I have noticed that quite often, before getting to the meat of the discussion, authors will start with a few hundred (or thousand) pages of what is called ‘throat-clearing’. This means that they spend a whole lot of time being really boring before getting to the point. But, it seems like a necessary part of making sure that the audience is on the same page as the author when that point is being made, so I’m going to have to do a little bit of that here.
I am a visual artist. My primarily focus is painting, but I also do some photography, video, sound, and new media projects on the side. I also spend a lot of time with other artists; and, surprise surprise, the topic of our discussion is, you guessed it – art.
I have noticed that a lot of artists claim to be very conceptual in their practice, even if that conceptualism doesn’t seem to show in the final work. They can sit down and have endless discussions over the finer points of, well, just about anything.
Then, when asked to present their work, they will reach into their pocket, pull out a card, and proudly show off their highly conceptual art. A quick glance at the image reveals…some brown rectangles. Brown rectangles? With colour choices that look like they were based on the curtains available in this month’s Sears catalog.
The artist will try to explain to me how their art explores some deep concept. This part of their work represents one thing, while another part represents something else. As I look at those brown rectangles, I strain to find the connection between what they are talking about, and what is actually present in their work. More often than not, I just don’t see it. The more this happens, the more I get the impression that those explanations are just thrown together after the fact. Why bother with these post-hoc explanations? Well, We do need something to write about, after all.
“What happened to those concepts while you were in the studio?” I often wonder.
Then I realized that this is something I am guilty of myself. No-not painting muddy brown rectangles, I’m at the other end of that spectrum; My colours look like they come straight from the tube. I’m guilty of having work that doesn’t visually connect to the ideas that are generated while I am making it. I have a lot of ideas that I like to think over and work out, and for the most part, none of them appear in my work.
As I am working in my studio, I am usually listening to audio books. I have a notepad beside me at all times, where I jot down random quotes from the book that I believe are worth remembering. I take these notes, and arrange them on what I call my ‘wall of crazy’. My ‘wall of crazy’ is what people in the business world might call a series of mind maps: an array of cork-boards covered in random notes, sketches, arrows, and lines. This allows me to connect, rearrange, and build upon the ideas contained in these books. It is also a fantastic memory aid, since I am engaging with and using the information, rather than just taking it in passively.
As the wall of crazy grows, I am noticing that my book choices are not quite the random mix of subjects that they first appeared to be. Their are several idea bubbles that are expanding, and in some places, these bubbles are converging. (Those convergences are probably just the result of selective attention, I choose to focus on the ideas that fit with what I am interested in.)
In the one hand, I’ve got all these ideas that inspire me, while in the other hand, I’ve got a body of work that doesn’t actually connect with the ideas that inspired its creation.
So, my ideas and notes can be locked away inside my studio forever, for my eyes only. Or, I could take these ideas, and actually do something with them. I can use them as a spring-board for a public discussion about myself, my art, and issues that I believe are important for artists working today. These ideas can be reviewed, critiqued, and commented upon (but not spammed or trolled – that stuff will get deleted). Â Welcome to kyleclements.com/blog