A Question of Courage?
Make a list of those people you should stop showing your art to. There is a big difference between those who will give you harsh, constructive criticism and those who will puncture you and effortlessly extinguish your efforts by giving you no reaction whatsoever. Often through no fault of their own. Fuck that. Stop trying to kick that football, Charlie Brown. Lucy will ALWAYS pull the ball away.
Courage in art. This sounds so superficial to outsiders who see the art world as a con or a field for pretentious layabouts to do what they want at the expense of hard working taxpayers.
First: fuck hard working taxpayers.
Second: fuck everyone who pretends not to understand art.
Third: be brave enough to stick to the first and the second comment and you are building the much needed courage to play ..“with the seriousness that one had as a child at play.“ Nietzsche
I once told an artist friend her work was, amongst other things, courageous. I immediately regretted it although I meant it sincerely at the time of saying it. The thing I regretted was the apparent condescension of the comment aimed at an artist who I admire greatly.
I mean, who am I to guess at the courage that goes into another person‘s piece of art? Not only that, but can I even recognise courage in my own art?
Two weeks ago I started a piece and I beleive I have come closest to just that.
The closest I have ever been to thinking I have pushed further than I usually dare.
But even here, I must stop myself. I am, after all, my own boss, judge and critic. What is there that could possibly stop me from doing anything I fucking want in my own studio?
Now here's the rub.
To do what exactly?
Put myself in danger?
Is it even possible in fine art to do any of these things?
In political and performance art of course one can place oneself in harm's way. Look at the Chinese governments recent burning of Ai Wei Wei's studio or body artists who actually cause themselves physical harm.
But let's say one is not trying to overthrow a dictatorship with their work or test their own pain threshold, but are actively trying to overcome personal issues publicly.
Many entertainers expose themselves gladly. Born to perform. Less courageous perhaps than naturally prone to showing off.
It is a well known fact that many creative people however are keen to share their work but are irrepressible shy to boot.
It is one thing to show off one's work and do it confidently despite the fear of humiliation or negative judgement and unflattering comparisons
this is not the courage I am talking about. Making the work public. That type of courage is part of the job. Like it or lump it.
The courage I am talking about is intangible.
You see it sometimes. In a painting. Not in an interview with the artist but in the actual painting. You think to yourself "Fuck. That was brave."
I want to put into words what's so brave about one person making marks in relation to others making very similar marks.
Clare Price is one of the most courageous artists I know. And I struggle to even explain the obvious strength and beauty which comes from the ballsy, vaginary, bastard THERENESS of everything she does.
I want to do what she does and I don't know what she's fucking doing.
I don't want to copy her and I couldn't if I wanted to but I want my next piece to look the same. Not physically the same but 'bastardly' the same.
I cannot afford to have anyone else look at something I am doing and say nothing.
I look at Clare's work and I say 'Wow!' every fucking time. I look at an artist like Zvi Tolkovsky's work and I say 'Wow!' every time and I see courage and strength in both these artists.
In Zvi it comes from his youthful anger and joyful approach to something as hateful and addictive as life. In Clare it comes from a soul mate's profound realisation that art can say and do what we only WISH we could say and do.
We can, as artists, avoid crass attempts at complaining with words and whining without punching and actually fucking splurge EVERYTHING in one honest to goodness YAWP every time we approach our work.
Fear must be how a bad piece of art looks to one of your closest friends who politely limits themself to clicking 'like'. When that close friend says to you in all honesty, about a new piece, 'Are you alright?' or 'You probably should have kept that to yourself', then you are more than likely on the right track.
Does courage in art look like your deepest darkest desires? Or does it look like your deepest darkest fears?
Is 'exposition' the only key to courage in art? There are moments when the artist does something which is considered the antithesis of what is 'usually' done in a certain medium. This too is brave is it not? It is also, unfortunately, expected.
With these words I am deconstructing 80 percent of the art I have created. I hereby add my own name to the list of names I should not show my art to, until...until I don't know what.
If you look at all my works next to each other the courage looks like it comes from my having done exactly what I wanted to do whenever I wanted to do it regardless of monetary gain or fear of judgement
as stand alone pieces I don't feel many of the pieces alone show ALL of me.
Let me put of this way. Everything I have ever done has been very 'me'. But I am too often a conglomeration of compromise, politeness, fear and pride. In art as in life. I know plenty of polite, fearful, proud artists whose art reflects NONE of those characteristics. I know artists who are awkward, shy, tactful and incomprehensible and yet are one hundred percent confident, loudmouth, rude, excellent, prophetic, lunatic, frightening, spectacular, trustworthy, experimental, beautiful, demons in their studio.
Time to let go. Get rude. Get nude. New mood. Hey Jude. No prude. Unskewed. Rebellious portent imbued.