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Perfecting the art of imbalance

September 19, 2014

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Creating Art delivers surprises for the artist, sometimes it can leave you in a void, striping you of your assumed identity and left only with questions. Questions like: Who am I? What should I create? and Why do I make the choices I do? I guess what I’m trying to articulate is the process of the breaking down of self and the fundamental questions of being, questions that are part of a search for a purpose. I now feel that no one can assume certainty and that by trying to do so is really based on assumptions. I feel this is part of the human condition which is exasperated in the contemporary world, full of disingenuous bravado. A world of subterfuge dominated by an underlying economic intent. I would imagine that adopting a role within a hierarchical structure, demands a level of certainty through an acceptance of protocol, something we don’t really have in the art world. It’s almost like play acting in order to fulfill expectations of self and of others.

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So as an artist I have to put my hands up occasionally and say I really don’t know who I am, what I’m doing or why I’m doing it and you know what? I feel utterly lost. I won’t press the panic button yet, but I will look for answers to justify my existence and find a tangible meaning or reason for being. And it does become this stark at times when you break through the veneers and facades that hold our beings within the acceptable spheres of convention. It happens a lot to me and I think this often relates to the timelessness of art and the connections through time that have a thread so common but a circumstance of absolute difference. The greatest contrast being that of contemporary art versus the cave art, where the marks and sculpture come from the same human hand, but into very different worlds. I often wonder which of these approaches is the most authentic and if there was a greater connection back then and if the purpose and drive to express humanity through art is fundamental to our existence. As ever I only have my own intuition to guide me and like everyone else I’m forced into making assumptions based on my limited experience. Sometimes I feel that I do have a purpose, but I’m not sure if I really do and I question just how insignificant my life is, I know to me it is everything yet in a broader context it could be considered meaningless. In this negative perspective I feel that I have no purpose and I question the meaning of life and the direction of civilization and I simply can’t see any purpose to life with the values that govern our existence. I see no great balance in the universe and take no comfort from the reassuring platitudes that roll off the tip of the tongue, from the “it all happens for a reason” brigade.

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The artist’s life can be stifled by a rigid structure or timetable, because it imposes upon the freedom of expression and leads to greater levels of contrivance.  (I must add that when I write about artists, I’m not including the karaoke brigade that exist throughout all genres of art in so much as I’m trying to establish the essence of what I feel is a pure and non elitist art.) So you have to do it freestyle and go with the flow and the feel. I’ve lost count of how many times that I’ve been advised to work regular hours and adopt a normalised approach to my creativity, but art doesn’t just happen in timetabled synchronicity.

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I feel that my writing is all about explanation, understanding and the justification of a life that doesn’t fit neatly into society, as an aid to surviving  the weight of pressure that I feel from living the way I do. Something happened recently that made me feel quite vulnerable and it also made me realise just how broken I had been. It wasn’t a major issue either just a few little things going wrong, but it’s impact felt huge, like the straw that broke the camels back. The weight of burden increased disproportionately and I felt bereft, my spirit sank and I felt defeated, like a patched up rag doll. These vivid thoughts brought home the harsh realities that have haunted my life and demonstrated that I still have much to do to recover. When I say recover I’m not being melodramatic , because generally I’m fine, It is just my path to the realisation of what I feel inside is complicated. I could live adequately at my current levels, but I need more from my life and on this path the shards of my experiences keep catching me and drawing blood. I think it’s because I didn’t assert myself enough in the past which diminished my standing through misinterpretations. Now I compensate with anger and strength and fight my corner because there is no other way for me right now. I know that the murder of my sister Wendy way back in 1992 triggered a course of events that indelibly changed my life, it tore something out of me that could never be replaced. In truth I don’t feel that you ever get over grief and that through time our sensibilities are tested and eroded quite dramatically with the pressures that  society brings down to bear. Life is complicated enough without dramas and perhaps in my own life I was guilty of taking my foot off the gas and giving in for a while, I lost my powers of assertion and drifted with a laissez-faire attitude. I can’t change my past or do anything about the way I reacted, regrets are futile but I’m full of them, haunting me as I try to reach the place I feel is rightfully mine. I feel so desperate to feel at one with where I am and though I keep making what feel like great leaps with my art, I’m still nowhere near my promised land. It really isn’t easy and I will continue to fight my way back and into the creative space that will lead to a level of fulfillment, with purpose and meaning.

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I can no longer be satisfied by praise nor do I seek rewards beyond my own satisfaction, because the way of a life lived every day with the pressing concerns that art delivers, is how I would like to define my reality, because all the intensity and strife of being locked into a struggle, makes life real and vibrant. The core of my struggle and my fight has been to overcome the detachment that resulted from the corrosive effects of my experiences and reconnect with my personal journey. Today I came across lots of old drawings and paintings and through the process of cleaning them up I realised that I was back in my zone, finally. If I’d had the energy to do a drawing today it would have carried the message, “I’m back you fuckers” because I know I’ve broken through and rediscovered my authenticity. It’s the drawing that did it and my refusal to make it commercial, because my drawing is untouchable, I draw what I like and I draw when I feel like it, in my vain attempt to overcome my inhibitions and break into new areas. I simply won’t do any drawing at the behest of others or even think about them beyond the range of my pencil. As always I feel there is a long way to go, but my direction opens up through the passage of time, it can’t be rushed because art happens in its own time.

A2 Colour

On a lighter note I’m framing up some drawings and prints for a show in two weeks time, it will be the first ever showing of my 2D work so I’m quite excited. I think they look good so far but I will only truly know when I see them hung publicly with people milling about. The process of selecting examples to show has been very interesting and I hope the retrospective appraisal will inspire a broadening of my aesthetic sensibility and a space to expand and free up my expressions.

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It's not easy being an artist

3 Comments
  1. Have you thought about framing up some prints of the digital versions of these drawings? They’re very powerful. But perhaps you’ve made a decision to stay with these beautifully simple lines and tones… 🙂

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  2. Hi Tamsin, I was thinking about you earlier and wondering how you are getting on, since leaving FB I’m out of the loop a bit. I’m showing some work in York for just two days and I am framing up a few digital colour prints that I can sell. I’m slowly feeling my way into these new areas, but the framing up of work has really helped me jump forward and given me a bit of a boost. I hope you are keeping well and making good progress with your work 🙂

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  3. Yes, it’s funny, isn’t it, we can’t even private message with no facebook! But, like you, I’ve more or less stopped posting work there for now – taking a breather from all of that. I just use it to stay in touch with people and share little daily amusements. I read your post on leaving and didn’t disagree with a word you said, but I guess we can make it work for us in different ways.Things are going well, thanks. Just had a wonderful six day workshop on Lismore. Let us know if you’re heading up this way.

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