I have read several references lately to artists who surround their work with complicated language to puff-up simple ideas attempting to make their work and themselves look more clever than they are, (to paraphrase Dan Thompson describing the clarity of Nicola Dale’s writing style in her blog, The Collaborator) or as Jo Moore elegantly said, ‘there are many people whose work is less than the myth they’ve built around it’. And just in case my slender Cinderella foot fits that shoe, I am going to put myself to the test.

I have no way of knowing if either Dan or Jo have read my blog or seen my work. Actually, Jo did say once there were some interesting ideas in my blog and she was going to sit down with a cup of tea and read more, but I don’t know if she ever did or what she may have thought. So I have no idea whether I am included in this puffed-up group of artists in their minds. As my thoughts and images are visible in the general milieu I think I had better do some soul searching and test myself.

I thought of Gerhard Richter’s comment on his figurative paintings, ‘I wanted to make a photograph’. That is about as simple a statement as one can make. So following his example, my intentions are never fully realized. However, there are lots of questions surrounding his desire to ‘make a photograph’ out of paint and I believe there may be questions as to why my intensions are never fully realized.

I work with gesture because it represents a moving body and a thinking self. A moving body is a body in context. The context creates a paradox. Context defines the identity of the self, but diminishes the power of identity to fully realize itself. My interest is in this paradox and the effect of context on identity rather than identity for its own sake.

It is impossible for me to see my work with the unbiased eye of another, so it is impossible for me to know if I’m spouting a bunch of flowery (or floury!) rubbish that is not apparent in my work. I think about these things and they are circling in my head as I work so I think they must be apparent. The following questions perhaps will test it.

– Is gesture visible in my work? yes

– Is the concept of context and therefore conflict visible in my work? yes

– Is the self or an identity visible? yes, perhaps in a latent or symbolic way.

– Is duality or an identity which is separated visible? yes

– Is it evident that the self is never fully realized? I think this must be yes if the answer to the question above is yes.

– Is it evident the self is fleeting and tenuous? yes

But then perhaps it was predictable that my answers would be ‘yes’ because, as I said, this stuff is circling in my head as I work, so I think it must be visible. It is one of the pitfalls of working in isolation, thinking becomes a bit circular and I can become dizzy very easily. I would be very interested to know what you think and how you may answer these questions, or if you have any questions to pose to me instead of these.



In response to Rob Turner’s comments below:

Rob thank you so much for your comment. It’s funny, I read your post the other day on technology and I wondered if you had read something I had written, and then I found your comment on my post. I’ll elaborate, if I may….

I read something once, written by Arnold Toynbee, which chilled me to the bone. He said, (and I’m paraphrasing), the breakdown of civilization happens when it becomes focused on militarism and new technologies, to the detriment of the arts and other cultural activity. It had an immediate effect on how I saw art-making. It is the reason I work with gesture, I want never to forget there is a person behind the art.

Clearly, the breakdown of civilization is a complicated thing and involves more than the cessation of a society to create (again paraphrasing Toynbee), but the effort to keep the arts alive and valued is vital. Art balances society. Culture keeps us civilized. New technology is not a bad thing and art made from new technologies is not a bad thing either. But loosing sight of why art is important in the scheme of things is bad.

I remember an image from the Bosnian War of the man playing his cello amidst the total destruction of war (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Vedran_Smailovi%C4%87). His bravery wasn’t because he placed himself in the midst of war, unprotected; his bravery was to remind the world of its humanity, to defy savagery and atrocity.

I just find these social aspects compelling and it is why I do what I do.

Indeed, you may be so bold, thank you for the comment on my work. I value that and I invite comment. I agree with your view. The digital work lacks the hand, doesn’t it? Perhaps there is something of significance; the work which comes from the body as well as the mind is more compelling that that which comes from the mind and technology which nullifies the body (in this case, perhaps). Even though the digital work comes from my paintings and is self-referential, there is a distance, a removal. It is the reason I switched my medium from photography to painting, I simply missed the hand. I find though, that now I miss photography and the digital is an effort to work again with it. I think there may be an issue of scale with these works. I can imagine them very large and perhaps they would benefit from being experienced in a larger scale.


David, I’ll grant we may run into trouble in our discussions because I’m American and you’re British – but vive la difference!

Re Burgin’s work, view his work as a strand of what? How is a strand different than a trend? His work has caused a shift in art production and art theory, is that not a trend? The word ‘trend’ is, I admit, a bit vulgar, but can you say it is out of step with what art has become (if I can phrase it that way, uncomfortably doing so), and I’m talking about the art that people like Burgin and any other big name artist produce. At that level of production the stakes are higher and more is involved than the search for truth – which I do believe we are all searching for, even the big guys. But for Burgin to reach the level he has and to be the influence he is has involved many other people working with him than just he alone. When you get people behind you working you in a direction it can be called a trend, or style, or mode, or direction, or theory, or movement or any other name, but it means the same thing.

As for respect, I certainly have no disrespect in mind when I use the word ‘trend’. To be a trend-setter is to be an innovator, a force, unique, visionary, determined, confident, inspired and inspiring. Art is not so lofty that it is above common vernacular, and like it or not, art is commodity so why is the word trend distasteful? Yes, Pollock was a ‘driver of change and a contributor to a movement’, as you say. He was also much more. His vision caused inspiration, other artists worldwide were inspired to take his ideas and interpret them for themselves (the Gutai group in Japan, for example). Nearly 60 years down the road from Pollock’s drip paintings, the drip in art still harkens back to him. Pollock is beyond trend-setting he is a monumental force, but his techniques (which actually were inspired by Siqueiros, the Mexican muralist) fueled the look of art production for years to follow. I feel about Pollock as he felt about Picasso – he is (was, speaking of Picasso) the major force in painting to contend with.

Re choice and judgment, tell me one choice or judgment you make which is made outside of your identity (we’re talking in the normal realm of living, not conditions of duress). We choose and judge because we want to project something about which we see ourselves to be. I choose the clothes I do because I see myself a certain way and perhaps I want to convey my personal tastes. I judge my actions to be right or wrong because I believe myself to be a certain kind of person and I want others to see me that way too. If ‘it might be true that our choices and judgments are synonymous with our identity’, as you say, then it must also be true that our choices and judgments project our identity. To live in the world is to project an identity. Projection is not necessarily something we do on purpose, which I perceive you are stating as your objection, it happens naturally.

Re thinking and thinking about, I don’t believe there is a distinction, unless it is to define the chemical and electrical activity of the brain as thinking. To think is to think about something. Why should there be a distinction?

Re markers of value, when we talk about markers of value we probably need to define the term ‘value’. If we’re talking about money, then yes, a tasteful object is a marker. If we are talking about social value then laws would be markers and are neither tasteful (perhaps) nor objects. If we are talking about the value of our lives, perhaps education is a marker of that value and is neither tasteful (again, perhaps) nor an object.

If we are talking only in the terms of objects and value, I would say quality is a marker of value, reputation, rarity and innovation perhaps are other markers of value. Often ‘tasteful’ accompanies these other qualities, but not always.

So off you go to sit in the dark, but two things, keep a window open so you can see the stars! And come back and let’s talk more. By the way, it’s nice to hear a twinkle in your voice.



In response to David Minton’s post #56.

Everything is a class-based tribal totem, not just tasteful objects, our thoughts, ethics, language, everything is a symbol. The choices we make, the judgments we follow; we accept or reject them because we want to project a certain something about our identity (sorry, David we’re back on that merry-go-round!). The trouble is it is very hard to separate out social influence on the construction of our identity – if it is possible at all.

So do any of us really know who we are, what we like or don’t, what we think? I mean, yes certainly, we know who we are in relation to society and how we fit into it, but can any of us find our core selves which stand apart from social influence? I can’t say that I can. What I’m trying to say is, these questions of taste, intellectualism, and totems/symbols all revolve around current debate and what is current is also trend. Current debate is also social influence.

This doesn’t resolve any questions about whether something has value if it is tasteful but I think it has bearing on the ability to recognize the ‘markers’ of value. To my mind the first step in all this is learning to identify those markers because from there we really can debate issues of value, trend, intellect etc. because through that knowledge we see context. Context is everything.

I find it important, for example, to know that Victor Burgin, who you mention, was a fundamental player in the development of conceptualism. His work and writing are compelling but in the back of my mind I know he was a trend-setter and as such, his theories will be tested against time just as the Bloomsbury group set the trend and are now being tested. Pollock was a trend-setter but he was also a product of his time. The symbolic, emotional, psychological content in art of that era became suspect and turned to intellectualism. Intellectualism will also face the same test, if it hasn’t already.

We must always question what we do and what we think because that process becomes visible in our work and I think true value is found in the process of thinking, even if our thinking is socially influenced – which it necessarily is. The process of thinking is also the signature you mention earlier, that is visible in our work. Our thoughts may be socially influenced but the temporal way in which we think them, the thoughts we lay next to each other, perhaps is our own.