Hopes and Fears (2007) symbolises a key tipping point in my career. It was the most successful painting from my work of this period, when I painted with a representational figurative style. It has been exhibited in many places from London to Los Angeles and has won two prizes. Needhams Open in Cambridgeshire in 2008, and X-Power International Art Competition in Beverley Hills, California in 2009.
Background to the painting.
“The piece ‘Hopes and Fears’ by Stuart Bush is profoundly influenced by London’s city streets. In the foreground, a well-dressed man blends into the city, giving it a dreamlike quality somewhere between fact and fiction. The work obsessively documents a personal psychological journey relating to themes of guilt and obsession with everyday consumerism. Space, structure, angst, alienation and juxtaposition are all key elements with this work.”
Back to the story…
I got off to a bad start at Wolverhampton when l didn’t get into the halls of residence. This meant l had to find a shared house to live nearby.
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
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.
Allowing freedom in the studio for creative exploration is essential. When I work on a plain sheet of paper or in my sketchbook, I seek to have an openness in my drawings that allows and embraces a large number of directions and options that can be pursued. A chain of evolution takes place in my pictures over an extended period of time and patience is essential. Working on and towards a finished piece too early can make the outcome contrived and often can leave me frustrated.
This explorative phase is more like a problem-creation stage than a problem-solving stage. I am looking to generate new ideas to stimulate my visual imagination and leaving space for creativity and ambiguity. I have often found that without this freeness, the development and exploratory of my thoughts are restricted, and the work comes to a dead end.
With creative freedom in my drawings, my insight and intuition give me an inkling of what to do next allowing me to focus on specific issues and open questions. I can then remove certain details and concentrate on the whole by copying and repeating to expand conceptual ideas and structures by following a hunch.
Inspiration is an essential ingredient and can come from chaotic and imprecise work made with an open mind or by viewing another artist’s work or for me, by being inspired by the city. Accidents and chance can lead to seeing embedded ideas in a different way. The freeness leaves space to suggest moods and emotions and enhancing abstract concepts. I often feel the need to revisit unresolved ideas and expanding on them. Sometimes this leads to radical changes and often, exciting new artwork.
It is always important to remember that overworking can remove the essence, spirit, the actual original thoughts, and potential. The outcome is successful when the liberty and pleasure are still visible. After all seemingly effortless art signifies greatness and shows the way forward for an artist who can then capture what is immaterial into the material.
Related blog posts:
Beginning an artwork
“In musical compositions, so long as we hear merely single tones, we do not hear the music. Hearing music depends on the recognition of the in-between of the tones, of their placing and their spacing.”
“visual equivalent of a tenor reaching a high note.”
The Helsinki Bus Station theory:
Some two-dozen platforms are laid out in a square at the heart of the city. At the head of each platform is a sign posting the numbers of the buses that leave from that particular platform. The bus numbers might read as follows: 21, 71, 58, 33, and 19.
Each bus takes the same route out of the city for a least a kilometer stopping at bus stop intervals along the way where the same numbers are again repeated: 21, 71, 58, 33, and 19.
Now let’s say, again metaphorically speaking, that each bus stop represents one year in the life of a photographer, meaning the third bus stop would represent three years of photographic activity.
Ok, so you have been working for three years making platinum studies of nudes. Call it bus #21.
You take those three years of work on the nude to the Museum of Fine Arts Boston and the curator asks if you are familiar with the nudes of Irving Penn. His bus, 71, was on the same line. Or you take them to a gallery in Paris and are reminded to check out Bill Brandt, bus 58, and so on.
Shocked, you realize that what you have been doing for three years others have already done.
So you hop off the bus, grab a cab (because life is short) and head straight back to the bus station looking for another platform.
This time you are going to make 8×10 view camera color snapshots of people lying on the beach from a cherry picker crane.
You spend three years at it and three grand and produce a series of works that illicit the same comment: haven’t you seen the work of Richard Misrach? Or, if they are steamy black and white 8×10 camera view of palm trees swaying off a beachfront, haven’t you seen the work of Sally Mann?
So once again, you get off the bus, grab the cab, race back and find a new platform. This goes on all your creative life, always showing new work, always being compared to others.
What to do?
It’s simple. Stay on the bus. Stay on the f*cking bus.