11 Jan 2015

Art & Painting...it's a question of style, isn't it?

Thousands of tubes of paint ago, when I was uncertain of my own opinion of my own art, I set about seeking advise from one of those artist type specialists. You know the ones, they advise you on everything connected with 'marketing' yourself as an artist and how to go about categorizing your art to enable you to apply to right gallery. That gallery who's 'client-list' collect one specific type of art, or another, one where your art would be in sympathy.
So my journey to find one of 'those' specialists took me to the USA. In the days post Google, Yahoo was ruling the roost on the new internet way of doing things and sure enough Yahoo fed me with 'the best 10 art agents in the USA'. In fact they were the only art agents listed anywhere at the time, so the USA was the first port of call for someone as 'clueless' as I was [at the time] - even though and like most artists, my ego was even greater than what I was producing. I needed reassurance and a lead to open a few doors. The truth was the selling aspect of my paintings seemed to me to be the total antipathy of my artistic philosophical standpoint. I mean 'art' was beyond commercialism, wasn't it? A noble, but naive viewpoint perhaps, but even among the least career minded artists, that naivety evaporated with the onslaught of post modernism [especially in the UK] and the rise of the state funded institutionalization of Art back in middle 1990's. The modernist opinion was that 'art' was a product, and it's producers had to be 'business minded' and have a business adviser. 

Hence my search for my art business guru was motivated by the paradigm change in Art that was in the air, before it actually happened. Warhol had been successful at that 'art game' for years and his death simply reinforced the arrived conclusion that, "business art was the greatest art".
After I paid my $125 for the gems of wisdom of art business success, to one of these guru's, doubt as to their viability being beneficial to my work was foremost in my mind. According to this Guru, I had to find my mature style, I had to have a large bank of work (paintings) that kept to the same style, the Guru emphasized this as important for success and it was irrespective of subject matter. Furthermore I had to research what the current 'style of work' was being 'pushed' by the big galleries (in NYC) as new and contemporary.
I had to especially keep an eye on what was selling on the influential on-line galleries websites (like Saatchi on line, for example). I had to write a website as if I was someone else writing it and not use too many words (I think she meant 'Artspeak' at that time)- although it turned out that the better known 'Art Bollocks' phrase was to become the defacto-art-practise of leading art galleries everywhere to describe art-work. the visual art which after all is said and done, (for me personally) is now seen as really just a load of bollocks.

Artist that didn't sell anythingI waded through all the info the Guru sent me, both the snail mail and the email stuff. Lists upon lists of gallery name and addresses (in NYC and beyond)- It seems the Guru had spent a small part of my dosh photo-stating the entire (USA) city yellow pages. And it was my job to send them all a professional CD presentation -(that was cutting edge technology in them days). The footnote from the Guru said- "I can't promise success, that's mostly down to you, but good luck." Which was another way of saying - "Thanks for the money (fee) and congratulations you've just been fucked". The Guru was right of course, the lesson was that I had to start thinking for myself. If I wanted to survive and enjoy my life painting pictures (that someone might part with some money for), then I had to believe in my way and not someone who never painted in their life and lived parasitically on an artists lack of research due to laziness.

"What good are paintings, you can't eat them." (as Pissarro reportedly once said to C├ęzanne). That was to become my mantra over the years, doing the exact opposite to my Guru's advise, I would paint what wanted and how I wanted. Refusing to 'find a mature style' I actively avoided any style at all - Instead I deliberately set out to paint a different canvas in as many different ways as I possibly could. I decided it was pointless to paint the same way over and over and restrict my art. I would not be 'listed' as an abstract painter, or a landscape painter, or a realist painter or anything else. I would apply myself as a newbie, every time. In short I would become - a painter of multi-styled-pictures - and suffer the consequences of total obscurity and limited success, if thats what it meant. I didn't need any rounds of applause either.
I still hold that mantra close to my heart, it has served me well.

Today, when I surf the web, I view the many thousands of communities of artists, I see them following the same 'road' that my Guru advised, the one I rejected, all those years ago. I guess the dogma's set down decades ago by the professional Galleries, have now become entrenched into the minds and souls of artists who choose painting as their form of expression.

I view increasing quantities of individuals who make a work of art in a specific style and repeat that style over and over, even the (so called) new iPad generation digital artists do the same thing, over and over - Rhetorically I ask them- what's the point? How will that help a painter become all that he could be? How does sticking to the same style help with artistic development? Why is taking a risk so avoided by painters yet not by other contemporary art forms? In the old days, painters used to group themselves (or Galleries did) into 'styles' surely the time for that group mentality thing is behind us - we are all painters - let every one of us paint and be different to every other painter and avoid the 'style' trap that is on the road to discovery.

The web is great, it allows you to show what you want, when ever you want and to who you wish - Is it not time to show yourself as an explorer of 'painting as an art form' - and not as a 'painting tourist' following the tired and worn path of the original one who just happened to stumble upon one good place to sit in the sun?

Denis Taylor
resident artist Studio-5-sweden