This body of work I’m going to be putting together might make more sense with an understanding of where it’s coming from, and how I got started working in this style.
Back in 2005, I was working a summer job as a landscaper; I knew that come September, I’d be starting my thesis year at art school, and I wanted to hit the ground running, rather than aimlessly wandering between styles and ideas. I laid out all these intricate plans, and mentally sketched out images that I would later paint.
At the time, I was making a lot of work that looked like this. While it doesn’t necessarily photograph all that well, the iridescent and metallic colours glimmer and shift like jewels, creating a very alluring effect. The challenge was integrating this technique into larger images an compositions, rather than the all-over textures I had been producing.
September arrived, and I started testing out my ideas; and every single one of them bombed horribly. Over the next four months, I produced nothing but garbage.
A random rant about something that pisses me off about the art world: concept being used to justify incompetence.
Art dealing with difficult or complex concepts doesn’t bother me, art should be a balance of aesthetics and idea; but what happens when these complex ideas are just a cover for artistic failure, or technical limitations, or incompetence? How can the audience tell the difference between a genuine concept being tacked by an art work and a concept tacked on after the fact?
Is the artist dealing with ideas that are over my head, or is it impenetrable and vague by design?
I edited the talk down from 28 minutes into a much more focused 18 minute presentation. The other half will be posted shortly (well…eventually) but here is the meat of the talk.
If you want the background to this talk, and don’t feel like digging through my earlier posts, here is a brief summary of this talk and how it happened:
Brad Blucher and I were invited to give a talk at the TIFF Bell Lightbox for SoOnCon 2011.
The topic for our presentation was “why people hate art”. Using examples of things we have experienced first hand, we launched into an attack on the pervasiveness of obscurantism masquerading as deep insight within the art world.
Art is often nothing more than a footnote to a (poorly written) essay using invalid logic to make unsound arguments, all the while using technical and scientific terms inappropriately and without justification in an attempt to apply a veneer of rigour and profundity over their steaming pile of banal observations and utter nonsense.
This talk is a criticism of that tendency in the art world.
Several days ago, I launched the Artist Statement Generator, an online tool that spits out a paragraph of generic meaningless fluffy art language. This project’s background is explained in greater detail in my previous entry, Online Artist Statement Generator. Since posting that article, I’ve corrected a few typos, and added some social media widgets to the page; a facebook “like” button, a google “plus one”, and a flatter “tip jar”. I also added the usual header and navigation links that appear on all of my website’s pages.
After getting this artist statement generator to the point where I was happy with it, I updated my main website, then submitted the page to the popular link-sharing website Reddit. I’ve typically had bad luck with getting my work on reddit; while my comments typically gain a fair amount of positive attention, my submissions are most often ignored. (I guess I don’t have a knack for generating eye catching headlines.) I figured I had little to lose, so before firing my computer down for the night, I shared my project with the art sub-directory, then went to bed.
Back in 2005, I was in my 3rd year at OCAD, and I was taking a course titled “professional practices”. This course was supposed to teach students “everything you need to know about being an artist outside of the studio”
One of the assignments was the creation of an artist statement.
Now, I’ve always hated artist statements. “If you need text to explain your images, you’ve failed as an image maker” sums up my feelings on the matter. But, I had to write one. I decided that since I wasn’t happy about having to do this, I should at least have some fun with it. The challenge I set for myself was tuning this task into a creative outlet. I wanted to come up with something that was unexpected and unconventional. I was a tech nerd who was surrounded by a lot of non-technically-minded people, so I figured I should go down that route.
In high school, I had taken a programming class, and in my spare time, I created an “automatic insulter” program. This was an .exe file that would print something mean whenever you double-clicked it’s icon. It was very simple, but it was also very easy to modify and expand. An automatic artist statement generator seemed like a good idea.
I fired up my old laptop, and loaded up my copy of QBASIC, and I got coding.
Two months ago, I wrote about writing this. I just realized that I haven’t actually posted what I’d written.
So, here is my new artist’s statement. It says pretty much the same thing my 2009 statement says, but I think this one says it better.
‘Urban Landscapes’ by Kyle Clements
Artist Statement for 2011
My paintings seek to capture the energy and speed of our sensory rich contemporary life.
Although I have lived in Toronto for several years, my rural upbringing still leaves me feeling unaccustomed to this visually dense urban jungle. Filled with buzzing signs and flashing lights, everything in the city screams for attention simultaneously. Itâ€™s an overwhelming experience that saturates my senses and fills me with excitement.
As the creator of the work, it is easy to become infatuated by the small details, and miss the bigger picture. When looking at my work, the things I notice and really work on are very minute details. The larger ideas are things I’ve been working with for so long, I don’t even notice them any more. The old expression, “can’t see the forest for the trees” comes to mind.
There is a saying among artists that describes this feeling, “I’m too close to the work.”
When talking to fellow artists, we know exactly what this phrase means. I recently had the awkward experience of explaining that phrase to a non-artist. “It’s hard to see my work from a detached perspective because I spend so much time with it up close, I can’t think of it objectively”.
I’ve got a big show that I will be applying for in the near future.
I’ve known about this show for over a month, but I still haven’t sent in my application.
Why haven’t I sent in my application?
Well, the last few years, they’ve wanted some jpegs, and a copy of my CV, a list of my show history.
This time around, they aren’t interested in my history.
This time around, they want an artist’s statement.
Oh, artist’s statements, how I wish you did not exist. I have yet to come across a single artists who is thrilled at the prospect of writing an artist’s statement. Some artists hire others to write their statements for them, some hack something together last minute, and some over-think and over-work their statements to the point where they have a tangled incoherent mess of invented undictionaried words. Continue reading Artist’s Statement Hell