“A Chinese painter of bamboo is said to have been advised by a colleague to study the bamboo for many days, but to complete the painting in a few minutes”. 1
This body of work is, in a way, a departure from my general approach to art making. An unexpected but much appreciated invitation to take part in this show arose.
But it had a short deadline.
Usually I spend considerable time researching, planning, thinking, trying. This process has defined a slow and very considered, some might say far too considered, approach to my art making. But in this case, after talking with Kenneth, the Director of Karin Weber Gallery, about what might interest him (which was a commentary on the art world) I started very quickly to rough out ideas that critique and comment on the changing face of the contemporary art world as seen from the perspective of a “creator/producer” as some of us are being referred to now.
My work for the show was divided into three areas: snippets of overheard conversations, commentary on art making and history, and a consideration on illness. All in their own way though refer to the making and distribution of art.
I thought about ways to approach creating the work and what I might use as a conceit. A range of possibilities, in part driven by the quote that precedes this statement, were chosen. Satire, commentary, critique and art world clichés were all considered.
My work comes from many places. Mainly I read. I try to inform myself by reading widely as I am inherently curious about many things. Science, art, engineering, electronics, music, history (my degree is in Social History) and fiction. Something that I have long been interested in is the work of writers such as Peter Burke and Boris Groys, who cover how art represents power and how images are used in ways well beyond their aesthetic qualities. Much about art and art making has always been about power, and its transfer. In most cases this transfer of power is away from the artist as the work becomes a fungible asset to be (please buy my work) sold and resold. Power, or the uneven distribution of it, is responded to directly in two of the works.
In addition to reading, my other source of inspiration is from things I hear and listen to. That is becoming harder as my hearing is failing. But listening can unexpectedly reveal new things.
Putting this all together (don’t worry, I’m getting there), reading and listening to often unguarded conversations gives you an expanded view on the world. Listening to conversations within the art world can be particularly interesting. Many within the ‘art world’ use overheard comments as anecdotes (I’m not immune to this), and often these anecdotes are about people who haven’t been as heavily immersed in the art world as most artists, curators and collectors. It is a way we try and maintain our hold on an ounce of power.
My work attempts to consider the many different views on how the art world/system works. All of them right. All of them also wrong. People outside don’t understand. Those of us inside claim to know how it works, but actually, do we? Are we simply allowed to think we do? What actually brings success? Talent, marketing, luck, attitude, sexiness? Something else? Maybe it is a spicy dish of all these things and more. Maybe it is all just down to semi-random chance. Like getting sick, or winning the lottery.
Finally, there are many people I want to thank who have been involved in the process of making this small body of work. Kenneth of course, for the opportunity, and the tight deadline which made me do something that I’m not used to - make new work quickly. My studio assistants, both now and in the past, each of whom has in their individual ways helped, cajoled and pushed me. Martha Hatch, Mak Ying Tung 2 and 33. Plus all the other people who have, in many ways, big and small, helped me do what I do.
1 Peter Burke, Eyewitnessing: The Uses of Images as Historical Evidence, (Cornell University Press, 2001), pg. 7