery and ever-present nature of time.

As we looked closer in the weeks that followed, we discovered Mop Man and Time Tin Man appearing everywhere. They took on lives of their own. Time Tin Man particularly spread Joy wherever he popped up. And Mop Man did the cleaning, as we all (apart from the privileged few) need to do. He turned up in unexpected places too.

We worship the mop. Images from the British Library online archive.

They even came to life in animations.

Time Flies
Time Walks on TV
Time Tin man taken on by others. This animation was drawn at Level Best Art Café by Ben Andrew and animated by Colin McAllister.  Paul Barnett added titles, colours and music.

So, what are our learnings from this investigation and process?

Time is easily eaten up by our daily routines. We can choose to stay alert and enjoy our Time or let it drift away. Time segments are not rigid, but soft and malleable; we exist in Time but our perception of Time is what matters.
  1. Time is elusive. It tricks us into thinking it’s fixed but it isn’t. Sometimes it’s our friend, and other times it’s our enemy, but it’s ever-present. It impacts our work greatly, but our trick is to do what we planned to do anyway, and not let it have too great an influence!
  2. Art and collaborations can spread Joy. Often Jane and Peter would pick each other up with work and ideas done for the collaboration, and this sometimes spread to the other artists on the residency too.
  3. We can worry about using limited time pockets well, and be concerned about wasting time. But it really helps to release oneself from this baggage, and just relax, play, and do what comes naturally. And our best and most joyous work comes from that.
Time and mop encore

Take a look at our project Padlet pages:

Time Portal

Space residency ideas

Find us and follow us:

Jane Ostler’s website

Jane Ostler’s Instagram

Peter Porteous-Butler’s website

Peter Porteous-Butler’s instagram