A blog about trying to function in the artworld as a definite outsider.

I mostly work with installation and photography.


Ah, I love the smell of philistinism on a Saturday morning.

Woke up to find the local arts contingent filling my facebook newsfeed with the usual anti-conceptual-art rants one expects to be the stuffy philistine preserve of The Spectator arts section, which is penned by people who frankly prefer hunting and shooting to art anyway (but if one is going to decorate one’s walls, it should at least be pleasing to the eye, no?)

This was the usual moan about the dearth of skill in art, the folly of Duchamp and those who took him seriously, culminating in an apoplexy directed at Emin’s ‘My Bed’ as an example of the emporer’s-new-clothes style of skilless modern art.

From what I can ascertain, they think the art that they do fits the criterion most snugly. And people whose art is different to theirs are producing something that is less art than their art is art. If you see what I mean…

Certainly I have a hard time explaining my art to the not-artist layperson. When I say I’m an artist, the response is usually ‘What do you paint?’. I have over time come to understand that most people’s conception of art is that a) it’s painting, b) it’s representational in a literal way, and c) it’s basically a branch of better-heeled home decor.

The thing is, I’ll happily own up – I’m much more interested in ideas than I am in technique and rendition. I’m not saying I don’t enjoy craftsmanship and aesthetic as much as the next person, but for me, art has always been ultimately about ideas – a branch of philosophy, if you will, where the ideas are expressed visually rather than aesthetically. The main thing I want my art to do is make me think; and possibly to move me. But that doesn’t mean to say I consign technically beautiful but conceptually bankrupt pieces to the realm of ‘Not Art’. Just to the realm of ‘Not Art I’m Interested In’. Because I’m just not that prescriptive. I reckon there’s room for all of us.

The ‘What is Art’ question is coming up a lot for me recently. My artist friend Robert is collecting definitions. What struck us both is how angry people get about it. Neither of us can quite understand why this sheer level of emotion is attached to what is ultimately a question of semantics. One set of people who viewed my recent installation agreed that it was beautiful, aesthetic, required great skill and craftsmanship, and must’ve taken a long time to create. But they were absolutely adamant that it wasn’t art. This didn’t bother me in the least – they clearly loved and appreciated it; on the contrary I found it fascinating – what further criterion would be required for it to be art in their universe? (But then most of my art is about the unreal unreliable nature of categories… ;)  )

The irony about the facebook rant is that Emin is in fact firmly in their camp – being a masterful drawer herself, a professor of drawing at the Royal Academy, and a very vocal advocate of making sure art degrees leave students thoroughly versed in the basic skills like drawing. For my part, I find ‘My Bed’ to be a profoundly moving piece.


Apparently it’s important to blog. One must blog. Therefore: Here There Be Blog.

I am currently working on a large installation in a shopping centre. It is my Magnum Opus. (Or at least the most magnum-opussy thing I’ve done so far.) This is basically the hardest I’ve worked in my life, and possibly the most stress I’ve been under. I wait with interest to discover whether I will a) complete the project and b) remain sane.

As a massive introvert, I find working in the goldfish bowl of an empty shop fairly agonizing. Feel v performing monkey-ish, and wish for a hutch at the back I could irritate the crowd by hiding in all day.

Public response generally quite encouraging, tho – lots of ‘wow’ and ‘cool’ as people walk by. (Which is weird for me, actually, because I’m more used to having to defend my art – positive response leaves me rather on the back foot.) But the encouraging noises have been tempered by the odd grunt with a  ‘my-five-year-old-could…’ flavour. One man felt moved to come in purely to tell me that what I was doing didn’t constitute a ‘proper day’s work’. My assistant buffered me (bless her – although I rather think it was him who needed the buffering…) asking him to suggest what he thought art should be. Apparently art should be pastoral landscapes. With cows. And windmills. Quite specific then.

Every day is the same as I work my 12 hour shifts in the glare of glass, marble, and downlighters. I have no sense of the time of day or, indeed, what day it actually is. Just a constant awareness of my controlled hysteria as I fail, yet again, to achieve the glut of tasks I had set myself to complete that day.

Actually the single most depressing thing about The Centre is the little birds that get trapped inside and live their whole lives there. They have indoor trees and leftover burgers – they can live. But they must think that this is it – this is the world! Poor little misled bastards! It’s like Plato’s cave-mall.

Anyway – I’ll keep you posted. If you’re interested…