A rethink, a fresh look, a prod in a different direction.
I’m banging on about “the conversation” again. The conversation that keeps things on the right track, sharp, prevents complacency and comfort.
I don’t think it matters where it comes from as long as you have it. Actually, YOU might not need it in the slightest, you might be capable of doing your own clear thinking. I, however, need help. I’ve had help from courses, tutors, other artists, musicians, books, other art works, music… all sorts. But it seems I can’t function as the kind of artist I want to be without the conversations.
Since 2010, Bo Jones has been the other side of my artistic conversation. And even when he’s nowhere near, I can sometimes see him smirking at me, and I think again… or ignore it at my peril!
After a couple of hours with him, doing what might seem to other people like arguing, all is clearer, and I am now focussed on the task ahead. I had taken a whole pile of work with me, textiles mostly, but a couple of the scrumpled up drawings and some digital images.
At the pile of textiles, Bo said he’d seen all that before. It was my comfort blanket… in the case of one piece, literally. Oh. Right. Ok. I pulled out four balls of scrumpled up tracing paper drawings, and started smoothing them out.
Why are you doing that?
Why did you screw them up?
What does the scrumpling add to it?
What do you like?
Frankly, he’s a pain in the arse.
(in a good way, Bo)
(He never reads this anyway, so I’m safe!)
But I recognise his worth, so all is well eh?
We discussed (well, I might have ranted a bit) the fact that there are different kinds of artists, and if the MA we did together had one fault, it was that this wasn’t discussed. There was an implicit expectation that (fine art) success was judged along one path, or at least paths that vaguely led in the same direction: an Arts Council grant, a residency in a “proper” gallery (you know what I mean), an Axis webpage… blah blah blah…
Bo isn’t that, but he’s a bloody good teacher (and he’s still mine, long after graduation).
I’m certainly not either. If I was judged by those criteria, I can put several ticks in the failed boxes. I have the rejection emails to prove it, from the time when I thought this was what I should do.
But failure makes you feel rubbish.
Change the criteria.
Be a different sort of artist.
Be a bloody good art teacher
Be a runner of workshops
Be a planner of your own event
Hire a space and be your own curator
Or just make stuff.
So… do these two things live together? Can I still take part in the critical conversation without buying into the arty-bollocks prescribed pathway to “success”?
Yes. I can. Because I can move the goalposts.
As long as I am participating in the conversation that satisfies my own sense of critical worth/ validity/strength/robustness or whatever you want to call it, I don’t care. As long as I can find myself enough to do to carry on doing it, I don’t give a monkey’s…. Erm…. Well…. Nearly….
Trouble is, that’s all fairly internal isn’t it?
How valid is it? Is it valid just because I say so?
How do I measure success then?
Does it have to be measured even?
What are my criteria?
Is this the place to say I really enjoy having my blog in the top ten? (thank you)
I like having been asked to write things.
I like being asked to go to New York.
I like being asked my opinion.
I like putting up my shed and asking people to sing and play in it.
I like it when people like my work.
For now, that will do. When I have another difficult conversation with Bo, and decide it’s not enough, or just plain wrong… I’ll move my goalposts again.