Musings on a conversation at a private view


(To publish or not? Not sure. How honest can I be?)

Sunday 1 March 2015
Last night I met a Danish painter, in the UK for her first London solo exhibition. She got me thinking about a few things. Which is always a good thing. Thinking.

First, she seemed slightly ashamed of being a painter. She said being a painter was “boring”. Now, I’m not one to argue with strangers, or friends of acquaintances as this woman was. But I had to disagree. I don’t find it ‘boring’ at all being a painter. She clarified that she herself is not bored with being a painter, but that other people roll their eyes and yawn when she tells them of her medium of choice. Again I disagreed. She explained that it was other artists in the Art World who find her choice of materials boring. People who aren’t in the art world are, of course, still impressed by painting. I guess I hang around mostly non-art world people then. I don’t think I could take being frowned at because of my passion.

The reason that this conversation was so significant was that I’ve been in a bit of a lull the last few months. I finished my latest Czech commissions at the end of last year. The Tarot exhibition before Christmas was successful. I had my painting in SELFRIDGES! I’m working on an exciting new portrait for a rapidly rising, very talented fabric artist who is going to make me the most fabulous frock coat ever. And yet… because I don’t have any major commissions or shows coming up, I feel like I’m not going anywhere.

I know that is completely ridiculous. Being an artist, or any kind of freelance worker, one has periods of being busy and periods of being less busy. There is no reason to panic or get low about… about my lack of ability to push and promote myself.

Can I admit that? Even the Danish painter was on my page there. The younger artists are so skilled in marketing, it doesn’t matter if their art is shit. They succeed on pure self-grandiousity.

So, from feeling down about my lack of prospects (and dwindling financial resources), I’ve taken another look at what’s going on. The ‘Art World’? Still frowning at painters? So much so that even while basking in the aftermath of an international solo show, this painter is looking down on herself for her choice of medium?

“A painting will only ever be a painting,” she says. Um… so what? I say. Why should alleged “new” conceptual art completely take the place of an authentic means of self expression that has been around for centuries?

This painter also thought Hirst’s Shark (at the time it was ‘made’) was “new”. I tried to argue that one but realised we would have to agree to disagree. I know I’ve been questioning my pent up anger, and I have never actually punched anyone in the face, but this wasn’t the time to start. And not in a stuffy white walled gallery (we were at private view of some rather excellent analogue black and while photography). Anyway she didn’t anger me at all, just made me think.

It brought home what is, in my Stuckist opinion, still wrong with the art world. That painters are made to feel inferior, after the self-proclaimed ‘innovators.’

I don’t hate all conceptual art. But it has to have content. It has to say something. The way we got on to Hirst was that I was raving about the Kiefer show at the Royal Academy. Now there is someone who pushes ‘paint’ beyond its limits. I also talked about the TV documentary and how Kiefer must have so much money to be able to create the huge work he does. And then the Danish painter brought up Hirst, who has also made shitpiles of cash. And I couldn’t stand to have that snake-oil salesman in the same conversation as one of the few living masters in the world.

I berate myself for not having the marketing skills and confidence to try to get into proper galleries. And yet, do I want to be part of the “art world”?

As a final stab at my disgust with art, it turned out that this poor painter was exhausted from commuting back and forth between London and Hastings during her short stay in the UK, and she was also very hungry. Her host, however, was re-filling his wine glass and still chatting to people, which I found quite rude. Booze taking priority? Another thing that disgusts me about some artists. I’d been introduced to the Danish painter as her host said they were about to go round someone’s house for dinner. The painter had more commuting to do, and a flight back to Denmark coming up. A bit of consideration for her needs would have been nice. She and I were talking for the good part of an hour, before I said goodbye to her host, and couldn’t help pointing out that the painter was starving. The host was well on his way to wine overload, and just grinned and nodded.

Not sure if I can publish this blog as I don’t want to cut off my nose to spite my face… but I don’t know about sucking up to an art world that gets pissed and frowns on painters.

So maybe a simple part time admin job really is the way forward. I can’t see myself vainly trying to push into that world. Like Angela Edwards, I feel that I don’t fit in anywhere. The content of my work is fairly ‘low brow’ and yet the method, oil painting, is not very low bro, nor affordable for collectors of that genre. I appeal to the common people, cleaners and taxi drivers and good, honest working-class folk… who have no money to buy art.

Rather than subject myself to further humiliation in the face of such adversary – snobbery and drunkenness – perhaps I should look elsewhere to earn a living, and content myself to paint as merely an outlet of expression, with no pressure to ‘succeed’.