Footnotes: the emerging artist

Francis Alys

1. On Tuesday I went to see the Francis Alys exhibition at the Tate Modern, and it was all I hoped for, and more. Thoughtful, provocative, intelligent, and both funny and moving in places. How often does one spend two hours sitting in the dark, in an art gallery [rather than a cinema] on various leather sofas, laughing-out-loud with people you don’t know and enjoying every moment? For that instant this disparate group of strangers were connected by art. So glad Francis decided to forgo his other love, architecture, and give art a go, and with mad ideas like attempting ‘to move mountains with faith’, or creating a continuous green line for miles and miles from a dripping paint-tin in a contentious middle-eastern hot-spot, Francis Alys really does have the courage of his convictions.

2. I’m off on holiday this week, to France to the seaside town of Etretat in Normandy, where the writer, Maupasant lived and wrote, and Monet and other nineteenth century French artists, came to paint the dramatic arches and needles that make up that part of the French coastline..

3. What will I be reading – all things French, I think:

The Secret Life of France by Lucy Wadham, an anecdotal story of the shock of marrying into the French culture.

On Drawing by John Berger

Mastering The Art of French Cookery by Julia Child

And watching the related film:

Julie & Julia with Maryl Streep, a recent film related to cooking oneself to happiness and starting a Cordon Bleu-type cookery school in Paris in the nineteen-sixties.

Inspiration, I hope, for my own cooking, writing, drawing and, of course, emerging.

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Footnotes: the emerging artist

On rejection

1. I know it is an uncool subject, and no-one wants to admit it. However, it is the season to be rejected – due to the almost unseemly number of Opens one can now apply to. Thus the emails appear with the words: We are sorry to inform you, on this occasion …… etc’. They are then followed by the inevitable: ‘But please do try again next year …. [the cash-register of the inevitability of hope, and their competition-fee sustainable-funding possibilities, ringing in your ears].

However, I have to announce that this week 4I of us really did nearly make it to being ‘International, ‘Emerging’ and ‘Contemporary’ all in one go!

But sadly, after being shortlisted from 400, myself and twenty others were tossed onto the open slush-pile with the encouraging and soothing words: ‘this in no way should reflect or discourage you from submitting to other open calls planned for the near future.’ [Further rings on the cash register of future project funding, and not-yet dashed hopes]

To add insult to injury, they sent me the email three times, so soon after I had read email 1, I received email 2, and fleetingly, tried to suppress the hopeful thought, that it was all a mistake and 21 artists had been chosen afterall.

Of course, all hopes were dashed … until I received email 3 …..

The Woodmill

2. Last week, I ventured to a Peer Session with a group of ex-Goldsmith students at The Woodmill. [http://www.woodmill.org/]

Peer Sessions was started by artist, Kate Pickering. [http://docs.google.com/View?id=dc9fj92c_158g9jz4thc.] [http://www.kate-pickering.com]

It was really enjoyable to be part of a discussion on contemporary practice. An American artist gave a performance piece based on her beloved collection of guns, extra large pink cardboard replicas, and a miniature paper kalasnikov. It was clever, witty and poignant.

However, parts of the Woodmill building, were like entering a post-nuclear strike area. The 70’s film Towering Inferno came to mind. What must once have been an immaculate but soul-less 1970’s office block with matching sofas, desks and cheese plants, has now become a student-like trashed studio complex with little or no light, wires hanging down from dislodged ceiling partitions and, groups of old domestic sofas, rescued from tips, in the communal areas. It had a strange, rather eccentric but disturbing atmosphere, rather like walking through the set of the grim, ominous Tarkovsky film: Stalker, but minus the knee-high water! However, I did also spy small, neat studios full of productive-looking cavases and drawings, complete with the scent of oil paint. I also got lost and, on trying to make my escape, had to leave through a door clearly marked: fire escape, and I set off the fire alarm!

I really enjoyed the session, and hope to show some work myself in the autumn … if they’ll have me back.

Deptford X

3. I am really pleased that as part of the Deptford X Fringe events in September, I will creating a drawing installation at The Old Police Station, Deptford, entitled: Drawing the likeness of brick ….. More about that soon. http://www.deptfordx.webeden.co.uk/

The myth of being discovered

4. Two artist-lifers [artists who have been artists all their life] came to stay this weekend, and they said: ‘Just keep making the work, that way, when you are discovered, you’ll have lots to show’. That made me think about when is it exactly, we finally give up on the myth about ‘being discovered’. Never, I suspect, otherwise what would get you out of bed – just making the work ? Perhaps that’s the sign of a real artist, no thought beyond creating the work itself. In which case, I’m a fake …. as I am always longing to see my work in the white cube space of a gallery, with journalists thronging to interview me ……. and in that dream, I speak so effortlessly and articulately about my work, it just trips off the tongue!

And does the myth of ‘being discovered’ go hand-hand with emerging, or are you discovered before you emerge?

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Footnotes: the emerging artist

Coming full Circle

1. In my twenties I worked in the City, and I had the super ‘glam’ role of promoting a leading British container shipping company. I wined and dined top shipping journalists and persuaded them to dedicate decent column inches to the cause. Meanwhile, my friends went to art school and university and became artists, filmmakers, and journalists, and I continued to smile – so much my (PR) face cracked.

2. I didn’t even know what a shipping container was, when I first started. However, back in the late sixties and seventies, container shipping revolutionised the way cargo was shipped and did away with the corruption, smuggling and pilfering, by providing a secure and efficient way of shipping goods round the world – until, later, of course, when criminal gangs begun to ship people.

Last week, a new gallery called: ‘cartel’ opened in a swankily chocolate-brown-painted container at The Old Police Station in New Cross. Well I never ….. The containers also function as artists studios.