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The Art of a Life Long Journey

August 18, 2014

A life in art has left me stranded, caught between two worlds, there is my conformist/compromised side that produces art for money and then there is my true being which has been battered and bruised by the rigours of life in which being a true artist is almost impossible. In a way I was never truly conscious of the level of compromise that earning a living entailed and I always worked with a perception of integrity and belief untill one day when I was insulted by the insensitivity of a naive art dealer/gallery owner. Paradoxically I owe them a debt of gratitude because their insensitivity finally awoke me to the sometimes fickle nature and pretentious nature of the art world. And for the record I believe there is no direct correlation between  art and the art world, ie they can co-exist, but art can also encompass independent and free statements. There is no great difference or polarity of the dichotomous aspects of my character, but there is a difference which disturbs me because I want to live my life knowing that there is a deep sincerity and that I can look myself in the mirror knowing just who I am and feel proud of who I am. I’ve come a long way as an artist and led a life of immense struggle, for the most part I’ve been ignored but I never lost belief in who I am and my creative potential, but the knocks kept on coming till I had to draw the line. I make what I make for the reasons I want to make it and I will happily be judged by anyone. But I will no longer make work which I feel is for popularity and attention, because it is an intolerable compromise. For two years I’ve written and sketched and sculpted in a desperate attempt to find my way and uncover myself from a tangled web of confusion in which my very identity was compromised. Determined to become one in all aspects of my life, to truly find myself as an artist so that I could move forward with one authentic voice. I don’t give a fuck about fame or success anymore, because what I’m looking for is far more important than the banal nature of shallow notoriety. I don’t believe there was a short cut to reaching this point for me and I had to learn the hard way and earn my position as a free artist through strength of character and the empirical lessons of a hard knock life. So now as an artist I no longer care if people like my work or not because I don’t make it to be popular, I make it to be free and it is my life affirming vocation and contribution to society. The art world is full of broken souls and I’m determined not to be added to that list, which is why I’m standing alone and doing what I want to do. These last four years have been my most rocky ever and I’ve felt constantly pushed to the edge, relying on a strange sense of intuition, financially I’ve been wiped out but somehow I survive, just, but my will was never broken and I’m determined to prove my worth and demonstrate the possibilities that come from a healthy open artistic adventure. This essay is all part of the process of how I’m coming to terms with all the issues that have burdened me and is how I’m coming to terms with who I am in the context of my perception of the society and world which I inhabit.

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Life  experience is leading me to believe that duplicity sits comfortably  in the lap of  contemporary society, it’s a path that I actively try to avoid but I feel it all around me, in the layers and levels of truth that individuals expose in their daily interactions. Simplistically there are truths and bare facts then there is the spin, an enhancement and embellishment for the palatable digestion and general acceptance. What we perceive to be fit for general consumption, but not too radical or threatening for the status quo, where  being radicalized or revolutionary sits uncomfortably. To succeed in the art world you must simplistically describe the context and conceptual nature of your offerings for validation. Artistic licence will then allow for liberal helpings of whatever you choose to offer, it is a moveable feast and whatever you say it is, is, but seldom does anyone have the courage to say it like it truly is without the sanitized candy coating. I believe it is fear that prevents truth and a belief that contrivance and myth give a greater conceptual contribution to the canon of art, filling these grey areas without absolutely definable narratives or validation, here there is room for invention. Of course I’m making sweeping generalisations based on my gut feeling and reaction or interpretation of experience. I’ve witnessed this approach to life in all my experience and observation which has caused me a lot of hardship and great pain through relentless disappointments. All I want is the truth so that I can approach my life and work with an inkling of truth and a belief that truth has a place in society. When I speak to someone I don’t want guarded self-defense, the silent pause of  censored interactions motivated by fear, the fear of judgement and of being exposed through the transparency of open communication. In a world where fear controls so much of daily life, there is also fear through economic security which takes away the risk factor and demands a level of conformity and in return there is an acceptance into the framework of societies hierarchy. I wonder if I’m alone in feeling the duplicity and pretence that feels so endemic in the shallow nature of  a society based around economics and consumerism. Does fear really drive us to living life in falsehood, living in fear of being exposed for who we are and the values that underpin and guide our daily decisions. I can’t live in a pretend way and that is a problem, I can’t pretend to be something I’m not and I can’t pretend my work is anything more than a life long obsession and commitment to something that I feel is special. My art is just my creativity and I’m just a very ordinary person unspoilt by societal oppression and though my background was difficult it forced me to find my own freedom through truth.

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It is the disingenuous approach to modern living that has been imported to Britain that really disturbs my life as an artist where everything has to be contrived into a positive or conveniently disguised and sanitized by the metaphorical masking such putting  a shiny context to a work of art or looking at money as an energy to disguise greed. So much of what we take for granted is utter bullshit and is based on economics and part of a great con that distracts us from our reality. The core values that should underpin and motivate our lifes and interactions are becoming sacrificed in all but the smiles we are hiding behind and the truth about economic prosperity is a savage story of exploitation and division. What about empathy and compassion and looking at humanity as a whole, one tribe inhabiting the earth and working together for a common goal. Instead we inhabit a world divided with a harsh reality, in which  we in the west are protected from as we cosy up with greed as our companion. When you get caught up in the rat race you discover how much of a rat you are. So the reasons why there is so much duplicity is  because we need to mask the inconvenient truth of who we are and the consequences of our actions. I sometimes  observe people as I travel round the country and I get a general impression as I see people stuffed and drunk on the excesses of  consumption and I can’t help but ask myself is this what life is all about.

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Questions questions there are just so many questions. Does society really indoctrinate our very beings into compliance and linear bands of existence that set parameters beyond which life becomes uncomfortable. Is it really beneficial for society to have a level of compliance that makes us all obey the laws without questions, a society that cradles us from the raw truth of our very existence, so that we just accept our being and fall into a neat existence. Is this social engineering or a natural state of being that we fall into naturally because exploring our consciousness is too challenging. Are we in fact free to exist independently as we see fit, to follow our instinct and inner force, so that we can explore and live a satisfactory life according to our free will. I actually believe that our reality is one of coercion and manipulation in which we are channeled and in that sense there is a false reality set out for us, but as an artist you dare to step out of line and into a world without absolute answers. A place without convenient resting places for the enquiring mind and where you have to find comfort in the creativity that results from such enquiry. I like to think there is a place or space in the world where you can live your life without rules and laws, where artistic exploration is open to an individualistic approach without precedent, even if this is just a state of mind which I guess is what I’m searching for.

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Sometimes I feel like I’m walking on egg shells as familiar people scowl at me, through anticipation of what I might say next, but I’ve started to shrug my shoulders and say it like I feel it is, much more and I believe people respect that. I no longer feel subject to the manipulations of social pressures because they are oppressive and repress my true nature, if I feel it I say it. We are all unique and there is space to expand our expression into broader lateral spheres. In a world without certainty or absolutes a broad approach is part of our gift and instead of occupying a status built-in the house of cards, an open and expansive approach would benefit society and allow people to freely explore alternatives. It may be an inconvenience to the simplistic structures of society, to have a place for everything, but to live in a society with expansive values would in my opinion create better societies with a greater level of engagement. The Zombie metaphor often haunts me these days when I walk through the streets and feel drawn to make generalised assumptions based on what I see, through the body language  and what I feel in my gut. I feel the detachment, the levitation into a false reality cradled by the pacifying measures of  a society which is increasingly detached from a connection to our sentient beings and this comes through in my drawings. We are so busy doing nothing that it astounds me, but we are so caught up that we can never jump off and step back for long enough to actually see or question our lives. Trapped within a system and held by fear as we work together in competition. If you really ask yourself the question, what is the point of my life on earth? I wonder what the answer would be.

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The thing is that I could be wrong and my assumptions may be seen as misguided but what I feel and my lifes experience (limited as it is) is all that I have to go on. But as I often write, I’m a peripheral figure cast out to the margins of a cruel and judgmental society that allows astonishing wealth and astonishing poverty and though British society is amongst the fairest and richest in the world, it is by no means democratic or meritocratic. I hope to always maintain my anarchic socialist principles and never conform to the divisive outlook that judges people through their status in which rich people and famous people command respect based on status. The people whom I have had greatest respect for are usually people like me, who are losers and misfits in the eyes of society. Right now my life is in a crisis as I have to earn more money to survive, but I’m working on ways to work with my truth and sell the pieces that are saleable, it’s been a stiff challenge and taken me to the edge, but slowly I’m finding that path. Aware that my integrity is always under threat from all the temptations that my frail humanity is lured towards, life  is hard when you feel like an island and you have moments of profound insecurity when your thinking flies in the face of societal expectation. I was born to rebel and question the status quo in my own gentle way, I can’t help it as I search for something positive to fuel my irresistible optimism and hope. Society should take heed of how it treats those who wish to offer positive contributions and realise that there is a collective responsibility that is incumbent upon us all as custodians of the earth. There is a consequence to all actions and while ever our values are dominated by economics and  greed our human value is diminished as it heads along a destructive path

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As an artist I’ve always been encouraged to glamorize my profile, to gently lie on a professional level, in order to embellish my credentials, a common practice I believe in a world that is fast becoming a smash and grab culture where ethics have no real meaning and can be viewed as an inconvenience. The great entrepreneurs we are supposed to look up to in society even boast about their profit driven activities based on greed and exploitation, but if it’s done with a smile then what the Hell. But I could never deal in bullshit and pretence and right now it turns my stomach along with the compromise that is expected of artists. At least with my blog I can say it like it is and cast my meaningful words into the great meaningless abyss and feel a sense of relief for a brief moment that I finally had the courage to mumble a bit of truth. However I do feel that I have learned much from my forray into the virtual world, about myself and about societies values and about the often futile struggle of the artist in which art becomes incidental to what amounts to a great personal struggle. A journey that may amount to greater enlightenment of the individual and an unenviable dilemma of just exactly how to express this perspective to an unresponsive world, if indeed it is even worth expressing at all. As an artist I’m an irrelevance to British society not even worthy of a footnote but this does not devalue my life in any way and I as much as anyone else have the right to express myself and the right to believe in myself.

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I don’t actually want to write any more and I’m desperate to disappear altogether from the virtual world, because words are not my first language but the world I live in seems to taunt me on a daily basis and it provokes me to a point where I have no choice but to write my protestations. This short-sighted society hell-bent on destruction bothers me to such a degree that I can’t remain quiet, and the more meaningless civilisation becomes the more it consumes and eats the planet for no actual purpose beyond economics and greed. Without true values we search desperately for a meaning to life in which we just consume relentlessly to pacify our discontent. It seems nothing is sacred to those without conscience, who are destined to succeed, protected from the consequential reality of their exploitation as they live out their lives in a land of make belief. However there is a harsh reality because there are consequences, duplicity may fool some people but you cannot hide the truth for it is there for all to see. And this is what I’m writing about here, because if you live a life that is true you have nothing to hide and no need to pretend or cover up your actions. If money is your God then come clean because the level of rationalizing and abstract excuses for human insensitivity and greed doesn’t fool everyone. But untill society learns to value human values over economic values we will always be heading for trouble, through division, conflict and exploitation.

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I once believed that as an artist my work would carry me to the place that I felt it deserved, but I was naive and didn’t realise that in a dog eat dog world you have to fight for a place, but I could never do that and so all I can do is work in my solitude, aware of society and with belief. The world is a funny place and when I recently took a look at some large public sculpture I realised that success was far from meritocratic and that the values of society are often reflected in the folly of our collective actions.

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