Just Words....

When I was studying art at school, we were required to write about our art. A lot. Not just our influences, or inspirations, or even motivations, but the artwork of the moment, the rise and fall, ebb and flow, the personal experience of a journey that may have lasted 15 minutes or 6 weeks, something to hang next to the work in the gallery. As an above-average English student, with an over-achieving grade in creative writing, I always used to find the art writing process wildly amusing and somewhat fraught with imaginative license. In many respects, I found the whole business fraudulent, believing, in my innocence, the art would speak for itself. I could "fluffy up" the artwork with some choice phrases, a little humour and a fair dose of propaganda, and the world would swallow it whole; mish-mashed metaphors and deliberately cynical stabs at the pretention of it all; and people bought it. And they bought the art.

An experience like that can jade a young person quickly. If it's that easy to fool people, then they will find meaning in anything, as long as they buy the emotions that you're selling.

I stopped writing about my art as soon as I finished high school. The oh-so inevitable poignant dissertations of "passion and nuance", "subtlety of imagery and guided metaphor" and so forth, just seemed way too saccharine to a teenager suddenly immersed in the real world, dark alleys and all, where the true poetry of life was now in the abstract idiosyncratic distractions of a hedonistic nilhilist lifestyle and the dark characters of the night and street. Immersion into chaos, not a self-created chaos, but the adventuring into the chaos of others, their raw, unlimited and unfocused urges filtering into a movie script for life, their sum of inhibition purging in deranged displays of madness, violence and indiscretion. It was a life that was not mine in any other fashion but the observer, the willing performer, the participant, but not the creator. Not the contributor. As a well-versed extrovert and exhibitionist, I was challenging my own ideals of discipline, morality and judgement, disturbing the happy, humour-loving, energetic child of my youth and descending into a darkness that all good folk feared. I walked in bad streets, with bad company, saw and survived bad things, and watched hell live large in the hearts and minds of incomplete people.

Nothing changes your perspective like living through the perspective of others. Observing without assumption opens doors to secret places in people's lives, worlds that would stay hidden without the patience to allow more to emerge. They aren't places that you can judge; there's something so otherworldly living inside people, all people, that most of the time they even hide it from themselves. And they have no idea that it's living in everyone else.
It's not just the sense of alienation, that ''weirdness'' they are so certain sets them apart. It's not just the uniqueness of the individual, that awesome combination of elements that makes a single human being. It's not just the soul, the mortal coil or the awareness that they are alive.
In fact, I don't think that I have read of any description that would adequately explain it. But after years of people telling me their personal stories, their most inimate experiences, and their most compelling fears, I can say that this otherworldly possession within a person is the most private and well-kept secret of humanity. Because once it has been exposed, that person is never quite the same again.

What does all this have to do with writing about my art? Well, it's not so shallow a venture now. I still find myself lapsing into sarcastic lyricism during the drafting process, laughing at my own presumption and the practice of witticism that has little to do with art, and more to do with my dark sense of humour; but I have become so aware of what resides in people, the greatest writing block I experience is wanting to say more to that part of the audience - wanting to forget the business of marketing art, and just wanting to reach out to that otherworldly half and say "Hey, this is for you, this is something that will ride that road that you cannot share. I see you, I know you're in there. Come out and play."

There is a narrative in my art, I am well aware. But putting it into words.... most of the time, it just frightens people. They connect with it, but they don't seem to understand why. Most artists frighten people - the obscuration of the truth and wells of illusion are usually broken down in art, the way a photo can keep history honest. And there's nothing more unfriendly than someone bursting your bubble on purpose. Yet, that barrier is crossed time and again, from the truth of having your nose rearranged in a portrait for greater beauty, to having a blatant consumer reality materialise in the shape of a soup can. Art that is distinctive to the artist, describes the otherworldly within that artist - and creates the bridge for the audience to cross into that world within themselves.
Now, if I could put that into words, I'd be a billionaire....