Beyond Good and Bad
A crime to define....
I have a dual nationality. This means I can pick sides in a war between the two countries I am affiliated with. I can compete against 'my own' in the Olympics. I can legally draft dodge one of the countries in time of conscription. I have two homelands. In other words: I was born Ill-defined.
All art is born this way, only more so.
My paintings are all the same even though they look different because they are not defined by me.
Like people, they are all different and this is their commonality.
Do not define yourself. Herein you wind up wearing a disguise and playing a part.
Once you are tied to this part you begin to discuss everything which you fictional as if it were real.
Referring back to a February blog I recall a conversation I had with the artist Radim Labuda who claimed to be a post-practice artist. He had no wish to define either himself or his art. He actually seemed to be most proud of his salad-making abilities.
The current theme among the young artists today, aside from refugees and Trump, seems to be a misguided nihilism which negates its own brevity by being so similar to previous era's nihilistic movements.
I can't help but be impressed by the utter condemnation of labels and definitions however.
Curious since I have recently been getting immense pleasure from combining paintings with titles and vice versa for my '333 paintings' project.
There is a difference though. A difference between giving stories, poems and paintings a title and labeling things. Titles can help to obscure an image as much as they can to define an image.
I have enjoyed so much of what I have seen this year so far but I still feel empty. Have I fallen into the trap of trying too desperately to 'define' things? To explain away the inexplicable? In consideration of the other artists showing their work in town I have decided to shut up for a month or two and spend a little time bending my critical eye back toward my own work.
I am not yet ready to share my conclusions.
It's all about we...
There are two questions which I would like for us to have done with universally and eternally,
"What is Art?"
"What is the meaning of life?"
Two irritatingly redundant questions in the face of all.....THIS.
This is not that. There is no 'that'. It's all we.
"If we can't 'define' we can't criticise, and if we can't criticise how will we know what's good or bad, I mean then where would we be?"
We are playing with other people's words and other people's symbols from a much earlier age and many of us are not satisfied. The artist and poet believe they may be able to break down the seriousness of these vague signifiers of 'something other', in the same way children do naturally until their hands are guided to follow and trace the uncomfortable, tired, old patterns of our government-primed parents and teachers.
"We would be lost without their help. The world would be in chaos."
"Ha! But isn't that exactly what has happened this time round?"
This, I feel, is a time for me to step back from other artists and the business they are embroiled in and remind myself why I paint in the first place.
As soon as one begins taking stock of others' work and wondering to oneself what would succeed in the art world and how one compares to the others, one becomes embroiled in an awful self-destructive cycle from which it is difficult to drag oneself out of.
I wrote recently about turning business into art, but, to my chagrin, have caught myself thinking much more on how to turn my art into business. This is taking its toll and making me feel very particularly queasy.
I can tell that my paintings are taking it personally. Like prize heifers I have primed for the slaughter. I am sensitive when their luster turns sluggish.
Being an artist is like dealing with a never-ending, low flying panic attack by inventing ones own curative, calming methods when bombarded with...... "Paint commercial stuff you can sell and then when that is going well and making money you can do your own stuff." "Paint things related to your locality and people will be more interested in buying it." "Try advertising companies or painting bathroom tiles." "Have a big exhibition and invite lots of famous art people." "Sell your paintings to a rich buyer who will tell everyone about your work." "Do something shocking and get in the newspapers." "It's good to have a hobby. I love taking photographs but I still have to work."
It is time to reflect.
It is time for all of us to promote reflection. It is the 'business minded' who are eagerly, coldly and even accidentally deleting the concept of sincerity, compassion and humanity. Time to make a list of the good and the bad in both art and in life. Time to put our heads together and be honest with each other. Time to put our own head back together and figure things out on an emotional level. We could all perhaps afford to take a break from inventing for the sake of inventing and really take heed of the things history has bestowed upon us and the good that has survived the carnage brought on us by the power-greedy.
Question everything. Google everything!
We are stuck correcting, condoning and arguing our ancestor's points of view when we barely understand the sketchy origins and clunky development of their muddled attempts at organising and controlling.
"There is no finality; we construct from tautology and arrive at nothing." Marcel Duchamp
In a world drowning in a viscious whirlpool of soul destroying, non-sequitorial, anti-reason YOU must tell your teachers in all humility to eff off, stand back and give you the space to find out for yourself if what you are being told is really the beautiful truth.
"Yes but what is truth? Who can define that?"
Now there is the very first questioning question! The question to end all questions.
When you find a person who does not know the answer to this question; there is your teacher. Lies you can find as easily as you can breathe.
You only have to think twice to realise that most of what you believe is not true. Think thrice and you are on your way to becoming an adult.
I am urging myself to stop asking what I can do for others as 'an artist' and begin asking what I can do as a fellow human being.
The minute you begin to believe that you are doing something as 'an artist' you are on the slippery slope of pandering to the 'business' of production.
The painting I am currently working on in the 'Artist as...' Series is entitled 'Artist as Master of Disguise' and echoes closely the point I am trying to make in this blog. It should be ready for online public unveiling in a few weeks. This will also be the final piece of this series.
Although I have been to a number of exhibitions this month I found only one visit of any real personal value.
I was fortunate enough to have been invited to the village studio of Zvi Tolkovsky.
Zvi is a prominent 83 year old artist from Israel who spends his time living, teaching, exhibiting and painting between Tel Aviv and Czechia.
Zvi is unsure what to do next - To quit teaching . Live here. Live there. Why paint? For who? Play the role of the renowned artist at every opening? Same speeches. Same people. Same conversations. Doesn't change, he says. It's all the same. On and on. Zvi is looking for something.....different. Zvi is still very very hungry.
He also happens to be the best artist I have ever met. I am sure he would cry 'Tosh!' at this but it is rare for one artist to ever feel such a kinship 'artistically' with another artist as I do for Zvi.
Zvi reminded me that we are all audience members to our own unplanned creations.
There is so much to learn from Zvi's paintings and sculptures. In them he pours not only his personal life but the essence of the culture, lifestyles and history of the homes he chooses to live in.
From Paris in the fifties to New York in the sixties to round the corner from here today (note - title for future next 333 picture), Zvi has developed his collage, bric-a-brac, junk redistribution, art povera, avant garde, expressionistic books, sculptures, paintings and poems to the point of ecstatic, child-like, revelatory play.
He is like a mischievous angel telling ghost stories round the black fire of a candy campsite.
His work really does speak for itself which is a tremendous and mysterious thing considering the deliberate randomness and obscurity of most of his work. His paintings welcome you to interpret them; they implore you to take those few seconds/minutes longer than you might any other artist's work in order to find that one special, dear thing put there just for you.
One is hard put to place the origins of his textural devices and so finds oneself in turn drawn into the unverifiable yet tangible depths of his pictures. Zvi also makes his own paper and puts together his own books.
Zvi has had sixty something years of people writing about him like this and he still isn't sure what to do next.
This fills me with fire and confidence. It reminds me of E.M. Cioran's line, 'There is nothing to say and that's why there will never be an end to the amount of books we can write.'
We have a choice it seems. Tell our stories and share our poems and accept that Art = Conflict. Either that or shut up.
I repeat the sentiment of my last post - There would be no art in heaven. Only decoration.
Zvi makes 'conflict' his springboard and imagination his swimming pool.
It's summer! Have a break, take a plunge HERE to see some of Zvi's paintings and reflect.
I enjoy showing people the Prague art scene and what it represents and presents to us.
Simple stories. Short messages. Quick news. Small Aha! moments, guidance, encouragement and perhaps a little exhilaration.
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