2015 The civil rights movement was not just about freedom and equality but also about identity, an identity that demanded to be heard. Lone voices that became shared voices, shared voices that became a movement, a movement that changed history.
If African American men were regarded as second class citizens then the women were regarded as even less so, and yet, they were the backbone and even at the forefront of the movements success.
From the prison system, inmates are stripped of identity and dehumanised to a number, but in a society increasingly divided by the haves and have nots, where corporations and governments lay claim to more and more of our lives, we too have become numbers, statistics, computer code to be data mined, our identities irrelevant, dehumanised.
With more laws bought out to further curtail our freedoms, our choices, it takes strength. Strength need not come from violence or coercion but by a simple voice, the voice to stand up for rights or stand against wrongs. To say what we feel instead of denying what we feel, to be, not just a number.
This is uncivil rights, it’s about identity, it’s about strength.
Sometimes it’s about being a woman.
2014 There is a very British saying ‘ to keep a stiff upper lip’, to be resolute and unemotional in the face of tragedy or adversity. Ask a British person whose world is falling apart, ‘how are you?’ and you will usually hear ‘fine, thank you’.
Postcards from Grace shares our psychological need to tell ourselves and the rest of the world that everything is fine, because the truth out loud may make it more real, the truth out loud may not help us, the truth out loud may just crush us.
Postcards from Grace is about cancer.
When viewed under the microscope this still largely mysterious disease becomes a familiar landscape, in a place you don’t want to be, to the postcards you send, speak without saying, say without telling, these are the postcards from Grace.
As I lie here under this bridge with a shopping cart full of my belongings and my trusty dog toto, I can see the dimming lights of the yellow brick road to fame and fortune, and I think to myself………fucking Kardashians.
I remember the first time the branding of an artist really hit me.
I had gone to see an exhibition of Claude Monet’s ‘water lilies’ at the Tate, and although Monet’s work was never a great influence on me, I couldn’t help but be seduced by Monet the artist. The dedication to his craft, the love of his surroundings and the imposition of light were all beautifully captured upon the vast canvas’s of the’water lily’ paintings, paintings by an artist well into his twilight years.
After an exhibition I like to wander through the gallery shop, but this time my heart sank, here were Monet’s masterpieces stripped and regurgitated like a mad Toys R Us store in an eruption of puzzles, games, bags and stationary, all bearing the ‘water lily’ paintings.
Monet’s blood, sweat and tears had been reduced to a pencil case.
I wept for art that day, for art had lost its meaning, its purity, its soul, for art had become nothing, a commodity, a brand, a brand to sell you a commodity.
Gone were the days of coveting a postcard of your favourite artwork, today ‘like the art?, Buy the hat!’.
The world was changing, I was changing. The mere fact that I was exhibiting and doing interviews meant that, even unknowingly, I too was forming my own brand, but how to take that brand outside the art world? How to make my own star shine brighter, louder, how to make, my own perfume?
I decided to do the most logical thing, I decided to make a sex tape.
It’s not the easiest thing in the world to make a sex tape, for one, there is all the depilation involved.(Word of warning to any men seeking first time hair removal, never go to see a North Korean woman who has just found out her husband is cheating, a baseball bat insertion is apparently not standard procedure) And two, would there be sandwiches?
Stepping out into the midday sun I contemplated the road to fame I was about to travel, but I had dignity, I had pride, I also had a video camera, hairless buttocks, and an address for the Kardashians.
Unfortunately I can’t really tell you what the Kardashians thought about co-staring with me in my sex tape brand extravaganza, due to their tears of uncontrollable laughter, laughter I could still rudely hear over the intercom while being unceremoniously handcuffed into the back of a police car.
Out on bail and with my genius idea sex tape thwarted, I went back to the drawing board and studied what marketeers refer to as USP or what is my Unique Selling Proposition, what makes me different from any other brand or artist out there, what would make the public put their faith and trust in me –
– As an artist by playing with art materials I have a natural affinity with children.
– As an artist I am sometimes introverted, sometimes shy and sometimes socially awkward.
Connecting these key points together laid bare my brand, and there it was, my Unique Selling Proposition, child serial killer.
Realising this could affect my brand of cuddly toys, I needed professional help.
I sold my house, car and furniture and invested my life’s savings into a team of top advertising executives, marketing men and brand analysts.
Taking inspiration from some of the world’s leading brands, we put together an intoxicating mix of the finest in filmmaking and sure fire brand advertising success; cool music, sexy girl next door, stunning cinematography and subtle branding, to create, as you will see below, nothing short of cinematic brand marketing gold.
I can already taste that fame and fortune.
Who’s laughing now Kardashians? Who’s laughing now?
2013 Why is it that I may draw a line on a piece of paper and exhibit it next to an identical line, on an identical piece of paper by Damien Hirst, and while one of us will have a procession of Russian collectors ready to throw roubles, fur coats and wives at him, the other will be lucky to get a discount at ‘Mr Habib’s exotic kebab house’ and only, if I paint his sister.
Why is it that we may choose Coca Cola over Bola Cola (™ Michael Onona) or Apple over, well everything else?
A brand is powerful, companies will spend millions on raising brand awareness for their products, but for us, our art is our product, we are the company, we are the brand. We may not have small fortunes to spend on marketing, but we have an intrinsic value, the brand is us.
From our c.v.’s, statements, social postings and blogs to the way we compose ourselves and treat others, that is our brand, and as we strive to better our product, we should also strive to better the brand. It is not just talent that will bring commercial success, but the support of the brand.
When venture capitalists invest in a business, it is not just the business they look into, but the people behind the business, and so it is with art, art collectors don’t just look at the artwork, but an investment in the person behind the artwork, the brand.
It is not as if we make anything that anyone needs, who actually needs a 12 foot tiger shark incased in formaldehyde in their living room?
Mr Hirst has publicly attributed his shark piece and brand success to drinking Bola Cola (™ Michael Onona)…..
books glorious books
I used to want a library in my home, a gorgeous oak paneled room of intricate carpentry, filled with the tomes of literary genius. Rugs of the finest silks lying upon the richness of an old parquet floor, a Queen Anne leather chair, the glow of a Tiffany lamp, the exquisiteness of an inlaid table and the warmth of a single malt whiskey, and while the gentle aroma from my pipe slowly wafts upwards, the words all take to the stage, a ubiquitous den of sophistication.
But then I realise I’m not Sherlock Holmes, I don’t have a spare room and even though I used the word ubiquitous, I do most of my reading on the toilet.
It really is a strange concept the way we hold onto our books and then display them, we don’t do that with anything else we tend to consume, I have yet to walk into any sane persons home and seen shelves of used cigarette packets or a ‘library room’ of packaging from long eaten meals, ‘that fish pie had such depth to it, so much better than last years lacklustre release’, ‘now if you just go past the pot noodle, the cover so sold it to me, you will see my favourite this year, the alphabet soup, such amazing characters’……….And yet, we keep and display the books we’ve consumed.
If you read thrillers, a modern day whodunnit, are you really going to read it again when you know who did it? Or that book on ‘How to pass your driving test’, that was 16 years ago! If you haven’t passed yet, let it slide, let the world sleep safer. The children’s books when your kids have left home, the Winston Churchill biography that took you forever to read or the well thumbed ’50 shades of grey’, are you ever really going to read those books again? Ok keep ’50 shades of grey’.
I’ve always been fiercely protective of my books, although when I’ve finished reading them I tend to lend them to friends, and when they don’t return them I go to the police, are you reading this Karen Montgommery!!? 3 and a half months you’ve had my ’16 and pregnant?’ You’re not 16, and I know your mother! Incidentally the police have never really been helpful, and have threatened to arrest me should I ‘waste’ any more of their ‘valuable’ time, obviously they are not book readers.
As artists we tend to accumulate a lot of things, but do I really need to keep all the reference books I used for some of the animals in my paintings? So I’ve become more ruthless, or thanks to a not very understanding girlfriend I’ve become more ruthless.
I, through therapy, have reassured myself that should I ever need to paint a dog again, in say 20 years time, if the world hasn’t been taken over by hardline muslims and sharia law hasn’t decreed that all books shall be burnt, whereby I shall kick myself, join the resistance and form an underground book club, then I can simply buy another ‘Which dog is for me’.
So now thanks to my library dream stealing girlfriend, my books go to fucking charity.
Next week, ‘how to decorate cupcakes while channeling your inner child’.
Another chapter from ‘Declutter your life’ by Martha Stewart, Oprah Winfrey & me.
PS If I have offended any hardline muslims then I do apologise, and please dont bother, I already have 34 fatwa’s on my head.
PPS If you are not a hardline muslim and anything should happen to me, then you know whodunnit.
I bumped into an old friend the other day, and they told me about that guy, it happened when they went to that place, apparently it started with and it blew his mind, and I said and he said, ‘wow’, I really can’t believe It.
If you can’t make sense of the above story, then why the fuck would you also have any of your art labelled ‘untitled’?
I called this blog piece ‘the untitled’, I might as well have have called it ‘the unloved’, because in a way that is what you are really saying about your piece, ‘I did it, its done, I couldn’t care less now’ or I could be wrong and your thumb is so far up your rectal passage that what you truly believe is ‘this piece means so much to so many that I couldn’t possibly define it with a title’ (excuse me while I place my testicles in a vice)
If you had a child, would you not give them a name? Or do you think the passport office should not interfere with your artistic integrity? (I now have a blowtorch on my nipples)
Even a pet you would hopefully name, or maybe you think ‘the little fucker’ should just be grateful to live with such an ‘artiste’? (I am now turning the vice)
For Gods sake pick up a book or magazine, then pick a line, any line and title it that, too much like theft? You’re an artist you sanctimonious fuck. (my nipples are now melting)
How about using the first thing you said this morning? ‘I don’t remember these crabs being there’, good, fucking use that then. (one of my testicles has just shot past the dog)
By titling a piece you are adding another dimension, maybe giving clues or shattering misconceptions, you could take the viewer on a different path or just let them know what it means to you. It forms a connection to the art, a connection with the viewer and a connection with you.
Happy now? I shall never have a nipple ring and my imaginary dog Gary Theodopolous the Third has just left the room with one of my testicles.
So please show some love and title your work.
‘Loved that piece at your last show’
‘Ah yes, man’s never ending struggle with humanity through his own retched mortality’
‘I thought it was a teapot’
For this article I would like to thank my anger management counsellor, the doctors,nurses and staff of ‘Our Lady of Sunshine’ mental health facility and my yoga instructor/mechanic Mr Ranjit for their warmth and years of dedication and support.
I would also like to thank my lawyer and the legal loophole that allowed me to leave.
Now where is that fucking dog?
There is a warmth, a golden glow, a comfort to the sun
But look closer, look closer
There is a warmth, a golden glow, a comfort to our lies
But look closer, look closer
For the sun will truly make you blind
But the truth will let you see
In my previous post I mentioned my recent trip to Poland, yet the post was really about art and less about actual Poland, so this time I thought to myself ‘what would an art reading public like to see from an Olympic gold medallist, kind to animals, charity giving
thrilanthropist frillantropist philantrapist artist like me?’ That’s right, a holiday guide.
So here it is, my cut out and keep with only a little art guide to my more recent trip to Israel.
Should you travel to Israel as a single male, you will be instantly marked out by airport and airline security staff as a suspected terrorist. They will ask you deeply probing questions such as ‘do you speak hebrew’ and ‘where are you staying’, think carefully, as this is a potential minefield, answering ‘no’ and ‘at a friends house’ will immediately bring you up to a level 3 security threat.
They will then give you a friendly tour of the airport and will introduce you to rooms you did not know about, whereby they will also introduce you to a probing of a different Kind. At this point mentioning the Geneva convention or asking the security personnel if he is a homosexual will now take you to level 4.
As a gesture of goodwill your seat on a packed plane will be mysteriously changed to one with an empty seat beside you, this should you be feeling lonely, is for the friendly air marshal trying not to look like an air marshal sitting right behind you, as mentioning the airline headphones not working or asking for an extra bag of 5 peanuts will now bring you up to a level 5 security threat.
Congratulations you have now landed in Israel, and as a single guy landing in a security laden Israeli airport you will be instantly marked out as a terrorist…..
The car horn is like the aspirin of the Israeli driving world, it covers a broad range of driving symptoms, in fact if I’m not mistaken there are 67 pages devoted to the car horn in the Israeli driving manual and 3 pages to all other driving instruction. Honking the horn can mean ‘I am turning left’, ‘I am turning right’, ‘I wish to move straight ahead’ to ‘how is your mother’, ‘I have a new car’, ‘I like this song on the radio and I will honk to the entire beat’, in fact sitting in slow moving traffic you will be treated to a symphony of car horns as if conducted by a dyslexic drunk, whereby you will wish you had bought aspirin.
It is also perfectly acceptable to drive with your feet on the dashboard, stop traffic with your car in the middle of the road for a delightful picnic, and if you are simply too tired to drive around the mini roundabout an extra 10 feet because you missed your exit, then it is just common sense to simply reverse back around the roundabout. In fact should you also miss your exit on the motorway, then simply reverse back down 3 lanes of oncoming traffic.
Should you come from a country where please, thank you and other eccentric etiquette is performed, then you will be pleasantly surprised. Like a breathe of fresh air an Israeli will simply ask, and that is it, no please, no thank you. In fact a queue is seen as a decadent waste of time, why not just simply barge in, even if the other person already has one foot on the bus, simply give them a friendly push back onto the road.
Should you wish to smoke then please note that smoking is banned in public places and strongly discouraged in Israel, although should an Israeli spot you with cigarettes, they will strongly encourage you to give them one.
Should you fall in love with the country and wish to indulge in some property hunting, then simply phone up the real estate agent on the ‘for sale’ board, smile and listen how, with your ‘do you speak english’ subtlety in being foreign, the price is simply made up.
Should you spot a girl sashaying towards you as if having watched too many MTV catwalk shows and actually believing models walk like that in real life, dressed in gold lame hot pants so small a thimble of paint was probably used to paint them on, a cut off at the midriff t-shirt, while wearing make up like a mad American midwest beauty pageant, do not approach! She is not a midget casting for a remake of a 70’s porn film, she is 10 years old and probably on her way to school.
Also confusingly, should you spot a ‘gaggle’ of girls similarly ‘dressed’ practising the booty shake at 1am standing next to a large hairy man covered in gold chains, do not approach! Israel does not have a large contingency of midget good time girls, and the man standing next to them is not a pimp, he is simply a father who has just taken his 10 year old daughter and her friends out for dinner and will probably punch you.
Going to the beach is a great way to relax while in Israel, and while there you will be treated to the wonder that is matcot. Matcot is the Israeli national sport, it’s played with what looks like 2 oversized wooden table tennis bats and a rubber ball designed by the Israeli military, it’s like playing catch with your 5 year old child but only half as complicated. It has no boundaries, no nets, no rules (unless you can count, ‘don’t miss the ball’), basically you just hit the ball to each other, and if you are really good…… you just hit the ball to each other. Israeli’s take this game very seriously, some wearing special wrist bands and others refusing to play with you if you are ginger or a girl.
They will also play this game along the beach between you and the water, so now with your nerves gently massaged from the constant whack whack whack of balls hitting wood, your objective should you wish to go for a swim, is to get from your position on the beach to the water without getting smashed in the face with a military grade rubber ball flying at you at 500 mph, this takes military precision, and with none, you will inevitably get smashed in the face, whereby like a grateful ball boy, you will be expected to pick up the ball and hand it back. You will then stay in the water watching your belongings from afar until late evening when it is safe to get out of the water, and gently relax into a sunburnt induced coma.
As a single guy travelling out of Israel, security will be baffled by the strange matcot sized lump on the side of your face, hence you will be instantly marked out as a terrorist…………..
If you are an Israeli reading this, no need to thank me, even though culturally you won’t, still no need to thank me, it was a pleasure and I had a great time.
If you have never been, then please feel free to take ‘my cut out and keep with only a little art guide to my more recent trip to Israel’ and go, it’s a beautiful country.
And the little about art?
I tried, it was too hot.
‘If you were to stare at the same 4 walls then all you would see are the same 4 walls’
Michael Dalai Lama Ding Dong
Its been a while since I posted, I’ve been working on a new collection which unfortunately relies on the English sunshine, which hasn’t exactly been forthcoming and I’ve been ill, really ill, ok it was the flu and it only lasted a few days, but then again I’m a man and, maybe, just slightly prone to exaggeration.
The other thing that happened is that I ended up in Poland, from Krakow in the south to a stranger’s wedding in the northern countryside.
There is a famous quote by the composer Claude Debussy ‘music is the space between the notes’, which could really apply to all of the arts, taken in the literal sense you would see it in the unseen element of a painting or a pause in the choreography of dance, but what if you looked at the quote in a totally different way?
For example, in the extreme sense, perhaps I lock you up in a bare windowless room for the rest of your life, with your art materials, and all you have to do is make art, at what point does creativity decline, and with no further life experiences, repetition begin? And at what point do you proclaim yourself as Christ while singing the national anthem in Yiddish? And you don’t even know Yiddish.
As an artist it is so easy to make life all about the work, to forget, or maybe even want to forget about a life outside of art, but its exactly that other life that makes the work. A blank canvas has no meaning until we give it meaning, it has no soul until we give it soul, for art to exist it needs that stimulus of another life, it needs us to feel, see and smell that other life. We don’t breathe life into our work, we breathe our lives into it.
Art happens even before we pick up our tools.
Art is the space between the works.
Anyway that’s the long version of why I haven’t posted in a while, the short version is, I was messing around in Poland.
Part 2 of this article sees me juggling 3 leprechauns while singing the national anthem…
PS There is no part 2.
So there you are, sitting in someone else’s home in that post-meal enjoyment, the conversation is flowing, friends, family and even a date, when you realise you have a bit of food stuck between your teeth. Not wanting to get up and leave the conversation, you start with the tooth sucking, and when that doesn’t work, you team it with the tongue rolling and flicking action.
Still not having dislodged what your tongue has now decided to tell your brain is a whole chicken leg, conversation is now like being inside a wind tunnel, and with all the subtlety of a fat man in a tutu, you start to plough your fingers into your mouth, hoping a nail will finally do the trick.
It’s only once you look up and realise people are staring, your face contorted, fingers pulled inside your mouth like a demented clown, with drool running down your hand, that you excuse yourself and head for the bathroom.
Scrambling around for the dental floss, and with the dawning realisation that there may not be any dental floss, you spot a book in the corner, so you tear a strip off a page hoping to use it as a blade between your teeth, but all it does is fall soggily apart inside your mouth, after exhausting several strips, you now start to roll them up into spear-like structures, but they too collapse on impact.
Having now destroyed the ending of the book, your eyes now dart around the bathroom for a makeshift weapon against gum disease and madness; cellophane wrapping, cardboard, anything that can be stuck into your mouth to get rid of what now feels like the chicken leg, wing and beak.
Realising you didn’t even have chicken tonight, you decide, whilst in the bathroom, to have a pee, relax and take stock of the situation. Then, mid flow, you see it, like a glass of water in the desert, a thread, a loose thread hanging off a towel, and without thinking you reach out for it.
In hindsight maybe I should have locked the bathroom door.
After the crash, there I was, semi naked and semi dazed, trousers around my ankles, covered in piss, sprawled out on the cold tiled floor (which incidentally, was not doing me any favours in the sexual organ department), a towel around my head, and a bathroom littered with the torn pages of a book that no one was ever going to know the ending of.
And as I stared upwards past everyone’s faces, I noticed a tiny patch of ceiling that hadn’t been painted in, and I thought to myself …..’now, that’s fucking annoying’.
Do you know what else is annoying?
An artist apologising.
Should I apologise for painting a naked man? Or my work on 9/11?
Should I apologise for my career, my colours, my context?
Should I have apologised to a former art dealer, who then turned to religion and suddenly chastised me for my ‘immoral’ nudes.
The answer is no.
People will criticize, people will not understand and people will reject, but that’s just people.
To apologise as an artist is to say sorry for what I see, sorry for what I feel, sorry for what I do and sorry for being me.
As artists we must never apologise for being ourselves and for the work we do.
So here I am, and there you are, warts and all.
One of my favourite things to do is to watch a film, whereas before you would often find me browsing in bookshops, nowadays I’m scouring for films I’ve yet to see. From English films to discovering some wonderful foreign gems, I’ve lapped it all up.
But here’s the thing, if you asked me, would I like to learn, or try any creative endeavour, or even fix a tap, I would say yes. Knit a hat – yes, choreograph a song – yes, wear a sarong – yes, sole a shoe, learn kung foo, tea for two, yes, yes, yes.
In fact there isn’t really anything, that I wouldn’t like to learn or do, except for one thing.
It isn’t even a conscious descision, its just something that I’ve never had the urge or inclination to do, in fact its always left me cold, and I think I know why.
Actors lie, an artist can never lie.
To be actor is to play a role, to be some one else, to pretend, but to be an artist there is no pretending, there is no playing a role, and there is no being some one else, the work will always expose you.
As I said to Steven Spielberg the other day, I said ‘Steven, Steven no, I will not be in your latest blockbuster, now don’t forget the milk, and call a plumber, the toilet’s blocked up again’.
So could I, would I, be an actor?
No, I’d be a terrible liar.
2012 A famous photographer was being interviewed, he was in his late eighties and had taken thousands of images over his long career, and when asked about all the life he had captured in his images, he simply replied that altogether, considering the split seconds of the camera shutter, his lifetime’s work of images amounted to maybe an hour of life captured.
‘Symphonies in Architecture’, part of a series of works based on the events of September 11th 2001, captures those split seconds between life, and death, and reflects them back at you.
Visually the work concentrates on the bold graphic lines of the architecture, but psychologically and underneath it all, it talks of a society and media that would rather not see, or think about, the people who lost their lives falling from the towers. By giving expanse to the architecture in the image, the jumper almost becomes a ‘blot on the landscape’, something you want to erase.
Artistically, the work plays on the element of hide and seek. By not focusing on the real subject matter it makes you question. By not knowing of what it speaks, you can only guess your answer. But once you really see, all original thought is gone. And it is in those split seconds, between the death of your previous and original thought, to the life of a new thought, that ‘Symphonies in Architecture’ exists.
For the questions and answers you give, are but a reflection of you.
At the very beginning of my career I was involved in a large group show, and in that show I had about 5 paintings, all were priced accordingly except for one painting that I couldn’t bear to sell, and so I priced it outrageously high, and it was that painting that a well known celebrity wanted to buy, the curator called me over to meet the celebrity and asked if I would be prepared to reduce the price, I mumbled something about pants, and subsequently, I lost the sale.
I learnt a valuable lesson from that day, and ironically the painting I so loved, the one that hurt too much to sell, I sold soon after, to fund a trip abroad, for a fraction of the normal price.
As an artist, sometimes its hard to let go, every time we create, from insemination, sorry, inception through the labour pains of creation, to its birth into the big wide world, each piece is a little piece of us, our very own child, and how do you let go of your own child?
I often wonder about past sold works, are they happy? Are they being looked after well? Why haven’t they called? Sometimes you even get to see them again and carry on your conversations. Like all large families you can’t help but have your favourites and the ones you are most proud of, and like a proud parent you show them off to your friends and even post photo’s online. Some will do better than others, some will even go on to university and museums, some will travel to other countries and other cultures, but even then, like all parents, you sometimes worry, are they getting too much sun? Have they been hurt? Are they ok?
But with a tinge of sadness and pride, I look to the stars and smile, knowing that someone, somewhere, is loving them too.
It is important, for us as artists to let go, it keeps us fresh, it declutters our minds and our studios, it allows us to move on, and if some one is willing to pay for our art?
Look up and smile.
As a wise man (not wise) once said (never happened) in this famous (not famous) proverb (made up)
If you love some one set them free, and if they come back, tell them the rent’s gone up.
You know I am the greatest artist in the world don’t you? I mean you promised, you promised if I ate all my greens and didn’t appear on a reality TV show, that I would be the greatest the world had ever seen. And yet you mock me now, you mock me…
Everything was going well in 2005, even though I was still reeling from the fact that Gwyneth Paltrow had married another man, I mean what did she see in the multimillionaire lead singer of one of the worlds most successful bands, that I didn’t have? I still refuse to answer her calls (whether she has called, is between me, her solicitor and a pretty comprehensive restraining order). My shows were doing well, my paintings were selling well and my ego was contemplating whether it was too soon to receive the Nobel peace prize for contributions to humanity through art.
But then, I met, him.
I love art, whether its old or new and whatever genre it may be, if I like it, I like it. I also go to shows, sometimes I fall in love and sometimes I think, are they serious or is this a joke? But no artist had ever troubled my mind, my seat amongst the great pantheon of the gods was safe, I simply went home and just carried on doing my thing, until one fateful day, when the one who cannot be named, came into my life.
I had known about him for a long time, having lovingly pored over his paintings in books, even pressing up close to the one painting the National gallery had in its midst, but then the incredible unthinkable happened, the National gallery were about to mount an exhibition dedicated to his later works, and with tickets selling fast, whatever happened, I was going to be there.
From the moment I walked in I knew I was in trouble, the sheer scale that books cannot do justice to, the sheer power that emanated from each canvas, it was if all the lines in the universe had converged, metal that looked and felt like metal, skin that looked and felt like the skin of old or new, the control of brush, the control of light, it was if I had foolishly stepped into the boxing ring with the heavyweight title holder, perspective…bam!, Colour…bam!, Composition…bam!, I felt my legs about to buckle, I wanted my agent, I wanted my mother.
And for the only time in my life I wanted to throw that towel into the ring, just put down my brushes and give up, why bother? What was the point? I was a beaten man, I had just witnessed raw power reining blow after blow in artistic brutal perfection. I left, gasping for air, dazed, confused, a gibbering wreck, I couldn’t eat, I couldn’t sleep, I forgot about the restraining order.
As I sit here awaiting trial, I understand now the need for heroes, I understand now the need for self belief, and I understand now the importance of being humble, but what I don’t understand is this, if you could just take a look at paragraph 4(g), section C, line 6. Thou shall not pee in Ms Paltrow’s letterbox….
Michael Onona, the worlds 2nd greatest artist.
To undraw one must be able to draw, to deconstruct you must be able to construct, the greatest minds know this. If you wanted to build the next generation car engine than you must be able to take apart, and rebuild, today’s car engine. And in art this is equally important, how can you paint abstracts before you can even paint true to life?
An example of this principle being used to great effect would be Picasso, and the easiest way, with little explanation, would be to look at ‘Self-portrait with Uncombed Hair’ (1896) one of Picasso’s earliest works, and ‘Self-portrait’ (1972) one of his late works. From Picasso’s earliest beginnings in art and his understanding of light, composition and colour, and through cubism and his later works, there is a line, an understanding.
Picasso knew, how to construct before deconstructing.
In the classical sense I can draw, but Linus isn’t about just craftsmanship, its about the subconscious and undrawing, the deconstruction of drawing.
Linus is my bete noire, my enfant terrible, the one I can never hide from. It starts with the eyes, it always starts with the eyes, from the moment the pencil touches down and starts making that hypnotic like spiral, drawing me in, with the awkwardness of ‘the boy that looked like a balloon’ to the fear of‘baby i’m falling’. What began as an unconscious act, not only became the deconstruction of drawing, but the deconstruction of the self.
But even within the madness, there are rules, the pencil can never lift off the paper, and the image can never be premeditated or consciously drawn.
So if you have ever been caught unaware by your own anger, frustration or pain. If you have ever without thought, rhyme, or reason, screamed out, lashed out, cried out or just needed to reach out. Been called insane, thought yourself insane, then stop.
Remember the first line of this post, the importance of understanding what made us whole, because sometimes, we break.
This is you, this is us, this is Linus.
When I was 6 years old, my father asked me, what did I want to be when I grow up, I replied an artist (I might as well have said axe murderer), and I have never waived from that conviction of saying and meaning ‘artist’, not oil painter, not watercolorist, not sculptor, nor any other form of artistic pigeonholing.
It is absolutely important to find a voice in your work, but equally important, to find the best medium to carry that particular message across. Would Michelangelo’s ‘David’ be as powerful, if say a watercolour? Or da Vinci’s ‘Mona Lisa’ as beguiling, if it were a sculpture?
A lot of artists are too scared to step outside their comfort zone, either because of themselves, the public, or from what galleries expect from them, and yet if you look at the works of some of the great artists past and present, they found their voice in one medium, but weren’t afraid to transcend it into other mediums.
If we remember why we became artists, it wasn’t to get ‘friends’, ‘tweets’ or to satisfy the expectations of people we hadn’t even met yet, it was for ourselves. Wasn’t it fun as children playing with sticky tape one week and the next, finger painting?
The only constraints we have on ourselves, is ourselves. So if the artwork tells you to paint it, paint it and if it tells you to sculpt it, sculpt it, even if you don’t know how, then learn it, study it and practise it, so that one day, like Michelangelo and da Vinci, you may create the perfect marriage between vision and medium.
If you or anyone else doubts you, or the work you are doing, remember you are an artist, and roar.
‘ In a conflict between the heart and the brain, follow the heart.’
I have read countless quotes over the years but this one has always stayed with me, maybe it’s because being an artist is not exactly the sanest of choices you can make in life.
Or maybe it’s because by following our hearts, the insane choice is the sanest choice of all.
I sit and look at the screen before me, and I think to myself, please, please don’t swear. I mean here is a chance to totally reinvent myself, a PR exercise, damage limitation if you will.
I could post a picture of me with a cute puppy and even cuter kids (all non existent) I could even talk about my Olympic games medals (not exactly true) and whether tutti is better than fruiti (it is, if you need to ask).
But then I think about the honesty that I bring to my art and the controversy that has always surrounded it, from verbal attacks online to physical fights outside my shows.
I aim to bring that same honesty here, without the violence hopefully, and share my thoughts, dreams and hopes, for a new world order shall rise and we shall……….sorry I got carried away.
I’ll talk about art and stuff.