Friday, September 10, 2010

I'd rather have something to say and poor skills with which to say it than lots of skill but nothing to say.

A friend and I were trying to figure out why an exhibition we saw together recently at a gallery we both like had drawings that we both felt had little skill and no meaning. They were really uninteresting. Even reading the artists' statements did not help to give the work any meaning. It was slightly messy, barely bothering, low quality work. It was odd that it was where it was. (We never did figure it out.)

It made me remember some thoughts I have had when thinking about quality in relation to art and I decided to write them down:

Some people are very good at making things look nice or real or accurate or beautiful - they are, for example good drawers.
Some people have great ideas, intelligence, messages to get across, open-minds, or new ways of looking at things - they have insight and ideas.
Some people have both - good technical skills plus a reason to make work, something to say. If they also have their own unique flair then you have a really good artist.

Lots of people can draw things that look nice. But if they are not interesting, compelling, brain (or eye or soul...) activating, they are boring. I can only look at a drawing of a perfect flower or nude or bowl of apples for so long. (Perhaps in the past those things used to mean something, tell a story of religion, fable, allegory, or talk about the beauty of life and its abundant riches or the glory of nature. But most artists now do not do a nude, or still life for any particular reason and so it ends up not meaning anything to the viewer and is boring after a minute or two. I always go back to the intention of the artist. The act or process of making art can be reason enough to keep the viewer interested if the act is somehow authentic.)

The world loves it when you have both skills and ideas as you may be a genius.
But if they have to chose just one, most of the time they will accept ideas over draughtsmanship. So some concept driven art in exhibitions is not skillful looking, because of lack of skill. BUT you also have people who feel like if it is too pretty then you miss the idea for the eye candy. (Like some professors feel that dressing too trendily makes it appear that they are not serious of mind.) Or the naive look may be part of the concept, masquerading as a teenager, for instance. But I think the clever artists know that if your idea is wrapped in skill or beauty then it is more easily understood cos people will look longer.

But then you have the people who are trying to access their childlike essence or their primitive soul or their subconscious and come out with weird stuff that looks simplistic but symbolises big ideas. And that can be enough to keep us looking.

I'd rather have something to say and poor skills to say it with than lots of skill but nothing to say. Over the years, I'm glad to say, my work has gotten better, on both sides.

p.s. For some reason this makes me think of the Auden quote:
"If equal affection cannot be,
Let the more loving one be me."

Thursday, September 09, 2010

My painting in an Etsy treasury

I had my painting "Gold Spike" chosen for an Etsy treasury!

Thanks Glenda!

Tuesday, September 07, 2010

Images from my studio - Open Studios 2010

Ok- this is a clockwise tour of my studio the first weekend of September at our Open Studios.

Starting at the door (note the drawing poster of me on the door at the right, by Duncan Evans):

The newest work is the 4 paintings on brown linen. The work on the easel is in progress:

Long wall, work from 2009/2010:

Long wall, work from 2009/2010:

Works on paper 2010:

Works on paper 2010:

Oils and acrylics on panels from 2010:

Monday, September 06, 2010

Open Studios - comments on my work

For the Open Studios this year I chose to show just work that I had made during the year since the last open studios. From that year's work I curated a show on the freshly painted walls of my studio.
I hung four paintings on brown linen I made in August on the short wall near my door, 10 paintings on the long wall, 5 large framed works on paper were on the tables leaned up against my shelves on the back wall, and 10 small (50x40cm) works on panel from the Elusive Memories series were hung on the side wall.

This was a good year for discussions about the work.

Vertigo was the favourite painting by leaps and bounds. Everyone loved the depth achieved in the layers. (Which I cannot seem to capture in a photograph.) I also got an unexpected response of a number of viewers doing a sort of interpretive dance in front of it. They bent forward a bit and stretched their arms wide and made big swirling motions with their fingers.

The next best liked was the newest work on brown linen.

Some comments I remember:
"The longer you look at them the more you see." (The most common comment after "Nice colours".)
"I can't buy them cos I think it needs four paintings hung together and I can't afford four." (referring to the 10 paintings from the Elusive Memories series)
"I really like your new work. Except the panels on this wall are not to my taste. I'm sorry, I don't mean to be mean, but you know they are just too hard for my liking. Well... they are better as you get closer to them aren't they. Oh... I like them much better when I can see just one of them, they are not hard at all then." (also referring to the 10 paintings from the Elusive Memories series)
"I like that you see more in them as you keep looking at them, that is what you want for a painting on your wall, isn't it."
"I like the paintings on paper best. But then I love paper."
"How do you decide on titles?" (I work in series a lot and am glad when one title gets to last for a bit. Titles for single works are hard for me.)
"The brown linen paintings are so different to the others." (Discussions about responding to the surface followed.)
"The right frame makes a painting look even better." (Started by me talking to other artists about the framed works on paper.)

In my comments book- in addition to the expected comments on my "great use of colour" I also got a "challenging work" which I think is really good.

I also had my bookworks out and had some nice discussions about some of those.

Friday, September 03, 2010

Going to the private view

Going to the private view at Blackhorse Lane Studios last night:

Later on it got too busy to take pictures. It was well attended!

It was great to see everyone!