Once again I was planning to write something completely different today but decided instead to give you something to conjure with.
The thing that artists want most is inspiration and what I’m about to write has haunted me somewhat, creating a domino effect of thoughts and imagery, so perhaps if I can articulate this properly it will do the same to you.
Yesterday I needed a break from doing.
I had stumbled out of bed and spent the next six hours alternating between research, emails and art.
I was doing detailed work on a sculpture that required heaving a large, delicate and very heavy structure around whilst I contorted myself into sometimes painful positions to glue beads onto it, all the time wearing a sweaty uncomfortable mask to protect me from solvent fumes.
I went for a walk to stretch my screaming shoulder muscles and clear my head, and as I realised that I would be fully absorbed with similar work the following day, I decided to stock up on food and have a charity shop rummage in a shopping centre of a small suburb a few miles away.
It was a wet and miserable Sunday so the roads were quiet when I headed back home.
Crossing the road that lead towards the motorway bypass, I passed a car that looked as if it had started turning, changed its mind and then stopped, cutting off both lanes.
I paused on the other side of the street and looked at the silver Audi with an immobile man in the driver’s seat. He hadn’t moved at all in the minutes since I’d passed the car and now stood watching him.
A couple and their dog, the woman holding a full dog poo bag, walked by and as they approached me on the pavement I pointed him out and asked them if they didn’t think it was all a little strange.
The man said, ‘no, the car is just turning’ without breaking his stride.
I looked at the car and the driver still hadn’t moved, his hands immobile on the steering wheel.
There was no other traffic nor any other people to be seen.
It was that liminal time on a Sunday where everything is silent and very still, when everyone else is with their family having the ritual roast dinner followed by somnambulism and television.
I walked up to the car and saw a young, pale, Chinese man, still locked into position, and I asked ‘are you all right?’
He looked at me and nodded; he was crying.
I hovered for a minute then walked back to the pavement, watching and wondering what I could do.
The car started up again, then drove away.
Once again I was planning to write something completely different today but decided instead to give you something to conjure with.
I’m hopefully in the final stages of an ear infection which has left me slightly deaf and feeling as if I’m trapped inside my head. It seems appropriate whilst I’m living in this introspective bubble to blog about memory, a concept which inspires so much of my art and writing.
I’ve been fascinated by the idea of memory for years, trying to pinpoint what it is and how people experience and define it.
Personally I don’t have any memories pre puberty. After puberty there is a sense of knowing that some things happened that can be triggered by music and on occasion taste or smell, but for me, memory isn’t a visual experience but an intellectual, embedded and conceptual thing.
Floating and quite nebulous.
It’s ironic that my personal experience of memory is indistinct but I have a very strong sense of inherent memory and an awareness of stories that exist within objects and occasionally, people.
With people I suspect my insight is partially intuition based and partially a hyper awareness of appearance and stance which has been sharpened by life experiences and imagination.
As I’ve felt myself to be an outsider most of my life, I’ve found it necessary to watch people closely in order to maintain a semblance of right behaviour and I suspect this has meant that I’m more attuned to human characteristics than most.
Objects I’ve always appreciated if there is a sense of age or time or mythology within them. This is what has made me adept at finding antiquities and reselling them, as I gravitate towards inherent feel rather than visual appearance.
I will acquire something initially because of instinct (and of course because I like it) and then research its actual provenance. As I seem to be very good at this I set myself boundaries of operating within a very low price range, otherwise I suspect I’d be one of those people who live within such a cluttered environment they need to be dug out of their acquired detritus when they die. Some years ago I met the charming and very successful antiquities dealer Oliver Hoare. We discussed these ideas and he was on the same page as myself in that it isn’t the item itself that pulls one to it, but its feel that radiates an attraction of sorts.
An intangible glow granted by time.
I spent many years having to endure a multitude of hospital appointments and related invasive treatments, made all the worse because I hate the bloody places and they create a lot of anxiety and fear in me.
Before these visits I would visit charity, second hand and junk shops and rummaging amongst the old things, often donated as an estate of the dead, would invariable calm me.
All of those stories and whispers.
I believe bones and wood and natural objects also contain a tangible essence although their story line isn’t structured into an easily understood format as it operates outside most human standards of interpretation (I read once that we anthropomorphise trees, for instance, to make them comprehensible).
Human bones to a extent still hold a link to the aforesaid structured and easy to translate format, and the bones of pets, but not remnants of the natural and the wild.
However everything that exists and holds history wants and often needs acknowledgement. In a way is akin to the conundrum of whether a tree falling makes a sound if there is no one to hear it; it isn’t a question of whether something happened but more about how it is perceived and interpreted.
When memory is articulated, as interpretation is so personal, it will constantly vary but can’t be wrong, just a different angle of perception although there is always a common ground which is where things like atavistic consciousness come into play.
All of the pieces that I use as a point of focus in my art holds a story. The bones and shells and discarded jewellery, the remnants of roadkill, the broken ornaments and stopped clocks. I collect, listen and are calmed by them, then I fall into their various mythologies and integrate them into a new legend.
Just as history of mankind, of wars and events and happenings is considered to be written by the conquerors, true and intrinsic and emotionally experienced history is often, most correctly conveyed by the artist.
So ostensibly today’s written ramble isn’t about art but as it is about an artist’s life, I think that should create necessary leeway for a bypass in blog focus
Yesterday I had six dental crowns taken out, with a view to replace them in the near future.
Six dodgy old crowns which were well overdue for removal and that were causing all sorts of nasty problems.
Finances prevented my rectifying this at the beginning of the year when they first started moving around and generally acting up. The delay was partially due to money (I have dental insurance which I set up many years ago as the NHS weren’t able to supply the means to look after my life abused teeth, so although I only to pay lab costs for any work done, it is still a substantial amount of money) and partially fear.
All my offending teeth are in the upper front of my mouth and though I have friends with missing and ‘English’ teeth, and I have let go of many aspects of vanity as I’ve aged, I am not ready to let go of my six front teeth and poking around the offending items seemed a bit of a risky business.
So I sold various books and household items and raised the amount which my insurance didn’t cover and I’m finally in the clinic’s waiting room together with an elderly man and an elderly woman, sitting separately, opposite me.
For some reason, we all, three strangers, started talking on an incredibly open and personal level.
The man was a teacher who had come over from East Germany in 1972, and never went back.
He spoke of family members who had been shot by the Stasi, and of the many jobs he had undertaken in England as he had struggled to support his family.
Queuing up outside the Austin factory to do a night shift which paid enough for the family to survive for weeks, working casually as a hospital porter and initially studying medicine until he released that it wasn’t financially viable and he switched his focus to teaching languages.
The woman who had been widowed with four young children when she was in 30’s spoke of her husband’s death and her struggle to raise her children and nurture their individuality and how she succeeded to the extent they grew up to be brilliant, highly successful and pugnacious to the point she didn’t actually like them.
Truth to tell I didn’t contribute much to the conversation, just listened and asked the occasional question or interjected with a comment or two.
I left them to have a very intense three hour session with the dentist, filled with drilling, tugging and clouds of rancid tooth bone smoke.
I saw the first four crowns lying in a dish (a Hong Kong dentist in the early 1990’s replaced my drug and bulimia addled front teeth after which I avowed never to binge/vomit again, and I didn’t), followed by the next two crowns (an NHS dentist, Mr Smiles, in the late 1990’s when I had just left a treatment centre with advanced damage to my remaining teeth caused by drug use and neglect; after these were replaced, I never used drugs or drank alcohol again) and thought that maybe this will mark a new era for me.
I staggered out of the surgery with my temporary crowns, which despite placement at awkward angles and looking as if I’d been eating white bread sandwiches and not brushed my teeth, and though feeling as if I’d been on a three day tooth grinding rave session, I felt slightly better now that the poison was taken out.
At reception I once more saw the elderly woman and as we said goodbye she clutched my hands and said she felt as if we had strangely and suddenly become, old, old friends.
So perhaps writing about my dental visit is very much about my art, because it is about memory captured in objects and bones and how that memory can create reactions and revelations, and that, is very much what my art is about.
I was going to write a blog today on the plagiarism that is so rife within all parts of the creative world, but as I am teetering on the edge of that madness specific to participating an art exhibition, I thought that I would focus on that instead.
A continuous stream of consciousness babbling about where I’m at will be a relief and a pressure diffuser from the fraught undertaking of publicly displaying one’s art, and it may even give you an insight into why I continue to embark on such madnesses.
I’ve organised many exhibitions and events in my life of not just my own art but also work of other artists from a wide range of creative mediums, from film and music to performance and spoken word, and also of course, paintings and sculpture.
Every time, EVERY TIME, as I’m packing up at the end of the event and I realise my stress levels have been stratospheric and not once have I managed to have an in-depth conversation with someone as I’m invariably multi tasking, problem solving and disaster diffusing (do not light your cigarette by that gravestone, the fire poi performer has left 20 litres of paraffin there/I understand you can’t perform in front of the large audience that have come to see you because of anxiety issues, but please just breathe deep and give it a go/I know it will be incredibly effective hanging yourself from the apex of the building whilst you perform with flaming torches, and it will be especially interesting as you’ve never done something like that before, but my insurance won’t cover that/is there any way we can prevent the local homeless from shitting on the gallery doorstep at the start of every day, just before we open up?).
Exhibiting my own work is a nightmare in itself as the pieces are fragile and difficult to transport and invariably I have very little money to make the journey easier.
Like many artists I’ve been in the position at the end of an exhibition when I’m unable to transport all my pieces home as carrying them on a bus or a train is not a viable option (although I have undertaken long journeys on public transport carrying a large horse’s skull, stuffed dead crows, and spirit houses with monkey skulls sitting resplendent on the top), so in multi artist exhibitions there is invariably an end of show maniacal off loading and swapping of work.
Someone recently asked me why I still involve myself in such things, especially as they have heard me say so many times over the years ‘never again’. Well aside from my streamlining things over time so they are less complicated and less chaotic, one needs to exhibit work in order to sell it. Images can never fully convey presence.
Also it is amazing and exhilarating working with an area of space and placing your art in it to different effect.
My attitude towards exhibiting work has never been about product placement and sales, but centred around the more old fashioned concept of creating a happening, and trying to involve as many people as possible in the moment of magic.
I guess with that sort of attitude it isn’t surprising that I get stressed.
Craving the stimulation that occurs when you get a group of creatives together in an interesting venue then adding music and smoke machines and various other dramatic effects into the tension that inevitably occurs when artists put their soul on display, invariably leads to friction.
However from that friction comes stimulus, change and inspiration, and that is what it is all about, because for an artist, inspiration is everything.