An email conversation with Peter V. about art
I had mentioned to the writer Peter V. that I thought a great deal of art (high art, elite art) had become a strangely conventional form of following a kind of fashion: the new aesthetics, ‘spectacularisation’, existential fed-up-ness etc. …). I said that I was inclined to avoid this; after all, as Musashi had long ago stated: ‘Do not act following customary beliefs.‘
Peter replied in January 2020 by email. Here is his message:
Dear Rob – here are my ‘rules of art’:
1 There are no rules
2 Don’t join a school – be one
3 Paint what you see
4 Every picture tells a story
5 The picture will tell the artist when the work is finished …
… and do keep in mind Musashi’s rules:
7 Perceive those things that cannot be seen
8 Pay attention even to trifles
9 Do nothing which is of no use
All the best,
I thought about his comments; I thought that they were very stimulating – and I started to put together my work on magical realism. I replied, by email, to Peter on 8 February 2020 as follows:
The storm is lurking. At least we have had a few lovely days full of sunshine and the blessing of a fine crisp morning air.
I suppose my main news is the ongoing experience of the MA. I don’t regret doing it and I am surprised at how generous the resources at UCA really are. For example, the technical tutors made huge plinths for me as well as shelves and supplied the paint for my recent show on ‘Intimate narratives‘ – all at no cost. The screen-print tutors have been on hand to help me or to give me advice throughout the last 3 full days – and the facilities for giving a presentation and lecture on the day of our recent symposium were and are superb (as was the venue.)
I have also been struck by the nature of the younger students that I have met; they are studying subjects like illustration or textiles or animation and they are surprisingly positive and agreeable. Often they smile – and are even willing to engage with an old chap like me! There is a good mix of nationalities and ethnicities and, in the very large majority of cases, the students work hard – and in a very focused way. I am pleased, now, to be aware of the processes that generate the people who work in the creative industries – graphic design, illustration, product design, fashion, animation, computer games, ceramics, glass, pottery, and all manner of 3D work.
Fine Art (my domain) now occupies a rather strange place; since all the other fields produce highly skilled, very effective technical outputs (for example, the illustrators produce better (well, more polished) figurative stuff than the Fine Art artists) the only thriving refuge for Fine Art is in expressions of the weird, wonderful, bizarre, unexpected, spectacular, plain odd, recondite or esoteric. There is some room for expressing intellectual ideas as well as personal phantasies. (I like the last two areas.) It is as if the Fine Artist follows an idea or concern and then finds a quirky or allusive way of ‘showing’ and expressing it. There is also space for a kind of ‘howl’ or ‘moan’ about life … as there is for grappling with that which is taboo.
So, it has been testing, demanding and exhilarating. I am now making a piece called: ‘Magical realism: last night I dreamed of shooting Lawrence of Arabia.’
Could I make it as an artist? Possibly yes. My interim shows have given me some hope! Would I be well-equipped to participate and thrive in the Fine Art world? Probably not! (I might have been a successful player if I had been under the age of 45 or so.) But anyway, that’s not why I am doing the course.
Well, as usual, thank you for your generous support and pithy trenchant comments,
with very best wishes,
Footnote: The photo above shows a segment of my work concerning a portrayal of Celia, the young Taiwanese woman; the photo below shows part of my ‘semi-random biographies’ that was shown in the ‘Intimate narratives’ group show.