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Art and the great British class struggle

April 21, 2015

 

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When I look back on my life, I feel I followed the right path as an artist and held onto my values, but it is tinged with sadness because my uncompromising ideals and values have highlighted the systemic weaknesses of the social systems which govern our lives. Yes I too could have been a contender, but realistically that was never going to happen when my approach to art was based on empirical demonstration, entirely work led into what I naively felt was a meritocratic arena. I avoided pretence and all the ego stuff and so that I could become a genuine artist, offering art with substance and integrity. The way I see it: Just an ordinary earthy bloke who worked hard at innovating an important aspect of sculpture and who succeeded as an artist. Yet failed within the art world to secure a decent living standard and any acknowledgement for a lifes work. And now the clock is ticking on a life slowly being squeezed into inertia through economic hardship and the realisation that to complete a lifes work may have to be achieved through a different medium than sculpture.  I no longer care about the real world opportunities as I have now retreated into my own world where I follow the path that feels right. There have just been too many false dawns and disappointments to continue chasing the trails to nowhere city.

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Finally I’m getting over myself and my fucking life to a point where I feel able to breathe again and push on with a bit more meaning. Just to say it like it is and do it like it is without any filtering. But I’m not ready for silence just yet as some issues are still burning strongly inside of me and they will have to come out in order to bring peace to my life. One of my enduring issues relates to the great British class struggle which seems to be very much magnified in the art world, as we the artists slave to adorn the elite tiers of society with trophies. Something with which I have never been able to reconcile myself with, because everyone by their birth right deserves a chance to share and understand the creative gestures of the worlds artists.

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Yes, today I’m feeling a bit political and my thoughts are veering towards a gentle condemnation of the British state, a great mechanism for oppression and the perpetration of the great class struggle.  A poor education for the poor and a rich education for the rich in a society divided by the haves and the have-nots. Elevation for the elite and oppression for the poor in a society that has evolved through, nepotism and cronyism, masters and servants in an unholy alliance. Upholding an elitist society with a monarchy which stands as a great symbol of our hierarchical structure. The great British reality demonstrating how we are not born equal into society and yet we willingly accept the illusion of true democracy and meritocracy. To call this society free is perhaps a slight exaggeration, when we the foot soldiers are subjected to a life of subordination and economic hardship. Some of us dare to stand up and assume our human rights in an attempt to freely express ourselves, only to find there are  parameters to our so-called freedom. I was a proud sculptor once, but the travails of my life and the great British struggle has torn that asunder and left me compromised and poverty-stricken. I’m still trying to find a path to a meaningful life, but with so many broken dreams I really don’t think that I will ever find my way back to a genuine contentment. And I will never recover to be a happily working sculptor, because no matter how hard I try, I’m hampered by too many painful memories. In myself I feel relatively happy but I refuse to accept my lot in silence.

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Britain is quite a duplicitous nation and one which projects an image of perfection and high moral standing, yet we have a history and present which is far from benign and peaceful. So why should this bother me as a sculptor? well because the ideals, philosophies, history and political structures impact on my daily life to such an extent that they govern my activity and restrict my practice. For some reason I was able to accept it for the first 26 years of my career, but finally my art led me to seeing through the structures which bound my life and I no longer felt comfortable working within a system that felt deeply flawed. There are just too many barriers and hurdles for souls like mine in an engrained system which has never been revolutionised or woken up. Because of this we operate within a system which has evolved with the weight of institutional dogma and procedure and there are obstructions for those who wish to operate in unconventional ways. To explain what I mean I will use the example of my work and how I have never been able to show it in a substantial public exhibition and also as an artist I have never received any public grants or assistance or even any recognition from the institutions in place. Instead I’ve been subjected to a harsh reality in which I have had to fund all my work for thirty years, by selling it privately through the commercial sector. In short I’ve been fucked over by the state and left out in the cold, even though I’m a credible artist with a proven record. I’ve been subject to living my life under the protocols of a small business with all the administration and beaurocracy to keep me in my place in a society that refuses to accept the value of art in society. In making a living as an artist I’ve had to make thousands of sculptures like a slave in order to live a life in poverty, all of which has led me to a complete burn out with sculpture. This is really why I no longer give a fuck beyond my work itself and the feelings of credibility it creates within. Because I have fought too hard and for too long and now all I can do is share my story in the hope that it will resonate and help others.

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Yes, I refuse to be a twit and fall upon shallow platitudes to satiate my utter dissatisfaction with a system that has done nothing to promote my art, because I refuse to be controlled through implication and subterfuge. As I refuse to bow down to the peer group pressures and fall into line under the auspices of the conventionally unconventional artistic stereotype. Because ultimately I believe you can’t be free without experiencing freedom and autonomy in your daily life and freedom is not about being complicit with a system that seeks to hold people in a safe and convenient place. It is indeed a strange place where my art has taken me too and one that I never expected, but as I continue to follow my intuition and struggle to work, I will try to make some sense out of it all. But most importantly I will try to maintain the courage to communicate openly and without fear.

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In the end my struggle was all too much and the damage was done, I lost belief in the system and ran out of hope, even becoming alienated from my own work as my belief dwindled. To a great extent I have recovered my self belief but my ambition does not extend beyond a search for creative excellence. A conceptual sophistication which I hope to achieve through drawing, sadly I no longer care whether or not any of it is realised through sculpture, because I no longer have the will or desire to be enslaved by production in poverty. And let me remind you what that entails, working in a cold, damp small studio, breathing in dust and fumes, working with poor tools and bleeding hands in a continual and infuriating compromise. Yes in great Britain you get totally stuffed, when your only crime is trying to enrich the cultural diversity of a small island nation.

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So now I work in my impoverished state relatively free and almost undercover, knowing full well that no matter how good my work becomes, how interesting, innovative or original, that it won’t make a blind bit of difference beyond a feeling of accomplishment in my own reality. This is a sobering thought for me and one based on facing up to my thirty years experience of living the life of a struggling artist, bound by the economic realities of a system which fails so many people.

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As Always ❤ ❤ ❤

2 Comments
  1. Lorraine Fothergill permalink

    You are right to be outraged, and finally feel you can only turn away and withdraw from it all, pursuing your art in integrity. I’m appalled that you have reached a point where your sculpture is now dominated by the struggle you write about here. It is a great shame. What do you wish for?

    Liked by 1 person

    • Hi Lorraine, I really feel that I’m getting somewhere and I’m happy if it is only through drawing and writing. It’s just that I could not bear the years of stasis brought on by my impossible circumstances. Just to draw out my ideas and see them develop is wonderful in itself. 🙂

      Like

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