Pt.1 - Drama.
I wrote a little on the hushed tones with which one speaks of 'painting' in contemporary art circles in my last blog (Czech critic Martin Fryc being a happy exception). I would like now to mention the hushed tones surrounding the words 'I also have a job' amongst artists.
Part of the reason artists find it difficult not to feel like some kind of fraud is their attachment to the 'financial reward' aspect of art production.
I mean if you are being paid money to be a tour guide, an English teacher, or a bar-man and getting paid f**k all for your art, how can you tell them "Put 'artist' under occupation," when renewing your passport?
The Artist depends on the kindness of strangers to offer them their reassurance that what they are doing is worthwhile. This 'stranger' is within us also and happens to be the very person we are trying to connect with when we make our art.
So what is the artist’s reward if not money?
Most artists have probably felt that weird, undeserved and seemingly unnecessary sucker punch of depression after they have hosted a successful vernissage.
Performers suffer the same low shortly after a well received stage show.
It took a full week to recover any real sense of self after the fun had two weekends ago at my own Open Studio event. The quantity of wine consumed played only a small part in my slow recuperation time.
But why is this and how, I ask, does it relate to who we think we are when the audience has stopped applauding? What can an artist really be working towards and asking for if the approval of their artistry and understanding/appreciation of their work is not enough?
I have heard an analogy of how the artist needs to be treated like a child. We need to be seen, listened to and coddled CONSTANTLY.
"You should feel great. It went so well. You did good, man."
A very good friend of mine just had one of the most successful weekends of their career as an artist and fell immediately sick with stomach pains and migraine headaches.
Is it relief? The body and mind collapsing on the big comfy bed of satisfaction and refusing to budge?
I suspect it is spending a significant amount of time being the centre of attention and then having to prepare oneself for a much bigger amount of time focusing on getting that attention which incrementally means giving all your attention to others for the foreseeable future.
This 'seemingly unnecessary depression' may be related to the fact that we are trying to tell ourselves something as oppose to us reeling from a smack. Perhaps we feel like we were holding something back. That we could have and should have said or done more. And now we are filled with the nauseous impatience of having to try all over again and do better, be better.
There are two types of people. Those who love to be talked about and those who do their best to stay out of the limelight. An artist is both of these people.
I was told recently that to be an artist you must 'give up absolutely everything.' This is such a shocking notion but I ask myself if there is much more I can give up. A home country, a full-time job, attachments to material objects, nearness to family, money in the bank, new clothes, holidays. The only thing I have left to give up is this haunting sense that there is always something more to a moment than the moment.
As long as I am painting and enjoying it I should consider this my reward and I can bide my time till Mr Hyde rears his excited, agitated, ugly head again and drools out that nasty reminder "Time to sell yourself, dude. Time to shine..."
Pt.2 - No Drama.
Then I had a conversation with a man with a job who was not an artist. "It's the same for all of us," he said. "We are all children who need a pat on the back. More important than the money is the belief that what you are doing is acknowledged as being good."
This man is a manager of a large, successful company which he was shy to mention by name. "The thing which means more to the people that work for us than money is praise. We all want the attention. We are all children."
There lies the beauty and truth. There in the simple fact that we all wish to be recognised as worthy human beings who are HERE.
Whether through art, labour, craft, song or thought, we all want to be here. To be real. To be listened to. To be recognised. To be loved.
Now here's a thing.
Adrenaline Poisoning. Google it. Literally anyone who has spent a day or two or even a few weeks' holidays filled with adrenaline from fear or excitement will have a 'crash' moment. That feeling that one needs 'a holiday after their holiday'.
"It's science," as Ron Burgendy put it.
A mere fun-time-induced chemical imbalance and very little to do with the an artistic temperament and an over-inflated ego?
No drama so.
Pt.3 – Dramama.
And so it all comes back to the artists' eternal return to where they were before they started out on the quest for knowledge and how they might one day learn to jump over their knees.
In a world where artists are attempting to spread the message of love, peace, sharing, compassion non-conformity and open mindedness it is such a shame that the first thing the artist encounters in the art world is curators and galleries who are running a business in which money, competition, favouritism and greed are key factors in their own success.
The Outsider artists are still the closest we have to 'pure' artists.
Art made by 'Insider artists' is a beacon to the choppy waters of truth. Art made by 'Outsider artists' is the telescope at the turret of an island madhouse looking out over the water at all the imbeciles rowing madly towards the beacon.
Truth sits alone, unbothered, untouched, deep beneath the frozen Martian oceans.
Andy Warhol's 'selfie' may sell this week for 7 million pounds sterling.
It's my belief that Andy Warhol did for art what James Joyce did for experimental writing. They illustrated so clearly the two extremes of the creative process that 'insider' artists will forever be caught between. On one side lies total freedom and on the other cold, self-aware repetition.
And this is no negative thing.
Art is not dead.
The search is over that's all. Art has succeeded. The philosophers have succeeded. It's the audience who are slow to catch up. The answers have been found and enjoyed by so many. All we can do as artists now is regurgitate, direct attention to, and enjoy what we/they have achieved.
The art revolution has occurred already and it is thankfully a continuous one. Continuously successful too. It is not a matter of changing the message; it is a matter of people taking a moment and listening. We are not children screaming for attention, we are humans sharing and waiting for an empathetic smile.
Until the general consuming public let Finnegan's Wake into their heads and hearts and the general productive artist sees that Andy Warhol was not on their side, we are condemned to depending on and hiring ourselves out to businesses who have not yet comprehended the big picture.
I am not a Stuckist; I'm not sure I even believe in 'Bad art', but what I do believe is 'this'. And its our job to make 'this' as enjoyable as possible.
My use of the word 'enjoy' and my frequent drunk claim that all art is 'entertainment' are not things I take lightly. The entire point of making this world a better place is to these very ends.
I asked in my last series of paintings what we would all do after our personal revolutions had succeeded. The images I used to represent this glorious time in our lives was one of inaction, relaxation, experimentation, calm, peaceful reflection and enjoyment of what was being done in that moment.
Whether it is political art, philosophical art, nonsensical art, conceptual art, sensual art, therapeutic art or decorative art, they are all a means to what we hope will be our eventual or better still immediate happy end.
So, I will put my post open-studio funk down to Adrenalin Poisoning and get back to work. I know the answers are already here but we will always need lighthouse keepers for the beacons the best of us humans lit and continue to light with their reassuring 'symbols of individuality and their belief in personal freedom.'
Footnote – While you’re here I will recommend HERE WE STAY at the Czech Centre Gallery on Rytirska and Event Horizon at DOX art gallery.
Not forgetting Gerard Berreby's very interesting Tabule Casu also at Dox.
At the Czech Centre Gallery you can find work by the amazing Delaine Le Bas. Playful, serious, educational, entertaining, honest, powerful and beautiful. A real inspiration. The entire show is terrific but Delaine Le Bas, the British artist with a Romany background, is an exciting addition to this unique exhibition Here We Stay which is a travelling showcase of European artists who are all Roma, Sinti, Gitano or Travellers.
Event Horizon is the Second female group show I have seen in two weeks and once again we see a lot of magnificent hearts worn on sleeves. In their documentary 'Horizon of Events' they all speak openly of the themselves, their colleagues and how they react and respond to each other’s personal stuff. The empathy which rings loud from their statements and art is such a welcome thing in these days of hard cynicism and our all too easy resort to satire.
Time for a change….tune in next time for the call to a Feminist Art Revolution!
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