Slide Show - Images (mostly) from The Illustrated History of Painting


Friday, April 16, 2010

CAT's out of BAG or how ART SAVED the DAY

Cat's out of the bag....Suite (my Wellington dealer) has it up on their news page and the Christchurch Art Gallery has it up in their future shows section, so who am I to be coy.

The Illustrated History of Painting will be up at the CAG mid-August until mid-November 2010

TIHOP - as Justin Paton has christened it - is wonderfully close to IHOP, The well known nickname of the infamous International House of Pancakes.

Anyway, TIHOP (the 100 painting personal exegesis of art angst and its remedies) has been underway for close to two years now. As of this writing I have 12/13 paintings to go of 100.

When it comes to art careers - at least in my experience and the experience of most friends - serendipity rules the roost.

This saga began for me when my marriage imploded and I was (due to lack of funds) sleeping on various floors of empty houses - one was for rent and the other was part of a deceased estate. Things got a little better (if you consider living in dismal CCH suburbs, among someone else's stuff, an improvement) when I commenced house-sitting.

Ah, but I diverge. Or do I?

Dog knows why, but I kept on painting through it all. Habit, habitual, habitually.
I've beat it into my students, over the years, that an artist goes into the studio and works whatever (good or ill) circumstances prevail in life. Nothing romantic about that notion. If an artist hopes to have a (against-all-odds) shot at making work that is competitive, on any level, with the art of their own moment, then she/he must regularly show up for work - neglecting, disregarding, avoiding life's insistent and sometimes legitimate demands.

I've taken my own advice,for some time now, with varying in-house and real-world results.

As I said, I was broke. 'On the bones of my ass', as Kiwis so colorfully put it. So, I entered an art competition. Something that's just not done in the states - if one wishes to hold one's head up in impolite art-society.

I won.


I was in Australia - hiding in a hotel room, one of my favorite vices - when I got word that Justin Paton had selected My Dunkirk for the CoCA Anthony Harper Award.

My first thought was - Oh goody, now I can rent a flat - which I promptly did on my return to NZ.

I invited Paton out for dinner and had a free-ranging conversation wherein I took his measure (as if he needed measuring) and he tolerated my gratitude and lacerated, half-mad psyche. I made a note to self that Mr. Paton might be a useful eye for future moments of doubt about practice.

I had been making little suicide paintings (painters offing themselves with the tools of their trade) on hardwood ply scraps I had leftover from earlier work. The dark humor of the paintings fitted my mood and entertained me enough to carry on. One thing led to another and I had 15 of them - by then not all suicides.

I couldn't tell if the work was any good or not. So, I emailed Justin and asked if he'd run by and take a look. He asked for preview jpegs, and by the time I shot and sent them he had ( in a classic LA, NYC scenario) some TV folks in his office who found them of interest....and they (with Justin) wanted to come shoot them in the following week.

They came. Spent most of a day. And the unusual situation - of having a curator spend the day (rather than an hour or two) in the studio resulted in musings about a public life for the work should it develop into anything promising.

I kept the young Mr. Paton updated in what I thought seemly increments and in the end it was decided that they just might be ready for prime antipodean time.

While making the work I've had ( during a very dry financial time ) one aborted attempt, by a doctor suffering from Stendhal Syndrome, to buy the lot, another professional who wanted to take them to auction and several folk who wanted individual works for their very own. I've withheld them from a very patient David Alsop (Suite) and dis-included them from my April 27th show with Judy G. All the while living on the edge of insolvency.

I publish this little account for the benefit of my students, other nascent artists and despairing creatives of all stripes. I have a NYC friend who refers to the serendipitous string of events that lead to professional accomplishment in the visual arts as Art Voodoo. The thing about art voodoo, as far as I'm concerned, is that when it strikes the artists must be if their life depended on it. Mine did, and does.

I might write more about the topic of how I owe, I owe, I owe my art practice for getting me up and out of various inherited and self-generated situations of psychic squalor....but that's for another post.