Footnotes: the emerging artist

On Open Studios

My friend’s Open Studios make me cringe, rather like Open Houses do. It’s either other artists wanting to look at the size of the studio-space/house or women with large buggies, and bored partners in tow on an art-afternoon out [no-one seems to buy art at these events].

However, as I ventured up the institutional staircase [smelling of disinfectant and yes, old-cabbage] it was an opportunity to find out who inhabits The Old Police Station building. Right at the top of the building, I entered a large white-walled, oil paint and turpentine-smelling studio to find, to my great joy, that it was peopled by a painter whose work I have followed for a number of years now – particularly because of the literary allusions in her work, referencing such writers that belong to the so-called ‘lost generation’ like Scott and Zelda Fitzgerald – the artist, Jo Wilmot.

We had coffee in the sunny courtyard of The Old Police Station where my brick drawings are situated, and swapped basic paired-down life-art stories, the highs and lows, successes and failures, and yes, the difficulties.

On difficulty

No-one writes about the idea of difficulty, anymore, only success. Or that is my impression. Yet there is something reassuring about hearing other peoples stories of difficulty, although, surprisingly not necessarily how they overcome it [complete with Disneyesque-happy-ever-after-ending] but much more how, one actually comes to terms with it; all that heartache, disappointment, self-doubt and the occasional bouts of fear that commonly overwhelm artists and writers.

I remember attending a funeral once where the presiding vicar spoke of his difficulty praying. He said he often felt like he was speaking into a void where your words echo back to you, unheard. As an artist, making work, I often feel that void. Except for me it is not God but an abstraction often spoken of, generally and specifically, as the art-world, where too many artists, too much work, and too much ego compete for attention.

On Jonathan Franzen

Difficulty is a subject I will keep coming back to, and a subject that the American author, Jonathan Franzen, does not shy away from, particularly in his 2001 epic novel of family disfunction, The Corrections. Currently I am enjoying his auto-biographical essays: The Discomfort Zone, as I relish starting his latest widely acclaimed novel Freedom. How does Franzen feel about emerging into a society that has dubbed him the next Tolstoy – no pressure there, then. Read an interview with Franzen by Genevieve Fox.http://www.telegraph.co.uk/culture/books/8035520/Interview- with-Jonathan-Franzen.html