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Deciphering Art

February 18, 2016


18There are many ways to look at art and interpret the message, which is why I believe deciphering art can’t be taught. It’s just too complicated to quantify the lateral possibilities of art with the simplistic notions and the generalities of those who assume expertise, that is of course unless the direction of art is controlled. So in order to get the most from your experieneces with art, you must learn to trust your own judgement, because only you know how it makes you feel.

Art critics and academics may heighten their own knowledge and share their findings, but all they can offer are pointers to help us understand assumed conventional wisdom. After all their very existence in these positions is based on convincing the world of the validity of their interpretation. And as we know art can be a funny old game with a great deal of subjectivity, artists lead the way followed by the theoretical decipherers.  However the variables of art are infinite, so if you want to engage with art and let it speak to you, there must in my opinion be an intuitive engagement and a level of self-trust and belief. My experience in over thirty years of making art has been one that has taught me that I rely on assumption to act and that actuality has no place beyond gestures of the moment. And that is because nothing seems fixed in this fluid life which slowly ufolds into an evolving story of artistic gestures.


To understand a fuller picture you must concider the context of art in the broadest possible terms and understand the motivation which lies behind the art, on an individual level, a historical level, a geographical level, a political level, an institutional level, a financial level, a spiritual level and this list goes on and on. This list  goes on because art offers so much freedom even though the mechanisms of state limit the activities of art through institution, indoctrination and tight financial management. And it’s because of institutionalisation that when we must look at the negative side of artistic expression, because what is excluded by art is also an indication of the truth of our time and state of existence.

When we look at art from the past, it’s a generalised vision, an indication of the civilisation which produced it and in this way we can see who paid for it and how they controlled the art of their day. It may have been art commissioned by the Pharaohs or the church, the emperor or even the state such as we saw in the communist states. What this demonstrates is that the freedom of subject matter in art is compromised and why the message sometimes has to be communicated through subversive means. But never underestimate the level of interference from those who sit at the top of the Hierarchy both now and historically. There is of course reactionary art focused on undermining the establishment, but here again we find the artist distracted into political gestures and I wonder if art is the place for politics. Because art forced into subversion through political provocation is of course also a product of art being guided by societal governance.


Because of the environment and vulnerability of the artist I feel that art teaches us by what it includes as much as by what it excludes and by acknowledging this possibility you will gain an insight into what the act of human expression has to offer civilization. Truths exist on many levels and to each of us who feels we are exploring the truth there are salutory lessons when you discover how for the convenience of societal harmony and acceptance we fool ourselves. I write from personal experience in this matter and I’m still aware that my deepest truths lay hidden from my grasp as a direct result of the limited thinking imposed through societal implication. Because I’m a product of my time, brain trained to slide neatly into the great jigsaw which makes up society, piece by piece.

I believe that art exists as a human expression on many levels from the nice pretty picture we like to hang on the wall, to the more profound and obscure philosophical expression. But this is by no means a linear catagorisation of art, because art meanders through different levels of conscious and subconscius intent. The rational mind and the spiritual mind finding a balance to express the sincerity of the human predicament, influenced by the overwhelming pressures of society, from the political to the religious.

So artists in one sense are expected to deliver the message of our time and express the notions of those in power, the rich and the influential. On top of this we are expected to offer a neutral spiritual insight into the actuality of being, which explains part of the duality of this role, which I often allude to. It also explains why the message may be hidden in metaphor and why when looking at art we need to observe without judgement and pre conceived notions.


Questions which must be asked about the art world are, why is there a hierarchy and why are such high values placed on specific works. Is one artist truly so superior that he or she must be celebrated as a genius. Why is art seen as treasure to the elite when in fact art is about a communication to the people. Why do institutions seek to control the art world and create a common market place out of human expression. Why is art forced through an evolutionary process by the demands of institution. And can art be true when it is forced and directed into the restricted practice of societal parameters.

Unfortunately artists are subject to the same indoctrination as everyone else and whilst there is an impression of freedom, there really isn’t, beyond these imposed constraints. Yes you can do what you want, but unless you tow the line, you will be marginalised and denied an audience. This illusion of freedom is apparent in all aspects of society, because an individual has little hope of rocking the boat and creating a disturbance. And so we rest happily, content with the thought that we are free, unless of course we truly test out the system. However the notion of meritocracy and democracy, something we hold dear to our hearts in the west is in fact a carefully calculated illusion.


I can’t help questioning the formalised approach adopted by society, which we are taught is best for us. Because through my art, the illusions of society and the motivational factors for maintaining the status quo were exposed under the close scrutiny of my predicament as an artist, because I could not make sense out of the art world structure. There were too many lies and cover ups, too much pretending and a lack of candid honesty. I could always smell something fishy and in the end I had to burst out of the bubble and explore the truth as I saw it.  To go beyond the boundaries of the art world and the assumed conventional knowledge. To the other reality where you question everything and speak the truth, the reality where you aren’t governed by fear. Where speaking the truth about how you feel about art won’t make you feel like a philistine, ridiculed for not being savvy with the latest conceptual phenomenon. And whilst this act of rebellion sounds easy, the sheer weight of peer pressure alone is enough to make you question yourself to the very core and that isn’t easy. But I feel deep inside that I want to live a life in which I honour my own  truth and not waste my time debating the validity of every possibility laid out before me in the art world. Because in philosophical terms everything is as valid as it is invalid in the same way that everyone is an artist by default of innate human potential.


I no longer feel caught up in the conceit of my own time and realise my connection to a timeless human struggle, in which truth and freedom represent the goal. Art as a standard bearer for the exploration of being, the one human endeavour which can allow us to live in hope and believe. And yet as an artist trying to explore this I must lead a tortured life, subject to the trivial judgements of so many and marginalised for my integrity.  Forced into a life of poverty because I’ve discovered a solution to my own creativity which is not acknowledged by the self important ego driven curators and custodians of the art world. The inconvenient art of a free spirit who is unable to offer the assurance of certainty and bound by a fundamental drive which questions actuality as assumption. Believe me it’s just so petty and if you could see the people I would need to impress to get on then you would understand why I say no thanks to the system and the cronies who police it. Yes even after thirty years I’m driven by passion and refuse to compromise the integrity of my art.



Thank you for looking ❤


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