I received an artists catalogue in the post today which showed some really dreadful paintings. I immediately thought, “Ah!an amateur with money,” but when I read further the artist has had work selected by Eigse and the RHA(Royal Hibernian Academy), two of the supposed respectable institutions of the Irish art world and both publicly funded at least in part, had been blessed with shows at top galleries and has a CV as long as me arm. It is not uncommon in the art world, or in any world, that those with brass balls make it, those who don’t, don’t but it really grates when you see them being supported by publicly funded organisations.
I am pretty sure the RHA and Eigse wouldn’t piss on me if I were on fire, in fact I think I have been spurned by both(not to mention being made to feel like a peasant when I visited the RHA gallery) but this only served to convince me that these organisations were good benchmarks of what is good painting in this country. I think I have changed my mind.
Now I do not consider myself a great painter and I am often unhappy with what I do paint. It it is only in comparison with some of the people operating out there that even to my own jaundiced inner eye I begin to look like Picasso. That I have very low esteem should give you an idea how bad some of these artists really are.
I could be blamed for not putting myself forward enough. I admit that I do get discouraged easily and the level of rejection an artist has to endure to achieve anything is wearing(which is where having brass balls comes in I guess)but there are myriad good painters in the country these days, unlike two decades ago when it seemed that there weren’t any good painters here at all. Twenty years has seen a big turn around and I have seen many extremely accomplished painters around and about so really there is no excuse for anyone to support rubbish.
Quite a few might not be to my taste in that they merely reproduce landscapes or bunches of flowers or onions but their painting skills I am in awe of and yet here, coming in my door is a book of rubbish a leaving cert student would be ashamed of. Unfortunately our arts organisations have a history of backing crap artists. Just look at Eithne Jordan. No, don’t.
How does this happen? I will tell you how. To be recognised as an artist, aside from schmoozing the right people(why do all the right people seem to be so vomitously unschmoozable to me?), you have to apply for things, submit paintings, come up with proposals, give reasons for this that and the other, imagine pictures to the tune of other people whims, take time off from your job(the one that pays money)to go and fuck around in the back of beyond with a bunch of luvvies with whom you will crony up to join the circle jerk of the national art world. If you have any time left you will do a little bit of extremely rushed painting.
Aside from the cronyism, which is just a fact of life in general if not a fact of my life in particular, it’s all the proposing and form-filling that gets me. Only yesterday I saw that Kilkenny Arts Festival have come up with a whole new exciting deal for artists where we get to apply for a show by coming up with a proposal…
All applicants are being asked to provide a detailed artist’s statement/proposal which clearly demonstrates that their proposal will lead to the creation and presentation of new work and clearly illustrates how the artist(s) will benefit from creating work for and presenting work at Kilkenny Arts Festival 2013.
Great yeh?Well its not as bad as some in that you are not being asked to create a specific type of work but writing a proposal like that, making it stand out?My own response would be “Trust me, I will be making new paintings and I will benefit from an audience to sell work to and so be able to pay my rent.”
But you know that’s not what they want. What they want could take weeks. Let us say a week. How many artists will apply?100?500?Lets say 100. That’s 2 years of painting time right there for one proposal which of necessity only a few artists will benefit from. And how many proposals to we have to make in a year to get anywhere?
I read somewhere(In Ted Orlands book, The View From the Studio Door, I think…) than an artist sat down and figured out how much time he actually had to paint after he was done with dealing with galleries, framing, wrapping and transporting work, buying materials, preparing surfaces and on and on and on and he found that he had 7 hours per month to paint in.
So, in recent years , I decided, for the most part, to stop the form-filling crap (other than a grant from Waterford City Arts Office,thanks lads! 🙂 )because the few proposals I did do took up so much time and money(some organisations ask for books of work in duplicate so every adjudicator gets a copy)and I got very little return.
I would rather be painting. Is this a mistake?Oh probably, I am good at making those but I just do not see the point in becoming a painter to fill out forms. Granted some artists are good at it and good at molding their work to whatever brief is required(and increasingly the bureaucrats want to dictate what you paint)but I am not one of them.
In my ideal world the artists would actually work and the exh
ibition organisers, the grants givers and so forth would visit them, view their work and maybe offer opportunities or money, issue invitations to exhibit. Or not. And that would be the end of it.
But the bureaucrats want the pleasure of turning the artists into them, hunched over interminable stupid forms making up things that have no relation to what they want to truly express with their time here on earth. Then the best bureaucratic artist will get picked up by the best bureaucratic organisations and everyone will pat each other on the back and pass around wads of money in exchange for shite on a canvas.
Well, be reassured that while all this is going on that somewhere out there in a cold studio in the middle of nowhere someone is actually painting.