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The ART of ANARCHY

October 19, 2015

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Five years ago I was as broken as could be, a fate that awaits many an unsuspecting artist, on the surface everything appeared normal, I functioned adequately and I was ok, yet inside there was confusion and turmoil. I was disconnected and felt a deep sense of coldness throughout my whole being which I didn’t understand. I was detached from my purpose and disillusioned by my reality and the struggles had finally brought me down. I felt isolated to an extreme and with nowhere to turn I had to pick myself up and find my way out of the darkest period of my life, led only by a frail trace of intuition and my instinct. The journey I made to find myself is evident through the previous 454 (wordpress) blog posts which demonstrate just how much of a mess I’d got myself in. But what the hell, that’s life and we must all journey through our own personal challenges, we are after all the authors of our own story, if life was a breeze then I’m sure it would be somewhat facile and dull.

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The amazing thing is that the past five years have been a remarkable personal experience for me in which I finally liberated what feels like a true art from deep within my soul, finding my authentic voice. Finally arriving at a place where my work has become established and resolved from a personal perspective, defined and ready for the world to see. I say this because for the first time in my life I have a body of work that I truly believe in and would proudly show anywhere. I know who I am to a degree, I know why I make art and I have a greater understanding of my purpose. so I’ve transformed my life from an enchained victim of circumstance to an empowered artist able to express myself with a growing freedom. My art is on my terms, a powerful expression from within that is authentic and one in which I’m fully committed to the oneness of being.

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The key to my liberation was the callous self-destruction which took me to the edge, where I had nothing left to lose and only one option left which was to come out fighting. Finally cornered and confronted by the truth of my reality, it was time to find the courage to stand up and define my existence without fear. I had to accept my mistakes and try to forgive myself as I moved forward in a direction which contradicted many of my previous core values, particularly the rational and intellectual side of my thinking which was denying me the space to dive into the mystery of the unknown aspects of being, aspects which need no rational explanation. I managed to carry forward my artistic knowledge as a tool or mechanism by which I could coherently express the utter mayhem of my creative possibilities.

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And so began the burgeoning of an anarchistic approach to art, art without rules, the art of freedom neatly expressed through what I feel is a pretty highly developed aesthetic sensibility (thirty years in the making). And even though this period has troubled me deeply I know it was the only path available to me, the only way I could deal with my circumstances, so that I could emerge as a survivor and a credible artist. And above all it was the only way that I could find a way to actually believe in  myself and take my own life seriously, because without the crisis I would not have needed to make any changes. Without the crisis I would not have been able to take my art to the extremes which I’m now doing, like second nature and without fear. Without the crisis I would never have been able to understand and admit to the human frailty which is a huge part of our actuality and I would have continued to live with the suppression of my spirit.  Without the crisis I would have remained aloof from the poignant truth of my reality, never truly feeling or touching the depths of existence which I do now.

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In some ways this period of my life has cemented my tenuous direction and approach, an approach fit for me which has brought my life into perspective within the context of society. It’s a tough choice I’ve made because it challenges and confronts the prevailing climate of values within western society, because I’m essentially a drop out, choosing an alternative set of values by which to live my life. It also challenges the notion of art both in a contemporary context and also from a historical perspective. An approach which has also led to a certain amount of isolation because it makes my work unpredictable  and leaves my oeuvre with a huge question mark over it. Because it is neither good nor bad, for it cannot be judged if it doesn’t fit within conformist notions of art. I make art in spite of expectations, I make art from a place of detachment, a place where I choose to ignore the implied values which aggravate and agitate my soul. A place where my values feel true so that I am one as an artist and a being that can communicate without the need for duplicity, a duplicity which society demands from us all. The societal expectations which are a curse to the freedom of the human spirit, the lies and deceit that are encouraged so that we further ourselves at the expense of others in the unseemly struggle for more. In art we are encouraged to sell ourselves, create false reputations and values, embellish our cv’s, glorify our work through embellished rhetoric, refer to private collectors and how sought after our work is, we chase the distinguished galleries. Yes we are expected to do so much to create a reputation that it would be quite easy to forget about the importance of the art, just like my society which appears to have forgotten about the importance of art. But my truth is that I work all hours and sometimes in the early hours of the morning I see the beauty of my creativity, a workshop full of fascination and I wonder why no one ever visits me. Why in the real world pretty much no one is at all interested in my work or why I chose to dedicate my life to art. These salutary reminders keep me grounded as does the relentless work I do in order to express myself, all the dust I breathe into my lungs, the bleeding hands, the tiredness and the relentless struggles. My truth and reality is harsh, I simply don’t need to embellish it or romantacise it because I would start to believe in the myth.

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And because my reality is challenging I have no option but to be honest and my honesty makes me smile, it makes me smile because it cuts straight through the societal embellishments and myths that surround art. The bottom line being that great art speaks for itself because it communicates and resonates on the deeper levels of consciousness that are so out of fashion.

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The problem I have with the pretence of the art world is that I feel, is that you are who you are as defined by your actions and approach to life, if you chase and court attention for the furtherment of a career, you become the embodiment of those priorities. And in the current climate which is quite vulgar and detached from the integrity of sincere creativity the chasers are in my opinion adopting style over substance, looking to create effect. Now I don’t want to be a chaser because I want to uphold the values which I believe in as a man who has committed his whole life to art, even though this approach takes me to he point of destitution at times. And the reason I do this is because I am who I am in all aspects of my life, which is why my art is true, because I have nothing to hide and no hidden agenda. And yes I’m quite happy to continue as a loser in the eyes of the art world and leave the rich pickings for those who want, require or need them, but I will not remain silent as I did in the past. There is a stark reality in these corrupt times of the capitalistic market led economies is that those with loud voices and the greatest skills of manipulation will go the furthest and the silent ones will be ignored. I believe my own life is proof of this and my quietly modest approach has led to me being ignored, but more importantly it has led to me being a credible artist way beyond even my own expectations. Yet I live in poverty and even though I understand why my circumstances are so difficult, I’m not prepared to sacrifice my oneness for a life without the comfort of authenticity.

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This year has undoubtedly been my greatest year as an artist, the year in which all the disparate elements of my art finally came together in a coherent way and yet for half of the year I was unable to afford the clay I needed to make my sculptures. This actuality is one which has fuelled my anger at the plight of artists in contemporary society, but it has also given me a sense of freedom because the gloves are off now and I can say what I like. I don’t intend to be a shrinking violet anymore because my cage has been rattled too much for the past thirty years. I can weather the storms and lean times and sit tight, holding in my frustrations and anger to use as an energy to fuel my creativity, because I certainly have a point to prove.

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Even after all these years I still can’t  help but question what art actually is and I think that I may disagree with what (in my moments of sweeping assumption) we seem to collectively perceive it to be, something I can’t prevent because I know deep within what is my truth as an artist. I no longer wish to be held back by sentimental attachments or be subjected to manipulation as I have been in the past, because I allowed myself to be brought down by these factors. But this doesn’t mean to say my attitude has hardened in some negative or arrogant way, no quite the contrary it means that I’ve finally found the strength to allow the beauty of humanity to flow freely without fear of judgement. To expose my sensitivity and be able to express myself in a transparent way without fear, something which has empowered me to follow the vagaries which tempt me into my unknown. To do this I had to become a man mountain in my own perception of self so that I could withstand all that was thrown at me, I ran every day and I lifted weights untill my body mirrored my strength of resolve. I had to do this so that I could assert my will and take ownership of my own life without fear of the corrosive elements of society undermining my intent.

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I’m starting to mellow out a bit now and I’m accepting my fate of obscurity, accepting that my life is what it is right here and now and have empowered myself to explore and develop what I have to offer through my art. My work is not about grandiose gestures and art fit for palaces and high places, no quite the contrary. My art is about intimacy and the raw human honesty that I feel comfortable with. Art as a small and humble gesture in the obscurity of my cave, art of the soul which I believe in and feel with a depth that resonates throughout my being.  The art of the originality and ingenuity of my being which I can offer as an individual, (because like everyone else I’m unique) something which I’ve allowed to be restrained and suffocated by the sheer weight of noise in contemporary society. Restrained by the implications of an art  world which celebrates a specific lineage  and a different notion towards the aesthetic, an art world which demands narrative and context through what I  perceive as a quasi intellectual/rational approach in which we must sacrifice our raw impulse to create if we want to occupy a seat at the top table. I say fuck all that because I’m living my life the way I see fit and I say this because living with compromise was just too painful for me and I slowly faded out into a meaningless state of being. I found living without a clearly defined purpose or meaning to be a life cast adrift and there was nothing for me to take hold of and no island in this vast and infinite ocean of mediocrity.

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There was a tipping point at which I had finally taken all the knocks that I could and I could no longer remain silent or passive which is why I write my blog. And in writing this blog I ease the pressure and in finding a way to articulate my thoughts in my second language, I gain a greater understanding and clarity. To be free to create, write and say what you feel without fear is a wonderful feeling, particularly when you’ve spent a lifetime fighting to do so in a world looking for style and convenience, a world which chokes on substance and the uncomfortable truths of society.

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Just remember this, that art was once a free human expression in a cave and not some exhibition of ego and vanity in down town New York, it was not about fame and fortune for society to endlessly pick over. It wasn’t a status symbol for wealth and fought over for in auction houses as some sort of transitory display of economic power, travelling to the vaults of the most successful economic powers. It was an offering which had a value and we could still have and hold that value today if we could just get over ourselves. It was a gift to the artist to be able to express themselves and in turn they offered it as a gift to the world with gratitude and it really was that simple. So it was a human expression to be shared and valued as one of the many gifts of being and this is where I am as an artist, connected as much to my intuition as I am disconnected from the art world. And I have no choice in these matters because I believe that true art is not up for negotiation or compromise. However you have to be strong to follow this path of virtual impossibility and you have to be prepared to take the knocks and live miles away from the end of your comfort zone. You also have to be prepared to face great hardship because society punishes those who question and undermine the status quo, because power is about, corruption and exploitation. Rewards for compliance and punishment for rebellion, subtle but effective and only a few can survive the torment and struggle for self realisation and the isolation it brings. I know quite a lot about this, only ever having a job for eight months in 1987, the rest of my time has been committed to art and existing on the margins of society where people say to me, most normal people would do it this way, why do you break the rules and why don’t you work regular hours. The simple answer would be, because I’m a fucking anarchist 🙂 but I usually say I don’t want to be like most normal people.

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As an artist you often face unbearable economic suffering, trapped in a prosperous society where all your friends and associates show off their trophies, cars, holidays, beautiful houses, meals out, clothes whilst you wander freely in your ragged trousers, fighting for dignity. It’s like an imprisonment where if you choose to be free you will be punished and marginalised, muted and obscured by the guardians of the systems. Just dare to be different and champion different values and we’ll teach you a lesson, something which acts a provocation for me. An invitation into the unchartered territories so that I may have the pleasure of finding and defining the who, the what, and the why I exist. I’ve made survival into an art form and even though things are always tight I’ve never borrowed money and if I can’t afford the materials for my art I sit tight untill I can. Like this year I was unable to afford the clay for my sculptures so I drew and wrote and reflected upon the obscenity of my uncaring and wasteful society.

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It’s quite funny because I believe I’m a  good artist and yet I’m unable to publicly exhibit my work within any public arts institutions and am left to my own devises to share my work on the internet, I can expose my work through private galleries and I’m grateful for this, but I need the freedom to expose work which has no commercial value. If I courted publicity and was famous my life would be quite different, but I don’t and I’m not so I’m virtually left to starve and I believe my plight illustrates massive flaws on an institutional level in the UK and how art has been misappropriated by the establishment. It’s perhaps a British problem in that we don’t appreciate  art beyond the famous because we are disconnected from it, It was like a recent exhibition at my children’s school in which I put countless hours of work in only for a handful of people to show up, a salutary and sobering lesson for me.

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The truth of my art is one of great uncertainty because I know that I know so little about art and life and though I’m learning to trust my intuition, nothing is set in stone and there is no certainty to hold me upright.  As for judgement and the merits of my art there is no bench mark or anything to compare it too because it is an unfolding story of human expression. It has a story to tell, a story no more important and no less important than the story of any other, my story through my visual language, my only true language and the one I cherish and fight for. Because it is the only way I can truly communicate how I feel as a man in this world and in this time.

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I think my work reflects that there really is no right way round no certainty of balance and that nothing is constant as we are held in a state of flux, bearing witness to the constant change of an unfolding story, as participants of a mysterious journey. Being a part of the universe but never in control of anything, as the silent or screaming witness trying to grasp ephemerality. The possibility of art is so huge as is our human possibility which is why I can’t stand the finite concepts which enchain our imaginations and aspirations and why I rebel against the limitations of the whole art world thing. Why become a prisoner to dogmatic imposition when you can fly beyond the possibilities of your imagination. Why be an artist seeking fame and fortune at the expense of being imprisoned by limitation and expectation, posturing for a position within society. This world is a crazy place and we humans limit ourselves and our possibilities for the sake of systems of convenience and systems of control, beyond which lies our freedom. I always say that if an artist cannot find a way to become free in society, then society is in trouble because our freedom fighters are enchained.

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My perceptions are of course all from an artists perspective living in suburbia, my suburbia being the centre of my universe as relevant as it is irrelevant just as any other centre of the universe for any other. But my place is an honest one where people live their lives out of the gaze of the shining lights and with modest aspirations, where I witness a reality as relevant as any other reality. From here when I look at the world I see humanity being controlled by so many crazy factors, like the world economy, visionless political systems masquerading as democracies, systems that don’t relate to our basic humanity or spiritual needs. I see war, greed, exploitation and tyranny everywhere and I ask why. So I witness all of this and all I can do is look for real human values which connect me to my species and planet to give me hope that harmony is possible and so life can celebrate the value of humanity and our great gift. To live an expansive life challenged by the mystery and to be open to the possibilities life holds for us all. From my detached position as an artist I ask why? about everything and I simply cannot answer these questions beyond saying that we are becoming blind to the true reality of our organic existence. And the more I can’t answer my questions the deeper I dig and search for a deeper level of understanding and consciousness in the hope that one day my understanding will grow enough to satiate my desire to live a life with a purpose. But the more I dig the less satisfied I become with society and the quality of our disconnected lives as we live in denial driven by the imposed values of corrupt systems.

Have a beautiful day ❤

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