There’s an epidemic going around among artists. It has been a problem for centuries but is worse than ever today due to the fact that it feeds on itself and grows exponentially over time.
This disease is deadly but not (unfortunately) fatal. It infects the part of the brain that is able to put rational thought onto paper (although in some sad cases it carries over into the spoken word as well). This pervasive illness causes otherwise capable, intelligent people, who speak clearly and plainly in their daily lives, to babble unintelligibly when writing about their art.
Here is a typical example:
My work explores the boundaries between subsistence and extinction in critical practice. With influences as diverse as the pre-raphaelite brotherhood and Frank Gehry, new combinations are generated from both constructed and discovered forms.
What starts out as yearning soon becomes manipulated into a dominion of ineffectuality, leaving only a sense of dissolution and the hybridizing possibilities of a new reality. As temporal derivatives become frozen through emergent and diverse practice, the viewer is left with a glimpse of the synthetic landscape of our era.
Ok I made that one up. But I guarantee every artist with a website or a blog will have some kind of silly statement like this on it. I have one – and it’s pretty darn impressive if I do say so myself…
But here’s the thing: I know artists. Many artists. Most of them are just regular people who speak plainly and can discuss their work in clear, straightforward, honest language. Why then, when we write about our work, do we spew out nonsensical bullshit? Do people think this sounds cool? Because let’s be honest, most of these people have no idea what they’re saying.
Don’t get me wrong – I LOVE discussing art. I can talk about it in depth for hours. I can get philosophical: is it subjective or objective? I can wax poetic on historical references and influences in an artist’s work. But even I have my limits, and there is a level of pretentiousness that I just can’t tolerate when I’m sober. If a representational artist paints fruit, I tend to think his paintings are probably about fruit. Do we really need to say that they explore the divorce of the cruel scrutiny of the modern world from the romantic sensibilities that pervade the hierarchies of the past? It’s a freakin apple and two pears.
Abstract painters are some of the worst perpetrators and I, sadly, am not blameless. I have to admit I have written some crazy shit in applications for art shows and painting competitions. Though I have tried to block it out, I can’t deny a recent application I submitted that included some primo mumblings about line, form, and the expression of tension through the metaphor of invisibility. The truth is more like this:
I take paint, put it on some wood, and then take some more paint and put it on top of the paint that is already on the wood. I use colours I happen to like that day, and I build up layers with stuff I find interesting. I have design ideas, deep feelings and songs in my heart -and I use paint to express them.
What do you think?
So I guess I will have to continue to keep the illusion alive…the holier than thou artist persona I’m supposed to maintain on paper so I can officially call myself an artiste. (I prefer to refer to myself as a painter but then people ask me how much to paint their kitchen…)
Oops! Gotta go…my beret just fell off, but first I will leave you with a selection from the excellent artist bio of my good friend and fellow painter Marc Cooper.
I was born on a pirate ship. I’m a husband, daddy, son, brother and friend. My parents never met. And I was brought up by a litter of Goldendoodles. I’m man’s best friend. The only formal training I’ve had is crate training. I love to ruin a painting only to create something better, I hope you enjoy my art as much as I enjoy creating it.
What a delightful thing is the conversation of specialists!
One understands absolutely nothing and it’s charming.