Monday, 4 July 2011

Exercise. And Futility.

I am not generally inclined to waffle on too much about personal gripes and grievances on this blog feed, but this pertains to the work(which is very much a part of the person), so in some way I guess it's all pretty inextricably linked. Sometimes moreso than other, I guess.

There is an attrition that exists in the creative industry which I am sure applies equally other fields. The attrition I speak of here, is the amount of yourself than you are forced to invest in order to get the spotlight on your work. The work comes easy, I can get up in the morning and spew paint all over canvas until the cows come home, but this, simply put, is where the difficulty and erosion of morale comes in.

Merely putting paint to canvas does not pay the bills, so work needs to be done in order to pay said bills, until the artistic revenue overtakes the more mundane, rent-paying tasks. So the time you put into your art (this might be music, fine art or whatever) gets eaten into. On top of the work we must all do to pay the bills, we must market our own work, send countless emails and make phone calls. Basically all of this in vain, because for every ten emails you send, seven get no response, two tell you thanks, but we're not taking anyone new on board and one says 'nice work, we'll put you on our books and if anything comes up, we'll let you know', which is as good as, but less blunt. This goes on for days and months, but it's all in the name of possible future success, so we continue this noble, self-effacing toil. Humbly we approach galleries and politely we are turned away, because you never know when the breakthrough may come.
Through all this, we paint less, because of the things we need to do to try and get our careers off the ground.

Another layer of resistance that is then thrown into the mix, is one of rank and file, compliance to the prevailing trends. It seems to go counter to what some of us (naïvely perhaps) believe art to be, a form of individual expression. When it comes down to it, this does not seem to be the truth of the matter. The truth of it is that those pandering to a formula have adoration and enthusiastic support while the individuals who stick to their guns are praised in hindsight. In death. Van Gogh and countless numbers of the impressionists died in poverty, or insane through failure and rejection. Broken by the world. Yet after the fact, how many books do we see praising the groundbreaking work they did? There is something truly wrong with what the world does to those who follow their own hard-won beliefs, those who do not follow a line, but rather their own.

Through this attitude of stubborn belief in one's work, your chances of acceptance and success are further lessened to the point where paying the most basic bills becomes and issue and the personal work almost goes out the window because of the time you don't have for it anymore, so development and exploration diminishes and the light begins to flicker on its way out. When it will go out I cannot say, but things do seem to be heading that way. I am too stubborn to quit, but there comes a time when things need to change.

You may one day get a call, good news, offering you a job. Spirits soar, things might turn around! Wheels are set in motion and contracts signed. And then things disintegrate as quickly as they appeared due to events quite beyond your control. The gallery in New York that you just signed to goes down the crapper and they take your artwork with them into oblivion(but you'll see them soon, operating under a new name. And no, they do not respond to the invoking of your legal, contractual rights). Or a client pulls their funding at the last minute. Or there simply is no funding and we were really just hoping you would do it for free. And at first, you do do it for free, until the potential gains pale in comparison with the impending month's end. And each of these setbacks serve to further erode your spirit. Your initiative. Your belief in your ability and hopes for getting out of this hole that once upon a time seemed like a minor temporary setback.

There is always the light of hope at the end of the tunnel, that you will get a positive response, that we LOVE your work and we'd be happy to imclude you in an upcoming group showing. And maybe one show turns into three and suddenly people get used to seeing your work on walls, they warm to it. This is how these things go. Or could go, if given the chance. There is always this hope. But when you look back at a year or more and see only stillborn projects or energy-sucking charity gigs with a handful of paychecques inbetween, you can't help but notice the trend of economic unfeasibility.

I cannot imagine not doing this, pursuing this thing that drives me, but it becomes a mindless, futile exercise, tantamount to nothing less than insanity in the end. Unless the insanity can be turned around. Turned into ecstasy again, because when I am able to paint, when I have nothing else to do but paint and draw and write, then I am the happiest person on the planet. Which makes me a very lucky person indeed. It is just a place that needs to be somehow reclaimed. I have been fighting this fucking fight for so long, there must either be a breakthrough or a breakdown.

The former, hopefully.

And sooner rather than later, I might add.

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