Wednesday, March 16, 2016

Making Art - follow your Heart or the Money?


Recovering from two full on weekends, first working with Roger Ballen in a 2 day workshop and then this last weekend in Wellington at the NZ Photobook Festival. The subject of making work and getting it out there cropped up on both occasions. Roger Ballen is firmly of the view that the best work comes from a place deep inside the artist where issues of ones place in the world are examined, mulled over and work follows. I share that view. My talk in Wellington about international exposure touched on the need for authenticity and avoiding chasing fame. Just doing the work. From a Zen perspective, just getting up each day and chopping wood.

Gerry Badger in his essay on John Gosssge from his book The Pleasure of Good Photographs puts it like this. Great artists, great photographers... do not follow the norm, they follow their instincts and convictions, not the herd and the smart money... style and individuality emanates from deep within them, and is not... something grafted on from the outside. 

Joerg Colberg tweeted a piece from ArtNews which picked up the theme.
Product-based art isn’t specific to abstraction or figuration (as an even more recent market shift may be demonstrating) but is the result of dealers and collectors encouraging artists to create more of the same kind of popular work. All too often, museum curators cave to these pressures, too, validating the trend by staging exhibitions of market-darling artists collected by their trustees with a lack of scruples that gives the worst insider traders a run for their money. The path of commercial success may be increasingly easy, but it narrows what could otherwise be probing, expansive, and serendipitous careers. This results-oriented focus can be contrasted to the idea that an artist should be allowed to follow a sustained project of creating art in a passionate and independent way, regardless of market feedback. That might mean changing styles over the years and being less commercially viable at points, but this long-term project will have a notable through-line of a consistent set of questions and issues. The project and its many manifestations are best identified retrospectively, but wandering and doubt are a generative part of it. With some notable exceptions (like Warhol and Courbet, who churned out work like machines), the most fascinating and important artists in history exemplify this approach by remaining true to what drove them to create, rather than caving to external responses. We should all be worried if these artists start disappearing. You can read the complete ArtNews piece written by Daniel S. Palmer. HERE.

It seems to me that if the best work out there comes from probing, questioning and a process of self examination the flip side to that, a practice based on surface considerations produces art that is just about surface. Perhaps that explains why there is so much superficial decorative rubbish out there masquerading as art.

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