My first blog of the New Year takes me back to the year before last. 2009 was the year I sold one of my works out of an exhibition for the first time. It came as a total surprise to me… I didn’t mean to sell this one… I didn’t want to sell it… I just wanted to expose it to other people for the first time. The story of how this happened is very illustrative of how I feel about my art, about exhibiting, about parting with treasured creations and about earning money from it.
This was an exhibition of recycled art at a place in my home town of Brisbane Australia called Reverse Garbage. It was only my second foray into the world of exhibiting. The first was as a participant in an exhibition of local artists to help raise funds for a suburban school… I had previously sold paintings to people who commissioned them. The old, “I love that… could you do one for me?” scenario.
Regarding exhibiting, I had a lack of confidence and an unwillingness to part with my “precious” creations at the prices I could expect as an unknown artist. It was a fear of rejection combined with an inflated sense of my own worth as an artist… a very weird combination.
The second exhibition came about shortly after I had moved into mixed media. Somehow, this didn’t seem as risky to me. I had not invested as much of my experience and painfully developed skills into assemblage as I had into my painting on canvas and drawing on paper.
I submitted an artist’s statement, a publicity blurb and a couple of works to the show at Reverse Garbage and as an afterthought told them I had another piece which I could include if they had space. They did and I did. The afterthought piece caught the eye of an Austrian movie producer working on a film in Australia. Yes I know... the country names …confusing. He asked me for a price, a question for which I was unprepared. I ended up selling it for about half of what I should have. I had worked out a price for the other two, but not the third piece.
This work started as a stretched canvas that had been cut out for some reason before being discarded. It suggested to me that what was behind the scene had finally been revealed by ripping open the surface. I made up a story to go with this idea.
The idea was that ordinary people are always being chewed up and spat out by life. I subscribe to the theory that whenever something really, really bad happens, there will be men in suits (a whole club of them)looking on, supervising and making a profit..
At the time I was making this piece, the Global Financial Crisis was in the making and I just knew that a lot of ordinary people were about to screwed.
My ordinary people came from a discarded table soccer game, the rest of the bits and bobs came from charity shops , my own rubbish and the like.
The background is a photo montage of vintage pictures of my own family going back a few generations - most of them chewed up and spat out by the system... I am lucky enough to be the family custodian of these old family photos. The twisted black and red sticks are palm seed stems... wonderful resource found on the footpath... funnily enough under a palm tree! The lower half of the background is a torn canvas heavily textured with all kids of stuff held in place and coated with acrylic mediums. There is a little bit of painting involved, but mainly assemblage... certainly very mixed media.
"Behind the scenes in the free market" is now Part One of a series. I actually purchased two identical discarded frames with torn canvas and am now putting the finishing touches to “Behind the scenes in the free Market Part Two”. An old idea for the New Year. I will post pix of that when I have finished it…
Here’s what I said about the works I had done for the “Resonance “ exhibition. ( I will post some more pix of that exhibition at another date)
The current assemblage work has a sense of menace and mystery from the deeper recesses of the human psyche, leavened with touches of irony and humour. It resonates with past human eras when tribalism dominated, when our connection to the spiritual was mediated by powers such as shamanism, magic, fetish objects, kadiatcha men, witch doctors, wicca and voodoo.
It is more than recycling, which I think of as re-using the same item for its original purpose or breaking it down to create new raw materials. The alchemy of art is up-cycling, when something discarded is plucked from the garbage stream and lifted to another more valuable level.
The works in “Resonance” are created almost entirely from discarded, broken, re-cycled, scavenged, found, donated, left over or very second hand materials from a variety of sources including kerbside rubbish collections, building site and domestic dumpsters, op shops, second hand shops or simply found on the ground. Details of the contents for each work are with the pictures of the work.
Each piece starts with a vague vision (“doesn’t that bicycle seat look menacing, I can see it with teeth and hair”) that evolves according to what ideas materialize and what materials are available. The components become a single entity by a process where the “treasures” are selected, sorted, cut, broken down, filed, polished, teased out, painted, printed, layered, tied, strapped, bolted, screwed and glued. The less than 10% of new materials are mainly glues, acrylic paint, clay, string, cable ties, pins, screws, nuts and bolts.
I abhor waste and finally I know why I have been hoarding so much for so long. Items that are no longer used but seem too precious to end up as landfill. Purchases where the packaging seems better than the product. But most of all, those prized objects discarded by others who were blind to the precious patina of age and secret meaning concealed within. Such objects are hoarded as treasures for the day they are needed to add meaning or mystery to a new work of art.
What I am mainly doing now is driving over half of my home region taking hundreds photos of buildings that I may be including in my next canvas. (700 photos so far of about seventy buildings).
I will talk about that in another post.