Thursday, 24 May 2018

You are the eye of the universe, looking at itself

A friend wrote to me yesterday with some questions.

How did you, or indeed did you decide what form your art would take?

I never decided. It was more like a process of elimination. Not this, no, not this. Not this portrait, not this landscape, not this oil paint, not this art game, not this bohemian posing, not this boring still life. Now I see that those rejections were the key to everything. Not accepting what the culture, the art college, the friends, the gallery, the critic, told me was art, or worthwhile art. 

By noticing tiny moments, and trying to stay true to the feeling of them. I remember staring into a tree trunk in Italy and feeling something moving, in it and in me. Some deep mystery. I had no idea what it was, but nothing else would do. Better to stop making art completely than listen to other people or continue with work that didn't move me.

How did you decide what you wanted to communicate through your work?

I didn't. I don't try to communicate anything. I make images that interest me, or that seem at least to hold a promise of interest. In some ways I think I started trying to make images that I wanted to look at, because I was so uninterested and unmoved by most of the art that came my way.

I don't know what I'm working with most of the time. Sometimes I can make sense of it with hindsight. What actually appears shows me what I'm interested in, I don't decide it. I need to remain open and interested, and just DO SOMETHING. Not care so much what comes out, move on if I don't like it.

I encounter many doubts and fears. The critic is always sitting on my shoulder ready to laugh at my efforts. That's mainly ego, trying to keep me safe, safe from being ridiculed. But if I try to make art that fits with some idea of what I think art should be my art is boring, to everyone, including myself. We don't need more repetition of old cultural tropes.

I also did a very personal piece about my family but that somehow feels self-indulgent and actually quite private.

The personal is where interesting art begins. You can decide later whether or not you want to show it to anyone, or show and explain. One way of seeing it is that your art is the wisdom and depth of all of your experience trying to talk to you, as dreams try to talk, or symptoms of chronic illness. That's interesting, to you. Your system wants this exploration, it wants you to dive into yourself, into the everything of yourself, to follow its leads, to see where it wants to take you. 

Follow your personal fascinations. So what if a thousand people have painted a rock pool? What area of the rock pool makes you catch your breath? You don't have to tell anyone, just find that response in yourself. Start with this. Work out what to show and what to tell much, much later. 

This is a conversation between you and the universe. You are its mirror, its own eye, looking at itself. Find that private ecstasy, that connection, that fascination. Follow and follow and follow. See where it takes you. Forget about anyone else.

I love the process but not sure at all about the product.

It's all process. This doesn't mean that you want to burn any product that results. Products come, you assess them, note them, then carry on. Don't linger on them, at least not at first. Later, linger on them, but as an adventure of seeing and feeling, and adventure of your most private self. What thrills you? What works here, but not here? The answer to that question is your guide. You're on an exploration into the heart of things, using your body and mind as a portal. Ultimately it's a flow, something continuous, which gradually takes over from your conscious mind with all its intentions and desires.

And the strange thing is, that though so much in the culture will tell you that this all sounds very indulgent and self-oriented, it turns out that what comes from this starting point seems to have more likelihood of touching other people as well.

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