taking the scenic route

Tuesday 4 August 2009

bird on a rooftop with clouds
[bird on a rooftop]

i know quite a few artists that make a humble living by making and selling their work through galleries and online; their work is very appealing, uplifting, well crafted, they have numerous private collectors, a loyal and appreciative audience for their work… i know other artists who
sell little if any personal work to the general buying public; rather, they work within the public realm, seeking and securing funding to engage in collaborative or public artworks, residencies, installations and performances… such work demands a lot of research and development (supported in the main by grants or public commissions), not just of the making or marketing of events, products or ideas, but reading philosophical texts, classical literature, social history documents, as each project has a specific means to an end… both types of art are necessarily self-indulgent (even if collaborative), as an artist cannot make unique works without some form of ego present, a sense of personal identity is embedded in the creation of the work, this is what i need to do, to work out, to find, to understand, to resolve, to share with others…

working in public art or collaborative installation art doesn’t appeal… i need to work on nurturing ideas quietly, an environment in which to think and create alone, and not feel that i have to work from research to concept to outcome in a step-by-step plan of intended artwork to gain the interest of the funders… having a part-time job has allowed me some freedom to pursue my own ideas at times without the pressure of selling each month just to get by; selling is always good but it is not what initially drives the need to create… making art just to sell seems shallow somehow, is it really art or just another commodity? i could make jam or knit dolls instead (except that i can’t knit)…
however, i know that the art industry is kept most buoyant by ordinary people loving and buying art that enriches their lives, and when you get that sense of connection, of communication with others through your work it beats any publicly funded art activity, where the ones to congratulate the artist will most likely be the critics and curators… so, i often wonder whose opinion is more valid to the artist, the buyer or the critic, and where do i fit in this?…

i have particular ideas and concepts that seem to continually evolve around my perception of landscape, from the transient and the ephemeral, the signs of casual neglect or decay that not only remind me that we are mortal beings, but that what we build is destroyed over time, that the environment is forever evolving according to environmental circumstance, and the resilience of nature confirms a deeper state of renewal, a sense of the ancestral or secret history in both the largest and smallest signs of nature amid the bustle of the manmade… but then this leads on to how to translate it, beyond a mere depiction or recording of it, it is not static… how to convey visual experiences when relying on the cloudy senses of memory and recall, conjuring up an abstract of a location, the socio-historical associations or physical juxtapositions, selecting the most important elements… the landscape cannot be made more real or understood in a straight 3:4 format, it is multi-layered, it resonates at many levels, the sharp contrasts with the soft, the ancient with the new, the brazen with the gentle, the lofty with the minutiae, movement and stillness, a slow intertwining of the metaphysical with the physical… these edges, boundaries and layers of perception always fascinate and inspire me… as simon schama said in his book landscape and memory:

Before it can ever be a repose for the senses, landscape is the work of the mind. Its scenery is built up as much from strata of memory, as from layers or rock

science makes good use of the abstract to convey concrete actions, from the molecular to the macro, from cellular activity to the origin of species; we are used to maps, diagrams or charts to help make sense of complex events… but, within the realm of art there are still many who desire the clearest representation or most faithful reproduction in order to trust it; the artist who distorts or omits the facts of things is cheating us, it doesn’t make sense as we know or think it to be… critics and curators exert considerable influence on those who engage in contemporary art, their word in respected, it raises profiles, adds authenticity, offers explanations, a seal of approval…but, in art there can be no absolute truth, as once made it is untethered from its source, and gathered up in the momentum of new interpretations… all associated stories or sensations will therefore be unique, understood differently, even if the moment is visibly shared… to quote the infamous william blake, ‘If the doors of perception were cleansed every thing would appear to man as it is, infinite…’