I had my first visit to Frieze yesterday, and it lived both up, and down, to my expectations. I could never get there on previous occasions, either being away or too tied up with other things, and I wanted to see for myself why so many people are so vocally either for or against. Even before I had arrived I knew one thing: it is too good an opportunity to see work by artists from galleries elsewhere in the world. The cynics must be terribly rich to be able to pop off to Lisbon or Vienna to see the work.

Nevertheless, in support of those that view these events as something of a circus is this: I noticed a that a guy manning one of the stands was noticeably bemused and more than a tad pissed off. Everyone was walking straight past, barely giving the work a glance. The work on show is ‘Great White Hope’ (Pasquale Pennacchio & Marisa Argentato), an almost completely stripped-out shop, empty shelves, bare walls and harsh fluorescent lights, a single copy of Playboy. As far as the crowds were concerned it was an unbuilt display – nothing to see. What exquisite irony. The guy on the stand should have been delighted for having the most successful work in the show. If you see him, give him a hug.

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‘Come Together’, the group show I was in at CoExist, ended this weekend. I’m really disappointed I didn’t get to see it, but this coming week is the first that I have any free time since I got back. CoExist was founded by Amy McKenny and Emma Emmerton, and their new project space was set up in partnership with Metal Culture.

There is a real buzz around Metal Culture (it was founded by Jude Kelly, Artistic Director of the Southbank Centre, and Sir Ian McKellen is a trustee. Their Southend centre was officially opened by the uncommon commoner Jarvis Cocker). Amy and Emma have worked incredibly hard at building CoExist and deserve every success. This was the inaugural show at TAP, and I am very pleased to have been a part of it.


Following the links on the Artists Talking home page, http://www.newartcriticism.co.uk/issue3.html I came to Andrew Bryant’s article ‘How to avoid getting eaten by a giraffe’ on Hit and Miss. I began to challenge some of his statements as I went along, only to find that he had already addressed some of the points I disagreed with. I suppose the older I get, the more impatient I become. Sorry, Andrew.

The article interested me because it seems to be as much about making the decision to do an MA, and on the way, deals with some of the issues I reflect on within my own practice. In some cases I have not yet reached a resolution, and in one or two instances (of perennial debates) I kind of look forward to never reaching a definitive conclusion.

I agree; teaching and learning can, by and large, be boiled down to facts, and skills. There are certainly grey areas: one can be shown (taught) how to open one’s mind, for example. No doubt one can be born with an affinity towards abstract thought, but some things have to be unlearnt.

Andrew says that “art is about … finding out what kind of artist you are in relation to all the others”. I do reflect on that, a lot. I ask myself: ‘ where am I in the context of contemporary art practice?’ In moments of doubt I have found myself comparing my work with other artists to measure my potential for success. But do you know, I don’t think it matters, in fact it cannot matter. To consciously position oneself within contemporary art practice is to stop forward progress. What other people do is not relevant to my practice. Individuation is key.

At art college I loved the synergy of talking with other like-minded people, the buzz, the excitement. I miss the company of creative others. It is addictive, and every now and then I get a fix. But I realise now that that in itself is not about the art, it is about the people. The buzz has no direct effect on my work. Like death, art is something we do alone.

continued in next post #5


continued from post #6

I can’t agree with much in the second to last paragraph though, other than one doesn’t have to stop painting white squares, but even then, must it be in the context of Suprematism? The symbolic, or meaning, in art history comes from what’s already been culturally metabolised – not the art we create now, not the art we will create in the future. White squares do not, and will never, mean only one thing. If you expect a teacher to help you to know that it means man’s ascendency over nature, will you not be ‘inhabiting someone else’s desire’? Indeed, much has happened in almost 100 years: nature may be about to reverse that ascendency: what was once the status quo may not always be so. We learn a new vernacular the first time around, but we should also learn that it is not a law.

I have often made a nod to the past; after all, it was probably the art of others that inspired me to be an artist, and I have since been influenced by many artists. As subject matter, art and art history is as much a part of the cultural sediment as OK! Magazine. If I confess I have never heard the term Suprematism, it doesn’t make me any less of an artist. I may or may not have come across the work. I wouldn’t rely on the assumption that a tutor knows about Malevich’s squares either; it’s not just that they’re fallible like you and me, it is that it is only possible to be aware of a tiny percentage of what has been done. Perhaps that is yet another reason why everything else is irrelevant – if we don’t know about it, it may as well not exist. When I need to know, I prefer to take my chances in the library and with Google.

Rather than teacher or tutor, the terms mentor or facilitator might be most appropriate. Nurture. Sooner or later we hope to reach a point where, either with some help or just by being within a conducive environment, we suddenly need to nail that book closed. Then do it for ourselves.

I make mistakes. I have created work which seemed a good idea at the time. I move on. Someone said that there are only seven stories – but if a similar statistic were applied to art I would still go on searching. Isn’t that what it is all about?

The issue is undoubtedly one of individuation. The question remains of how to assure oneself of that, not least because it is decided upon by others. The phrase ‘contemporary art practice’ is extremely prejudicial.


Statement time again. Writing a statement isn’t on my list of Things I Most Love To Do.

I have decided to try to write it now for a couple of reasons: one, because my current statement (and its variations, when required) is no longer relevant; and two, I’m not currently under any pressure to provide one for something specific. The latter, it seems to me, may be the best reason of all to go for it now. This is why:

I ask myself: who does a statement benefit? No, who does a statement really benefit? Perhaps, in that ideal other world, the artist should benefit first and foremost. It is an opportunity for the artist to privately reflect on their own practice, to put it into some kind of context, to explain why his or her work issues from them in the manner it does, and so on.

I imagine that a few artists genuinely need to go through that process, perhaps a handful know instinctively what they are all about, and are able to capture that succinctly, but I suspect that the majority write something only because it is asked of them.

Most statements I have seen patently fall into that category, mine included, and they are absolute nonsensical drivel. The product of the minimum of an afternoon, most likely much longer, in the company of Roget. Complicated, meaningless, often gibberish. The most artfully constructed (and disingenuous) are those which say nothing at all, just vague enough, twaddle to suit all eventualities.

So now we come to the next potential beneficiaries: curators, galleries, judges, et al. Whilst there are those that deliberately ignore statements, there are those that fully expect a statement. I would imagine that most worth their salt will be pretty adept at seeing through the something-and-nothing variety. Which suggests that if one is going to write a statement, it will only have real value if it is genuine. In other words, some serious thought has to go into it. At the same time, and in the same vein, I question the validity of producing a statement tailored to suit a particular purpose, because by inference it cannot be accurate. Equally, surely any potential judge of such a statement must also acknowledge that?

I don’t feel a personal desire for a statement, but I do expect to be asked again in the future. I will try to make both the process and the end result as useful as I am able. Or I might go into the studio.