About a month ago I received an email from Lindsay Moran from Leyden Gallery he invited me to the Leyden Gallery near Old Spitalfields Market in East London to meet the curators and directors. The meeting was planned to last half an hour. However, it ran well over and it went very well. I felt that the curator and director of the Gallery had a very similar outlook to me. I was therefore very pleased to receive a follow-up email from the gallery offering me an opportunity to exhibit my work at The Leyden Gallery.
Why it matters
Several years back l stopped entering juried art shows due to the time, effort and money it was taking me. I had often had my work accepted for exhibitions in different areas of the UK and the US. I have sent my artwork to New York and Beverley Hills from my UK base. However, I found that I was putting a lot of effort into exhibiting and this took time away from making art. Although I did make some sales, it wasn’t going to pay the bills. I decided that I needed to set the bar higher. I stopped exhibiting completely and decided that when I started exhibiting again I would be more focused on developing relationships with galleries with similar philosophies as me. I also decided I would focus on geographical areas where there are more opportunities to get my art in front of the collectors, gallerist and artists. The intention was to make the most of the time, effort and money that l had been using exhibiting.
As l was not exhibiting, I had no deadlines and no pressure to make a particular type of work. I was able to get to the bottom of what I was trying to achieve in my work as an artist. The time for contemplation was of great benefit. I have been able to develop a practice where I am no longer pretending or unsure of where I am heading. I realised the artists should always be themselves, and I learnt to understand what that means.
This show feels special. It is an opportunity to present my work in the best environment, develop a relationship with Lindsay and Adriana from Leyden Gallery and hopefully develop relationships with collectors. I am excited about the kind of work the gallery exhibits the and the opportunities that will hopefully come. I hope to establish a good gallery/artist relationship where I will be to share my future work. Fingers crossed!
I feel l have validation from an art gallery run by two people I respect. This is an opportunity not only to exhibit my art but an opportunity to hopefully develop a long term relationship with two people who care a lot what they are doing and why they are doing it.
It is fun to attend openings and to meet people, and I hope to cherish the relationships I make. I hope you can make it the private view on 18th July 6 pm at Leyden Gallery. 9/9a Leyden Street, London, E1 7LE
In my artwork, I am interested in these moments to give myself a better appreciation of the world. I am interested in considering the world anew from a fresh perspective. We often overlook the familiar, and I want to explore its depths. I want to become more aware of the humble things we ignore like volume, form and space. I want to pursue a direction where I take note of and record the visual information from the beauty of nature and the material world that is right in front of me.
My intention to create a re-enchantment with what is unnoticed and to appreciate ordinary moments. Abstract shapes and imperfect forms have no obvious signs of importance and are seen as unimportant. I want to draw attention to their overlooked beauty and their aesthetic qualities.
The paintings are not an exact transcript of the scene but a perceiving of the scene. They focus on simple forms. Creating space for silence and thought in a world where everything is constantly moving and unfixed. The paintings are a window of reality, telling no lies, reinventing nothing, just recording, a reworking of the spatial chaos of the visible world.
In the paintings, the flat images are to help us deal with the complexity of our perception. Our minds automatically make connections with the shapes. There is a lack of perspective, there is no direction of light, and they have different rules of composition. The shapes and forms are like the pleasurable moments of seeing an elephant in the clouds; the forms slip between representational and abstract pattern. At this point forms and content merge into together like a beautiful poem.
This painting is on show at Leyden Gallery, 9/9a Leyden Street, London E1 7LE. There is a private viewing between 6:30 – 9 pm in 18 July 2017, please come along.
The figure was a challenging subject after the war. For many artists, it appeared an almost impossible theme and one that Alberto Giacometti felt he had to take on in his art. The Swiss sculpture, painter, draughtsman and printmaker savoured the challenge of confronting man’s inhumanity to man with such determination that he spent his life working towards this goal in an endless strive for perfection. The exhibition at Tate Modern takes a fresh look at Giacometti’s modern art, asking questions about the success of Giacometti’s life work. In this review, I am interested in considering the competing advantages of working with a strive for perfection against settling for artwork that is good enough in a discourse that could help me with my work.
Alberto Giacometti 1901 -1966 was born in Val Bregaghn in Switzerland. He was the son of the successful post-impressionist painter, Giovanni Giacometti. Alberto Giacometti was interested in art from an early age, at thirteen he made his first sculpture of his brother Diego, and in 1922 he moved to Paris to continue his education as an artist. Giacometti was awarded the grand prize for sculpture representing France at the Venice Biennale in 1962.
The exhibition space at the Tate Modern starts with his formative years when Giacometti depicts what he sees from life. As the show progresses Giacometti experiments with cubist and surrealist sculptures such as Head-Skull (1934), Torso (1925) and Cubist figure (1926). The sculptures of this period have a real physical interaction; it is interesting to see that Giacometti is trying and struggling to get a grip of his extraordinary personal view of reality. The angular sculptures take on and contemplate the space around the figure. A cheek bone is not directly represented as a cheek bone. Instead, Giacometti creates a poetic essence of the form. This extract of essence allows the sculpture to be an object in itself, completely eye-catching and unmatched, different from anything else.
It is clear that Giacometti quickly realised that depicting only what he saw in life was limiting. The concept of these sculpture came from an alternative source when he saw fully formed ideas in his head. The forms have a power and force about them that relates to forms and shapes from primitive art. They contain a real freedom as if Giacometti was grappling with a concept and trying to put it in his work. It is a remarkably varied body of work. To me the work shows Giacometti at his experimental best. When he went for good enough and when he had not expected the public to see some this work. For me, this was a real highlight of the show.
Later in his career, Giacometti dedicated himself to mainly depicting men walking and standing, as well as busts and nude women. He became known for his sculpture of thin figures with, “just enough clay for the figure to stand up and nothing more.” This approach enabled him to pursue the question further as he considered the essence of man and his following work resonated with existentialist art lovers and collectors.
In his pursuit to capture the essence, Giacometti felt the need to limit access to what inspired him. A walk in the wood was too much for him to take in. A short walk looking at one tree at a time in Paris is all he felt he could cope with. Giacometti said, “Having a quarter of an inch of something, you have a better chance of holding on to a certain feeling of the universe than if you had pretended to be doing the whole thing…by trying to draw a glass [on a table] as you see it seems like a fairly modest undertaking. But because you know that glass even that is almost impossible.” By limiting his inspiration, Giacometti felt that it would give him a better chance of getting to the bottom of his goal and his continuous strive for perfection. By limiting himself to only having a handful of models enabled Giacometti to focus on developing a distinctive visual language that everyone could recognise as his. From this Giacometti felt he could go deeper into how, we, as individuals relate to others. He worked towards capturing the self-consciousness and the universal feeling of being alone in this world.
Each time Giacometti made a sculpture he always had a strong feeling of failure. Giacometti wasn’t looking for a way to lie to himself. He didn’t tell himself that what he was doing was good enough. He was after perfection and anything else fell short. This disparity between his objective and his implementation opened up a breathing space for his next work, often Giacometti then repeated his previous piece. Even though he knew it was impossible to create a perfect response, Giacometti said, “All I can do will only ever be a faint image of what I see.”
This later work grapples with getting hold of the essence of the figure and although this is where he truly becomes a master, the control of inspiration that he uses can lack some of this freedom of exploration. I have always had a high affinity with Giacometti’s work. In this exhibition I wondered what would have happened if he hadn’t focused on perfection. What if Giacometti had continued to make one-off pieces of experimental work through his career, producing work that is good enough rather than perfect? I wonder what else Giacometti could have produced?
There is an energy that comes out of Giacometti’s work that makes his work compelling. It was interesting to watch a video of Giacometti at work in the exhibition. He made heavily worked surfaces through squeezing, pulling, touching and pushing clay. It was surprising watching his unconscious creativity and his obsessive restless movements as he worked on the form. Giacometti was fascinated by the head and eyes in his sculptures; he felt they represented the core of human beings and life. By getting the eyes right the rest of the figure he believed would fall into place.
There is a lot to be said for comparing this to other artist’s practices. Mondrian’s repetitiveness allowed him to pursue his interest in how one shape of colour works in competition with black and white. If Mondrian had only made one painting of a black grid with white, red and blue squares, it would of never have got to the bottom of his interest in visual order. Without this repetitiveness, he would of never of been able to ask profound questions about the visual world and his belief that everything is an illusion. Mondrian thought that using repetition highlighted his belief that an abstract painting is truer to reality than a painting depicting the illusion of what we see.
Picasso, however, was well known for reinventing his art every few years, like his cubist works and blue period. Picasso used new approaches to get to the bottom of his desire to depict his personal view of the world. Matisse also reinvented his approach to making art several times, finishing his career with the biggest risk of all the cut out. I wonder about these different contrasting approaches and wonder what approach would suit me best my practice.
In my eyes, failures are as valuable as successes. Giacometti endlessly pursued, his search to find the universal poetic essence of a figure and the truth of our shared humanity. Giacometti did this by focusing on one tree in the forest at a time or one person in a crowd of millions. Through this approach, he captured alienation and melancholy of life. His engagement with searching for a truth that was always out of his reach lead him down a very restrictive path.
While it is admirable to focus intensely on, “a quarter of an inch of something.” I wonder if Giacometti’s approach of limiting his inspiration and his endless strive for perfection or whether a wider body of experimental approach would suit my approach to art making?
Giacometti created a distinctive visual language with his thin sculptures of man that enabled him to find success in his lifetime. Dreaming something up and executing it and working and stuff comes out are quite different approaches. The lightning bolt of inspiration doesn’t strike on demand. There is a lot to be said for starting to work and seeing what you can produce and where it takes you.
I think what I take forward for my practice from this Giacometti exhibition is that developing some kind of process is essential for removing too much thinking and self-doubt. It is not hard to make art that looks like other art; the trick is making art that doesn’t look like someone else. Giacometti achieved that. Pushing your art to where no one else is working is a lot more of a quest than striving for perfection. Problem creation with self-imposed limitations can easily be devised into a practice. In that practice, it can be a positive decision to limit your inspiration or choices. The only conclusion is in Giacometti’s approach is no matter what you try humankind is beyond human understanding.
When starting as an artist rather than waiting for a big idea, I took my camera to the city. I took pictures of everything and anything that interested me. I just pressed and released the shutter. When l reviewed my photos, l realised that l was naturally discovering interesting material. My ideas came from living, painting and repeating.
When returning to the city with my camera, l followed my natural curiosity and my ideas deepened and expanded. At times it was hard to choose which way to take my work. It was essential to review and understand what l had. I took many directions but kept returning to taking photos of the city and taking them forward by painting them on canvas. The trick is not to give up Helsinki Bus Theory link.
I realised over time that my original idea was chasing some obscure knowledge through a simple process that I could repeat.
I feel like I have been painting the same painting for ten years as now I realise that my original ideas just got the work started. The original idea is still in my work but it has changed and developed in ways l could never have predicted. My work has grown to portray something unique that help us to understand our life on this earth a little better.
These seeds begin to germinate in many different directions like a plant does when it is attracted to light and water. It has taken many years for my original ideas and intentions to bloom into flowers. Now the interesting thing is not my original ideas or intentions. It is that l have found my way to communicate; my unique voice and inclination. As my work has deepened and expanded, it has lined up with natural talent, unlocking bigger ideas. Bigger ideas that l could never have predicted ten years ago.
The point of this post is that it is impossible to know where your practice as an artist will take you. One of the biggest challenges is learning to trust the decisions you make and to stop doubting yourself. Instead, l have developed confidence in my inner voice even when l can’t see where it is taking me.
My advice is to play, as there is no such thing as a mistake. Anything can lead to a breakthrough. If self-doubt is getting the best of you put your trust in a process and live, paint, repeat.
Over time when you review your work a way forward should reveal itself. Trust yourself and your creative process. Rather than paying attention to your own intentions, pay attention to what the work actually does. When the thinking and doing come together the work becomes more convincing.
I remember watching the film Pulp Fiction, in that movie, there was a great power in the mystery of what was in the suitcase. In the film, we never find out. The mystery of not knowing was more powerful than knowing. I see there is enormous potential for interpretation by the viewer. I want to add mystery to my artwork so the viewer can interpret the work the way they see it. The audience can bring their own intentions, baggage and ideas. I want the viewer to look at the artwork and let their mind wonder.
Representational art discusses drawing, handling of paint, skill, composition; it also can be used to communicate ideas and a subject. The intention behind representational work is often clear for the viewer, but I have found it limited for discussing deeper philosophical challenges and felt it was holding me back.
However, abstraction artwork is different in that is invites more commentary and mystery. The viewer coasts across the surface trying to understand it and often falling short. The viewer can often never be sure if they understand the artist’s intention. The intention is often not what the work is about. Instead while making the work the thinking and the doing are often inseparable where feeling and emotional responses are often significant in making the ‘art’ within work.
I want to create a space for instincts and accidents rather than the straightforward one-to-one representation. I want to feel and grab something real and put it in a painting. I am interested in the space in the viewer’s mind as much as the space in the composition and the space that inspired the work. Through an investigation of spatial structures in a pursuit of knowledge, I want to create a different way of looking and seeing the world. I find it profoundly gratifying focusing on the place in-between forms; perceiving the image and watching it disappear into shapes, forms and space.
The outcome is an artwork that is intended to work on many levels. The clarity of the composition is comparable with the mark making: realising positive and negative, absence and presence in equal measure. The colours and forms produce and transmit a poetic meaning, an emotional state that invites interpretation. By creating an interpretation of space that cannot be communicated by words the work it acts a metaphor about what it means to alive today.
My idea of success is linked to what l have rather than what l haven’t. It is common to hear of success being tied to financial wealth. That isn’t success for me; profit does not drive my artwork. I have the opportunity to discover who l am, to find my own voice, to find my true self through my art. My goal is to make better work today than l did yesterday, it is as simple as that
I finished university in 2006 and when l look at my early paintings l can see l have taken small progressive steps each year. Now over ten years later l know l have made significant progress. However, l feel as if l have been making the same painting for ten years, each time exploring my interest in seeing the body in space. The concept of finding what my personal gift is and discovering my potential is more exciting than any material needs. That is why l have chosen this life as an artist, or maybe it has chosen me.
I see being an unknown artist as a positive thing. It enables me to consider the long game, to build on each day and to go deeper to see what the ‘it’ is. Many of my paintings are built up gently in the studio. Each painting supports the next one, thereby pushing me forward in a positive way. I have a conviction, a commitment and the determination not to give up. I believe strongly in what l am doing.
By doing art for myself, l can avoid criticism and avoid making commercial decisions. This allows me to find a way forward without manufacturing art. The art l make is more about emotions than constructions, more about art and poetry, and less about resolved ideas. I want to make work for myself that l feel really passionate about, l don’t want to dilute my work. l want to make the decisions about what needs editing before the public see it. I want my work to be the best that it can be. I realise that this may divide the potential audience. However, once the work is made public, it could potentially turn me into a public person. I’m not sure that l want that to happen. I want to make work for a small audience that appreciates and supports my work
I am a figurative painter, and I want to get close to the source. I want to make work within an intellectual framework inspired by my muse, my muse being my experience of the city. This framework is the key to the art within me, allowing me not to over thinking what l am doing and allowing me to initiate an inner response, thereby preventing me from being distracted by my head or my ego, competition with other artists or self-doubt. Reflection comes later, after a period of time, when l can contemplate and think about what l have made.
I want to make art is good as it can be. My competition is with myself and being better than yesterday.
Forms in Space…by light (in time), an installation by Cerith Wyn Evans
Tate Britain Commission, 28 March – 20 August 2017
When walking into the Duveen Gallery at Tate Britain in London, I was confronted with a juxtaposition of neo-classical architecture with a manifestation of neon lights in the space. I immediately felt the needed to stop and gaze in awe and give myself some time to take it in. Cerith Wyn Evans’s installation of apparently random curves, loops and lines is almost 2 kilometres long and is an exciting, surprising discursive experience that gives the viewer space to contemplate.
Cerith Wyn Evans was born in 1958 and started his career as an experimental filmmaker. He now uses installation, sculpture, photography, film and text within his work. Wyn Evans shows that drawing in space with chandelier sculptures of light influenced by concerns with space, melody, harmony and form is comparable to a piece of music or poetry. The work is inspired by Japanese Noh Theatre, and Duchamp’s [=The Bride Stripped Bare by Her Bachelors, Even (the Large Glass)] of 1912 to 1923.
The installation has a chronological feel that is translating movement into form, where boundaries of perceived time and space overlap. The three-dimensional drawing invites you to deconstruct a journey of dipping arcs and twists through space.
The sculpture appears to move as you move through the space. Distortion and torsion twist in space are like colliding systems and particles. Wyn Evans visited the Hadron Collider several times; I’m sure this must of made an impression.
Cerith Wyn Evan’s work is a materialisation of space and has a reservoir of possible meanings and ideas. The work creates a state of mind which is productive for thoughts to grow. The zooming trajectories collide with thoughts opening the mind of the viewer to complexities of life, creating a proposition to ponder your stream of awareness.
I recently watched a video on TED titled, ‘How to gain control of your free time’ by Laura Vanderkam. Laura spoke about how we are always so busy, but if we come home and needed to resolve a situation like a broken boiler, we know we must prioritise it, and we always manage to find the time.
In Laura’s story, it took 7 hours to deal with the emergency, to clean up the mess and get a plumber to come and fix it. It is surprising to think that is possible to find 7 hours to deal something like this in a very busy daily schedule.
As I watched the video, I wondered how I could make better use of my time. How much time do I spend in the day doing unproductive things that don’t work towards my goals? If time is a choice and I take some time to decide what my priorities are for the long and short term I know l need to plan for the next year in advance and put these priorities over other requests for my time. Then I can fit in scheduled time into slots in my diary and make sure my time is focused time. Then the results will follow.
A final piece of helpful advice from the video to help manage your priorities is for when you receive requests for your time, rather than say, “I don’t have time because of X, Y & Z,” is to say, ”I don’t do X, Y & Z because they are not a priority.”
At times I have found juggling a full-time job while being a parent and starting a career as an emerging artist, very frustrating. When I have tried to put in lots of effort in my art career, my family time and job has suffered this, in turn, has left me feeling unhappy.
I have read about artists, like Picasso and Matisse who decided to prioritise art at the cost of everything else in their life including their family. I think the choices they made don’t suit me. By putting my family first, it means prioritising family time and paying the bills. Art has ended third on my list of priorities.
I have been frustrated for a while coming to terms with this. Over time I have come to realise this gives me the opportunity to take more time, to make the art I want to make for me. I wonder about the solitude if I was working on my own in my studio. Of course, I realise that this wouldn’t be every day but thinking about this has made value my full-time job more, as I enjoy the social side of working in a team.
I love spending time and seeing my family growing up, and I wouldn’t miss it for the world. I have meet artists making a living from their art where they have very little money. The artist I have come across are unlikely to afford to buy a house or have a good pension. I wanted to make sure I had a good income to allow my family to flourish and thrive. I have reached the conclusion, by working full time, having a mortgage and good pension I can look forward to the time when my family are older. I will be able to move my art up my list of priorities. I feel happy about this order of priorities, and I know it is the way it should be. I now accept it rather than fight it.
To fit everything in, I have to have some sort of order to my life, a kind of time management priority list of sorts. I prioritise my family life and job and my art making time fits in around that. I try to plan my year ahead and decide what my priorities are for each year. I am working towards depth in my artwork rather than bereft. I then break down each week so that I can allow time for each activity. I am only able to have a couple of art objectives on a weekly basis. They typically are making artwork and writing my blog. My other art career plans just have to wait.
I have certainly had the feeling that there is some wrong with the world and I’m sure most people have. I recently watched the film ‘The Matrix’ (1999) again after reading the Guardian newspaper article titled, ‘Constructed reality: are we living in a computer simulation?’ I think it is unlikely that we are residing in a computer simulation, even though some people think it is true. Elon Musk, the founder and CEO of Tesla and Space X believes the probability that we are not all living in a simulated world is one in billions, but I think most people would not think too deeply about this argument.
The Matrix dialogue
Morpheus: Let me tell you why you’re here. You’re here because you know something. What you know, you can’t explain. But you feel it. You felt it your entire life. That there’s something wrong with the world. You don’t know what it is, but it’s there. Like a splinter in your mind – driving you mad. It is this feeling that has brought you to me. Do you know what I’m talking about?
Neo: The Matrix?
Morpheus: Do you want to know what it is?
I enjoy thinking about ideas that challenge what we believe to be true. It wasn’t that long ago we thought the earth was flat. To try and find out what the purpose and meaning of life is and believe the simulation argument leads you down a rabbit hole. I think it is impossible to verify and confirm whether it is true or not. Life still matters, either way, we are still conscious and aware of our own existence, sensations and thoughts, we still have purposeful relationships and activities.
A great approach is to follow your instincts by exploring, responding and make sense of this world. Personally, the only way I can see to do this is through my relationship with making art. It feels natural to me through making art to look for a deeper level of meaning and value in our ordinary everyday lives. I am always looking for hidden depths of our deepest self.
I feel like I see the world differently and I see my ultimate goal as an artist is to locate and communicate this. I would always feel incomplete if I tried to suppress this urge. It is a passionate engagement and something I have to do.
Braque said,”the only valid thing in art is which cannot be explained.”
Is our world a simulation? Why some scientists say, it’s more likely that not.