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The price of authenticity in my search for values

March 28, 2015

 I could have remained silent about my life in art and how I feel inside, but it is the duty of an artist to communicate  honestly about the ways art has touched their lives. It is also a responsibility to dispel myths and so future generations can benefit from observations and perceptions of our time. I like being bluntly honest even though it’s very difficult, but the price of my art is a side serving of my raw reality, the thinking behind all that I make.

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I can’t really share the music I’m listening to at the moment because some of it has rather explicit lyrics, like NWA’s “Straight outta Compton” 🙂 . I find some music such as NWA’s (even though it’s from way back in the day) quite moving and inspirational because of its authenticity, which is hard to find in the mainstream of contemporary society. The Sex Pistols also had what I feel is a raw authenticity that they were able to communicate directly without the dilution of filtering, Something which seems hard to achieve in the mainstream. The irony for me is that society cherry picks from all these genres of expression, like adopting gangsta slang into mainstream speech, whilst remaining offended by the lyrical content. This authenticity has an ephemeral quality, because once owned and institutionalised by society it becomes compromised. I feel that it’s authenticity which I’m looking for in my own work, because I want to make art which is relevant. I guess the issue I have is that artistic expression is often sanitized for the sake of mass consumption in a society that has become sensitive to the authenticity of truths and realities. I have no cause to shock through my work but I do have a duty to expose my perception of the world I live in and quite frankly the art world is becoming risk averse through fear and living up to a pretence. As an artist one becomes pigeon holed by the implied pressures that hold us in a safe area, where our expressions can be enjoyed in the safety of expected outcomes, safely within the parameters of decency.

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What I feel I’m reacting to is the twee societal values of assumed decency, the pretentiousness that is part and parcel of the art world, which suppresses authentic expression through institutional dogma. Controlling creativity through the purse strings as is the beauty of the capitalistic model which controls our lives with an illusion of freedom, do you really think you were born equal and that meritocracy exists within the framework of capitalism, because I don’t. We the meek and poor are bullied into submission by the state and its institutions, forced into the margins and left to graze on the scraps. I feel I’m a pretty good artist and yet I don’t know anyone who survives on less money that I do, yes I could do something about it, but no I won’t sell out to the elitism of an art world that bathes in false glorification, a world that lacks transparency and truth.  Neither will I spend my life, in effect being bullied into compliance, to becoming a liar who pretends that everything is wonderful and that I have no values beyond superficial gestures. I may at times be frightfully lost but my perception of reality always remains fixed through a simplistic outlook based on being grounded through a belief in what I witness as truths. Yes my flights of fancy are restricted and yet through my art I feel that I truly fly as a human being in what is a life full of riches and values that make my life truly significant to me.

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My individuality and belief in my own human rights to live as I see fit is so deeply etched into my soul that I cannot sacrifice it and subject my  life and ways to something that I don’t believe in. Because of this I will always be locked into a fight to defend my corner and prove my point about the sacred nature of life and my human rights to live freely. Being an artist is complicated it opens you up so much, leaving you totally exposed, and this gap has to be filled with  meanings for your life and expressions. At times this leaves you broken as you crash into the obstructions of the material world and all you can do is rebuild yourself so that you can keep on fighting. Now I realise that there is no place of comfort within society, because art simply isn’t about following formulas or set paths, instead it’s about having the courage to express yourself freely in the moment of your own existence.

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My life experience led me here, to a stark truth, I did have choices along the way but I always said fuck it I’m going to do and say what I feel, I just couldn’t lie to myself, some think that I have been foolish, some are perplexed though I do feel that my work is appreciated for the value and authenticity I offer.

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This world of savvy consumers with its economic guardians are taking the risk out of art and silencing the dissenting voices by condemning them to the margins. It’s really a western cultural phenomenon, bound by economic models which promote compliant investment opportunities. The minion status of the artist finally subordinated to the huge mechanisms of state, sacrificed to the huge conglomerations of the world economy. Elite art as a currency to be vulgarized in shows of ostentatious bragging, adorning the walls and vaults of the greedy rich, set as an example for us all to aspire towards. I personally believe that too often we judge art as opposed to studying the expression, because the controlling nature of corporate society manipulated our ways of seeing and being. So much so that we have become dependent on the filtering of critics to deliver us to consume what is hot and in doing so we have forgotten how to judge for ourselves and make up our own minds. Yes even art is packaged for the convenience of our lives as we are left to walk the walk on egg shells, fearful of free and open expression in case we expose ourselves in the procession of our lives. This fear that we may be exposed as human and vulnerable, is apparent in how we participate with contemporary art and deprives us of so much in our life experience.

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I feel the last three years of my life have been about rehab, after becoming intoxicated by the toxic reality that hits you when you expose your art. So much so that my identity as an artist became compromised. It’s all too easy to get strung out and lost shooting up the wrong shit, chasing rainbows. But now after some good clean artistic living I feel ready to roll again, perhaps even to rock a bit too.

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I now know inside that this year will be my break through year as an artist. After years of sleepless nights and continual struggle in an attempt to find artistic freedom, I think the fog is finally lifting and the time has come to assert my will to do the do. I feel that I can, once again place all my ideas together into a cohesive whole and see with much greater clarity. My stumbling block was finding a way of expressing myself without external interference, so that I could create work that fulfilled my own criteria. That criteria involved realising my aesthetic sensibilities in conjunction with an understandable definition of art so that I was free to openly express my individual contribution through my personal visual vocabulary. Art as a direct expression from within, art without fear or expectation, art that reflected a purity and my truth. The penny finally dropped when I realised that I’m now free to do the work I believe in and that time is now, because my psychological inhibitors are diminished and I have worked through most of my issues. If like many others I want to call myself an artist then I must take off the gloves and demonstrate that I’m worthy of holding that title.

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Trying to achieve artistic freedom required a massive effort from me, because I had to create the space to play and find my boundaries, to discover my possibilities and so that I had the room to make the choices and the room to make mistakes. I was looking to broaden my palette and so that I had the luxury of choice, something which I feel that I have achieved, I also needed time to reflect on my experiments. Through this period of reflection I have finally started to make sense of (almost) everything that I do and feel I can once again put my efforts into sculpting with purpose and direction.
My period of complacency is becoming a distant memory and I can move forward with hope and optimism, because I’m excited by the possibilities of art with all the creativity and expression involved. I know I had to go through this difficult stage to develop further as an artist and I hope to keep up this level of commitment and belief. Values are important in art and from my own experiences I feel it cannot be compromised if it is to remain true, because if it is, it then becomes an applied art that meanders, being pulled in other directions. It’s not easy making a living from art because it pulls you apart in so many directions and leaves you broken. But I guess you have to tough it out, pick up the pieces and keep on keeping on.

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Art can be a complicated mix of wide ranging elements, which need condensing into a comprehensible formula, if it’s going to communicate with clarity and for me that is a great challenge. I simply had to make a move with my art in order to validate a lifes work to myself, no matter how difficult. It was a case of pulling my socks up and getting out of the groove I was stuck in.
Slowly but surely I now feel that peace within which allows me to look at the world without prejudice. And as to how my work is received or whether or not my material circumstances improve, I no longer care, because that is beyond my control. All that I can do as an artist is what I feel is correct and not go around chasing rainbows that lead to dealing with disappointment and broken dreams.

 

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These past few yeas have been incredible for me, if a bit exhausting, but I needed to reach the point where I am today and there was no short cut, just the fast tracking which meant working full-out for a few years.

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