While I am looking for a Radio 4 programme that my brother recommended I find this one instead – http://www.bbc.co.uk/programmes/b098jp3w called The Gamble – it talks about Lucien Freud and Francis Bacon and I wonder how they managed to live in such a way . . . how they managed to push themselves to financial, emotional and physical limits and still create art which is meaningful. The programme asks whether it is ‘ an artist’s calling to live this life of fear, confronting failure in the hope that taking yourself to the bottom will eventually elevate you to the top? . . . in a rare BBC interview Freud spoke about people sacrificing the possibility of comfort and what is thought to be an agreeable life, to a life of uncertainty and loneliness perhaps, and where you are engaged in, to them, an incomprehensible activity with results fairly unlikely to change or affect your situation in an economic way, and the thought of that seems to many people astonishing . . .’ The programme contains readings from a poem and it is good, I will have to find out who the poet is.
I wonder if this means I am not an artist because I do not gamble . . . or do I? Maybe . . . not as overtly as someone who puts money on horses, play cards or do the lottery but yes, in a different way, I do gamble. I have chosen this economically unrewarding path and I have always understood that it is likely to will remain so. At least Freud and Bacon did not have children to look after and I wonder about my apparent selfishness in pursuing art rather than working for more secure way of life to provide for my family and their future.
To some extent this repeated self-questioning is irrelevant and pointless, making art is not a choice it is who I am – I cannot remember a time when I did not consciously make marks. It would be more accurate to say I am a continuous process of looking for and finding opportunities and places to make art in as many ways as possible. I have chosen not to follow a predictable career path. Sometimes this bothers me ( I don’t have a workplace pension having never earned enough to put by, bringing up three people costs and financial needs don’t finish when they are eighteen) and sometimes it doesn’t ( people who are secure in the knowledge that they have a workplace pension sometimes find that it is gone when they retire). I am secure in the knowledge that when/if I reach sixty-six I will not sit back and wonder what to do with my life now, because I will already be doing it.
Reading the above back to myself makes me sound more confident than I am. I know what I have said contains contradictions and I am quite happy with that.
It was Radio 4’s daily consumer affairs programme You and Yours segment about Online Art Artists that Neil was telling me about, I eventually found, have a listen . . .it’s very interesting particularly because shortly afterwards I listened to Radio Scotland’s Stark Talk series where Edi Stark speaks with Arthur Watson, artist and traditional singer , president of the Royal Scottish Academy of art and architecture, the home of Scottish contemporary art. Arthur has a long and distinguished career as a learned and well-respected and influential artist practitioner within Scotland and beyond contemporary art world. The particular point that he made which I know is true is that he spends hardly any time using a computer except to check his email. He has no interest in using them because he perceives, accurately, that they have the capacity to suck time away from the perilous nature of pursuing the calling of making art. I agree with Arthur about this although I hope that he recognises that his almost Luddite (nb not anti-progress, protective towards traditional practices) reluctance to engage with the actual use of various software is cushioned by his ability to delegate its machinations to those who have to work with it to bring their, or his, works to fruition. For many artists these days and particularly recent graduates and emerging artists such engagement is vital as they begin to make their career without the bulwark of the academic institution or professional bodies such as the RSA (which remain the territory of the few). . .not only because it is technology which supports their careers outwith such, they do not have to belong to any body to belong, they are able to build their own networks without waiting for others notice, nods, or approval. In addition it is cheap, open access platforms mean that many can learn much without substantial financial commitment or indeed any. They can proceed at their own pace, explore where they are and wander onwards in this virtual much in the tradition of the flaneur – their libraries and galleries are open all over the world at all times. They are not limited to their physical space or the people they actually know. I do not argue that one way is better than another, both are good. What I am saying is that if your career as an artist does not advance in the way you imagine, it does not mean you are not an artist. Yesterday evening I went along to AKBell Library in Perth to see the new Maker_Space Culture Perth and Kinross which is open for library members to pursue their creative practice. There’s all sorts of bookable digital resources available along with support for creatives who can’t afford their own kit . . I am impressed and am thinking about how I can make use of their 3D printer.
I trained in sculpture and although I experiment with paint I am not confident when using it. I swither between whether I prefer oil or watercolour, I swither between abstract or representative, I swither between landscape and figurative and I swither between leaving a flat surface or building outward from the canvas. It takes me a long time to make up my mind whichever artform I concentrate upon and earlier found this in my notebook ‘today I am speaking about sculpture and I find it hard to explain how slow it is, the slowness, the halts and spaces then the acceleration in thinking so rapid that an alteration takes place in the form where there is no indication of the amount, repetitiveness and complexity of circular thought beforehand. Even the halts, spaces and silences are part of the work’s emergence . . .even the times when physical work ceases, where the work sits unchanged for months and sometimes years before it is taken in hand again. There is no time as measured by the clock, the days, years there is only art time.
I am not sure of the precise beginning date of these first two images here in their form as painting. The idea for them had been revolving? Proceeding? Approaching? since 1996 although the images themselves come from much earlier childhood thinking.
The next four are struggles with paint and the appearance of water, of waters’ force, its energy, its densities and transparencies . . .its presence. . .to look at one body of water is to reference all bodies of water experienced in any a=way over time and location. I cannot express what it means. I have many digital film clips of the River Ericht from this year and the from previous years concerning what fascinates me about bodies of water. The digital clips are fine, I love to watch them although for some reason they do not contain all I want them to contain which is why I turned to painting. These are unsatisfactory as well and march me straight back to the question ‘why make art at all when it is the water itself which contains the magic? What more can I say about water than say water?’ I do not know how to make them the way I want them to be.