Friday, 27 March 2009


This will be a tricky one to write.

A couple of things happened yesterday to set me on the road of questioning where I am going with art, and whether what I want to do is art at all, or pretty wallpaper. Don't get me wrong here - I'm not sure if most art, even the big important stuff, is any more than wallpaper except in the minds of a very few. Art is such a big old house encompassing the most high conceptual stuff, to the commercial abstracts of boardroom walls, to the village exhibitions with Sunday painters' work.

I'm not entirely sure either room in that house is privileged over the other, though I can see the point of view of people who scorn the work of the shock artists, and the point of view of those who scorn the amateur daubers no matter how pretty the painting can be.

On the one hand, I'm at a place where I want to break beyond 'professional amateur' category - on the other, I'm not sure why, or what that means. This is the sticking point I hit 6 years ago, the last time I renounced architecture and buggered off to France to paint. I don't wish to go too heavily in to details of what happened then - my attempts to delve further and produce art that had meaning didn't end well and I quickly retreated back to doing sketches for tourists. Suffice to say, pondering big questions was not good for someone with my fragile state of mind at that time.

But that was then and this is now.

Yesterday brought this question of what am I trying to do in to sharp focus for me. Firstly, it was the first official day of my unemployment. Secondly, I went to see Kate Downie in her studio. Thirdly, I had to start outlining the five hundred words of 'why do I want to be part of Saatchi's art school'. Disclaimer : I don't seriously think I'll get on to that show, but I think the attempt will be useful in defining what I am trying to do.

Talking to Kate, an honest to goodness proper artist, highly respected, highly successful and represented in some very important private collections, made me realise what a sharp contrast there was between the real world of a working artist, and my daubings at a coffee table in my living room.

I AM untaught. I truly hate the label 'self taught', yet that is what I am, and it's no use pretending otherwise. Kate said 'You wouldn't expect an architect to build a building without having ever been taught - why is art any different?'. And there's definitely something in that, and I'm highly aware that there is a limit to where I can go without tuition.

There's a few reasons why I have never sought out proper tuition. I spent seven years in art school, studying architecture, but surrounded by the smell of paint and the brash enthusiasm of teenage artists. While I had envy for the art students, I was also unsure that I was ready to go in and be taught art.

My mind was too mobile, too easily influenced, and whilst yes, I wanted to learn technique, I didn't want to go in and turn out the kind of artwork I saw my friends creating - this may sound arrogant, but I had very little respect for what they were producing. 99% of what I saw at degree shows was shite.

The way I saw it then, to produce 'serious' art, one had to have something to say. And I wasn't at all convinced that your average 21 year old, much less myself, had much of interest to say to the world. Painting could wait, till I was older and till I did have something in my head a bit more important than emo meanderings.

But now I AM older, and I'm still not sure I have anything to say through art. Or if art is the correct medium to say things through. Or, to be brutally honest, if my mind can take the intellectual rigour and the introspection required without collapsing again. I've spent a long time learning not to think. It's frightening to consider opening certain doors again. I'm at a place now where I can paint -simple, pretty things perhaps, but simple pretty things I am getting better at doing - without imminent mental collapse. I'm a little bit scared of going any further.

Then, I don't really want to take this year the economy has gifted me with and not try and use it seriously. I'm 36 now and I don't have a lifetime left in which to develop. I don't want to cut my intellect off from my painting. I don't want to be stuck.

What's this all about? well. It's a bit about the chance to be taught by an incredibly good artist, and me being a bit scared to do that, scared that I will lose my confidence, and whatever small ability I have along the way. Scared that whenever I consider art too seriously, I come up with the answer that the whole exercise is utterly pointless.

Such simple things can make you feel like you are standing on a precipice sometimes.

No comments:

Post a Comment