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The way it is for an Arty Phucker

March 8, 2015

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I take my art more seriously now than ever before, having learned the lesson that you don’t have to feel apologetic for being an artist. I no longer feel that I have to make excuses or justify my work beyond it adhering to my own standards. But to get here has been an immense personal journey in which I had to find a way of believing in myself as an artist.
It’s quite complex when you live in a pretty normal environment isolated from other artists and institutions, because you feel so exposed. Exposed to reality, no frills or fanciful language to butter up your ego, just the starkness of ordinary life. However this was what I always wanted and accepted as my way of being, because I wanted to live a real life away from grandiose notions, a life in which I could comfortably be just me. I don’t have to show off or pretend I’m anything beyond being an ordinary man. A life in which art became a reality in society and had real meaning and a relevance to ordinary people. Art that isn’t directed at trying to be clever, art that is not made to fit into the narrow confines of mainstream art. But to achieve this you take the knocks and deal with the realities that destroy your ego and expose your ordinariness. And it is that ordinariness that eventually allows you to become a free artist, because you are unshackled and have nothing to lose and nothing to gain.
Inside I still have that desire to prove that I can make art as interesting and relevant as any other artist of my time, and it makes me smile. Smile because it’s been a life full of complexity in which I have always found my own way of doing things. Not only that, I’ve been able to carve out a living solely from my work for nearly thirty years. And now once again I can feel that I’m close to my potential, with so much possibility ahead of me.
It is great when you can look back upon your life and feel the success of your own personal development and feel proud that you have achieved something that feels worthy, in terms of human development. Particularly when you’ve had to fight for it all and go through the mill so many times as you lose belief and teeter on the edge. Having said that I’m also aware of the transient nature of mild satisfaction and the ephemeral nature of being which at a moments notice can slap you so hard that it takes you off your feet.
So when I say I take my art seriously I’m not being smart in any way, I’m just saying that I believe in what I do. You see I just never thought that you could express so much of your humanity through art and I’m continually amazed at what you can achieve. And it’s a personal achievement, not some great gesture that changes the world or delivers some great fortune.
My lesson has been one of finding the courage to express myself freely, irrespective of any reactions or consequences. It feels like a gift because I as an artist can do what I like and feel is true to my existence. But with art there is also a great responsibility, something which I feel is sacred and fundamental and something that I don’t take lightly.
For a long time I was trapped in a trap of my own making, but I only now realise that without this experience I would never have understood freedom or have had the absolute desperation which drives me forward today

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Sometimes I wish that I could write out all the words that I feel compelled to write, but there seems to be no end at the moment. However I feel closer to the point where I can abandon that irritating feeling of typing out words on my laptop key board and immerse myself in a bit of sculpting.
Writing in the moment has proved interesting and helpful in clarifying my thoughts and showing me a way forward with a greater understanding of self. It has also brought home the importance of communication, which after all is what art is about. But what I have found frustrating is that each time I write something, it leads to some more writing to further clarify or to continue where I left off.

For a long time I felt deeply conscious about how my work was received. From the days of college in which I was educated into respecting art through its history and through institutions, yes I had that youthful spirit, but it was tempered by my humility. What I never truly realised was that I needed to stand up on my own feet and own my art through developing my own definition of art. But I got sucked into the art world and its hierarchy, slowly moving up the ladder by playing within the rules. But the effect of this conformity was slowly narrowing my approach to art and I became a victim of my own success. However the limitations of fitting in were becoming quite soul-destroying as my work became finely tuned.
It’s all been a bit crazy in a way, because I was born to rebel untill I found my path to freedom. Rebel because that was the only way I could protect myself from the conditioning of society and maintain enough purity of being to find my own path and develop as an artist, unencumbered with meaningless detritus. You see my take on being an artist is not about complying to a system or making points about the system, because it is about human reflection and thought. Often timeless and universal but not the limited thinking of along narrow dogmatic lines of enquiry. We are all unique in some ways and yet we tend to fear being different, as we fear difficult gestures that we can’t understand, because by not understanding we lose control and expose our vulnerability. Yet it is the uncertainty that leads to discovery and in our present time of convenience the inconvenient truths are most challenging. Art has become a safe haven, a protected bubble, because it operates in a controlled environment, an environment that has been constructed by adopting ideas based on assumptions. So the validations of these cohorts construct empires which we all follow and take the assumed knowledge as absolute, like the viral effect that society aspires to for validation and inclusivity. As I always say in art you must question everything in order to realise just who you are, because of this blindly following trends is not an option.

My time at school and college was torturous to say the least, and I was constantly subjected to discipline for my poor conduct. Finally at the age of twenty I was kicked out of college before getting a place on a fine art course, where I continued to get into trouble, nearly ending up in fights with lecturers who lost their tempers with me. I knew when I left college back in 1985 that I was finally free to go out into the world and become me, but it’s been a convoluted journey of an extraordinary nature and so full of surprises.
Eventually life in the real world suppressed my spirit as I tried to conform, but true conformity was never going to happen and so as always I have to release myself from the constraints and find some interesting way forward. And I believe that it’s this detachment that is allowing me to broaden my approach without any worries, because reputations in the art world count for nothing. In my opinion all that is important is the art that you produce and why should that be dictated by the market or conforming to expectation. Yet as a young artist you need to be recognised and supported and even nurtured, but the problem is that it is often a trap. A trap that can limit your art and compromise your potential and freedom. And it really comes down to a lack of transparency in the art world, a world in which honesty and integrity is compromised for the sake of the smooth operation of a system. The reality of which is that people just accept the terms and conditions without questioning beyond their remit and so unknowingly the system is governed without true realisation.
For the artists we know deep inside who we are and are able to make the changes if we have the courage to step out of line to find the true art we hold within. However to do this we must loosen the grip on ego and reputation and explore in isolation to find the expression that is the who, what and why of our being. It’s hard to explain but what I’m trying to say is that if you were shut in a cave on your own the art you would make that no one may ever see is probably as close as it gets to your truth. And that is why I choose to work the way I do, because my work has to be realised in my own time and place and when I feel happy with it I will share it, Showing it in the full knowledge that I believe in it regardless of how it’s received. But in order to produce my true art I must step back and protect myself from the pressures that are waiting to bear down on me, something which I’ve often been challenged about. And again this leads to another interesting area of the eccentricity of artists which is often just laughed off. But this eccentricity is about the protection of the sacred being that art requires and it can become a defence as you fight to retain your integrity in the margins. In my own life I have been exposed to disrespectful outbursts by people who are unable to understand the complexity of an artist’s mind, simply because much of what you do is simply  impossible to explain. Yes, the uncertainty and unknowingness of what lies ahead is all part of the vital journey and yet it feels so awkward to those who live their lives through systems and procedures.

So as an artist you occasionally become that beast of burden, unable to explain yourself in a coherent way and it leaves a nasty after taste when you are subjected to simplistic character assassination, which is part of the reason why I choose to write about, because I feel that as an artist you shouldn’t feel ashamed for being different. You could say that being an artist is a bitter-sweet existence, but at least it offers you the chance to become an open conduit in which you can express your internal truth till you become almost transparent. And by having a blind faith and investing in hope and optimism, one hopes to remain protected from becoming embittered and angry. The good thing is that if you express yourself in an open way, you can dump the baggage, lighten the load and live freely in a seriously happy manner.

I’ve still a long way to go on my journey but I feel that my direction is good at the moment and showing my drawings and prints at The Fleeting Arms felt good. To be exposed in public with your work acts as a barometer to indicate where you are in relation to your creativity. And where I am is close to being able to put together an exhibition that will reflect who I am as an artist, which is very exciting for me. It feels like it has taken thirty years to really discover who I am as I fought to find myself in the confusion of life and it is deeply satisfying.

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❤ ❤ ❤

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