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Brian Sewell has a point, an inspiring chap?

June 20, 2013

harrogate1Me in 1988 at the beginning of my journey 🙂


In 1988 I had my first real exhibition, it was in Harrogate and opened by Brian Sewell who in his speech praised the innovation of my equestrian sculpture, he bought two of my pieces and his enthusiasm led to a virtual sell out of my work. It was the most amazing start to my career and we continued to correspond by letter for a while after as he advised me in my early career. So when I heard he was giving a talk at York University I felt I ought to attend as it seemed timely with regards to where I am now on my personal journey.  I attended the event last night and saw Brian Sewell in conversation, the event was well attended and it felt quite academic, a strong contrast to my experiential way of life. But none the less I felt comfortable with the language and approach and was surprised by how such different journeys could lead to similar conclusions. Brian spoke about a number of artists with whom I’m very familiar and some that I have exhibited along side and expressed very similar views to mine though in a much different language. But this experience made me reflect on my approach to life which has always been about a gradual evolution through doing and the word experiential popped into my mind. So I looked up experiential and was fascinated by the whole concept which in simple terms is about applying the following criteria to experiences: involvement, reflection, analytical and conceptual skills and finally decision-making and problem solving skills. And this sums up my whole approach to art but the absolute crux of the matter is the freedom to create through experience without the burden of past presedence and the interference of  accepted approaches so that you can explore creativity through your unique approach. So as an artist I don’t really want to know too much about other artists lives or ways because it conditions and influences my thinking and makes it harder to think outside of the box. So as a young man I decided to ignore the fashions and zeitgeist and plod along in my own way and learn through my own experience and questioning and this has worked in many ways as I have grown into an interesting artist with a few good pieces of art under my belt, though I’m at a point where I can truly push on in a significant way if I can get the time to explore and reflect on my recent development of ideas. I know it’s there at my finger tips and that all it requires is a bit more patience before I embark on my next series of work which will have to fulfill a new criteria based on originality, innovation and relevance, in contrast I hope never again to produce work for the sake of producing it and only to produce it with good reason regardless of extraneous issues. And I know that my future lies in the exploration of the female figure and the horse and woman compositions. I’ve always had great belief in my unique approach to the horse and rider but lacked the confidence to push it to the limit as I allowed myself to be diluted through my insecurities and congenial ways but not anymore I’ve had enough of that and I’m going back on my mission with one goal and that is to make awesome sculpture. I’ve finally grown up and  have something relevant to say about life and art and feel it so strongly that it now feels like a duty for me to prove it through my work, to have set out with a unique approach and led a life in the shadows because of it I must now act to take my reward by creating the work that I am capable of. For all the doubting Thomas’s whom I have allowed to influence my thoughts and directions I bid you fair well because now I must move on and in that regard ,yes, I’ve changed. And so now there’s a new relevance to the content of my work and I feel really grateful for the contributions of people who have responded to my work which has really helped in guiding me through a very difficult time as I turned the tables on my discontent. The (virtual and real) interactions to which I refer  could seem incidental but have in fact introduced change in a gentle way and helped me find my true direction. I have exposed my thoughts and process in an open way and in return have been rewarded with a genuine response that has been considerate, compassionate and deeply meaningful to me. There is so much good in humanity despite all the struggles of everyday life.


OOPS!!! I digressed 😉 After the event I had a brief chat with Brian and he informed me he still had the bronzes in his collection and that they had been much admired over the years and he then said to me go and get famous. We spoke about mutual friends and it was a good conversation even though he said good God you’ve aged, but how timely this was because it has brought me full circle to where I need to be. In his conversation on stage I found myself in complete agreement over his take on art and it was like he understood it from the artist’s point of view, drawing, composition, abstraction, innovation and he didn’t compromise his opinion if an artist can’t paint yet is famous for it he’s strong enough to stand up and say it like it is. I think it’s what you call forensically objective criticism and it can be painful but the candid truth is a refreshing tonic to an art world submerged in mediocrity, overseen by a bunch of sycophantic back slappers. He also spoke about many artists with whom I’m quite familiar and that I have exhibited alongside who have great reputations built on past work yet have gone on to live off that reputation with a poor body of work. His absolute passion for art was there for all to see and I felt it had a similar intensity to my absolute commitment to sculpture and from observing his resolute outlook it confirmed the redefinding of myself and my own resolution in going forward to produce work without compromise, I’ve had twenty-six years to grow up and now at fifty I’m ready to do what I have to. Brian spoke in-depth about Hockney and Dali whom I think he knew personally and how thy surrounded themselves with an entourage of worshipful subjects to give them a daily dose of flattery when what they really needed was a slap and a wake up call, now this is a stark contrast to my life where through choosing to work in isolation I have ended up truly isolated. I’d say to a point where I have almost no support structure which is very testing of character and at times no one takes an interest in what you do yet I battle on in full belief that there is good reason. The isolation is a problem because it leads to distractions as you search (sometimes with your work) for interested parties to validate your efforts and this can be an indirect route to compromise yet the isolation is vital to my whole process because I don’t work through consensus and I don’t look for conformity, all I ever wanted was to be me and do it my way. So this experience was helpful and I can get on doing what I have to, making sure each sculpture I make is to the best of my ability and worth making in the first place from a conceptual angle. Simple really, all you have to do is you remove all the bullshit out of your life, steer clear of mediocrity and remain true to yourself, keep an open heart and mind with lashings of objectivity. I say just do what you do and do it well.


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