Saturday, 19 September 2009

This much I now know

I have a real mixture of stuff in this room. It is a purpose built darkroom, but I am primarily teaching digital by popular demand. So this space still has all the darkroom features, sink, red light, shelves etc, but no enlarges as yet. I was disappointed that having been given no office I had to use this room which has no window. But it is a blessing in disguise as there are no distractions.

This is my notice board, and what a board it is. Photographs of me as a child, my children mixed with images from private views and exhibitions. Below, some very raw work.

If you had cupped your hand to your ear this past summer you would have heard the gentle filling in of the chip that has rested somewhat heavily on my shoulder since I first began teaching.

I have always felt that to teach is somehow not compatible with being a practising artist. The adage 'those that can't do teach' haunts most art teachers but is in fact a myth from what I have experienced. However I read an excellent book The St Ives Artists A biography of place and time by Michael Bird which shone a very bright light onto the real world of how some of my favourite artists came to be.

I learnt that many such as Patrick Heron, Ben Nicholson and Peter Lanyon were all afforded the luxury of a private income so that they could hone their skills and develop as practising artists. Many, many others however taught.; some became professors of important academic institutions such as Terry Frost. But the book reveals that those without the cushion of money struggled for recognition considerably longer than the others.

Out of art school, Anish Kapoor made furniture for Nicky Haslam, to make ends meet; and he taught art. He had very little money. “I had to say to myself, all right, I’m going to be an artist but I don’t have any dough so I’ll probably have to teach for the rest of my life. But I’ll still be an artist”

Well the rest of his life is well known, and he is about to be afforded the second retrospective in London this decade, which is a considerable achievement and reflects his talent as an artist. But I like the fact that he has not poured scorn on the teaching profession.

So I have in a very simplistic way realised that to create work that reflects a wholly personal journey it is better for me not to need or indeed want to sell the work. I refer of course to my painting. (My photography for some reason I feel the opposite about and would love to make a career out of that.)

I have realised that in fact it is far better to teach and paint than to have to paint to the orders of what others want. I have neither the talent nor the money to do otherwise and I would rather my journey was at my pace.

I was very heartened to read that Jim Ede did not begin to create kettles yard until he was in his sixties. So many amazing artists mature well into their old age and I happy to wait.

If any quote ever dispels the urban myth that Barbara Hepworth was a tyrant this one does.

Barbara Hepworth describing her working conditions whilst living at Park Hill Road Hampstead recalled that Mondrian’s and Ben’s (Nicholson) studios were most austere, but my studio was a jumble of children, rocks, sculptures, trees, importune flowers and washing.

I would however add her to the pile of those with money, as Nicholson paid for a nanny and a cook to help with the triplets. Her life was tough but many others had it tougher.

I do not want all this to sound impossibly smug, but small steps help my sanity and get me through the weekends! Yes, I must be the only blogger who is happier at work than at home.

1 comment:

materfamilias said...

isn't it lovely, as we begin to come to terms with where we are, and realize we might actually be happy here? the part of maturity that (partially) makes up for the creaking knees and hips. . .;-)