Art of England: June 2008
Itís just a blank surface, something to move some media around on. A place to capture something, save it for a rainy day. I donít know why Iím here. Nothing is coming out! Iíve had the worse case of creative block Iíve ever experienced. If reality is only images then what are those images of? And do we really need another one? What use am I as an artist if I canít make art? Perhaps a career at Mackie Dís is in order, I could collect all those little stars on my badge, move up the ranks, one day shake hands with Ronald, arrange a kids party with balloons, show the little tykes the big fridge. One gets trappedÖ I save them, ďSemple the heroĒ, I can see the Islington Gazette headline now. No, itís not going to happen, Iím allergic to the salad. Iíll kneed my putty rubber a bit more, sharpen my sanguine oil pencil. Maybe if I leave it and come back the problem of balancing where Iíve been with where I want to go will have gone. Iíve lost my mojo!
When I feel like that I normally go and visit Andy Warhol at Madame Tussauds. He communicates slightly less than he did whilst alive but all the same I can feel his all encompassing eye, his perfect white Reebok trainers and silver grey wig pointing their way to the stars. Itís the closest Iíll get to him now heís gone. Itís the most marvellous piece of work. Is it wrong to get emotional over a waxwork? Heís my lovely false pop idol and Iíll love him till the end. Tell me Mr. Warhol which way do your toes point tonight?
ďgee.. errrÖ umÖ maybe you should check out Brick Lane or somethingĒ. So I did! And promptly bumped into Hush and Copyright at their London Debut hosted by Opus at the Brick lane gallery. They are interesting guys. I very much enjoyed my natter with Hush who refused to show his face on camera as he still sprays his work on the street. A softly spoken bloke who really does think about his work. I think itís easy to dismiss urban and underground art through its fashionable status and contagious aesthetic. Hush however spoke of the use of the female form in art, how Asian cultures and British collide in his deliberately juxtaposed paintings. His work had a real depth to it, layer upon layer of markmaking. He explained how his whole show grew together. It was a cohesive piece of organic installation. We were going to meet up the next day, but I forgot that Iíd decided to transform the studio and itís as yet not fit for human visitation (more on that later).
I say my goodbyes and turn the corner, the streetís alive, a herd of people spilling out of Trolley Gallery. A massive hand drawn skull by Boo Saville glows vibrantly in the window, totally stunning and beautiful. The usual scensters are aligned. The gallery have expertly curated ĎDonít stop me now Ė the body beyond deathí. Creating one of the most cohesive groupings I have seen in many months, however the crowd was unbearable, with the too cool for school attitude detracting from the gravity of the work. Iím transported to the Crypts of Palermo Cathedral, whilst witnessing the immaculately preserved mummified bodies in Marco Lanzaís photographs. This show should be eerie, and indeed Iím sure it would be if it werenít dripping with Hoxton trendies. Just when I thought Iíd found some sanctuary to pontificate on our bodily fear of death, the gallerist hustles through waving a miniature (now not so private) male part. It seems someone who shall remain anonymous, who decides to break things at every show, has stalked the gallery for a while. This time their victim was a tiny naked human who was buried under the floorboards. The horrific became comedic in an instant. As the most taboo part of a human swung above the heads of every cool kid in town. I left bemused.
I think when I walk. I have Jay-z ĎAmerican Gangsterí in my earphones but today Iím not on some street, Iím in Ikea, in an attempt to break my creative block Iíd decided to re-do my whole studio. I walk through flat pack installation heaven. Perfect soulless showrooms take on post-apocalyptic Swedish visions of hell for a potential Cronenberg movie. I decide that the world is nothing more than perfect compassion and perfect suffering held in stasis by an equilibrium that I canít understand. Just like perfectly hollow furniture held together with the aid of the mighty Allen key, and made useless by the essential piece of the puzzle being missing.
A line from Jay-z sends a light bulb off in my brain, it races to my work. I decide I want to make a point about the fear of death, about knife crime. About allocating resources to search kids for sharp objects in upper class neighbourhoods to make the voters think somethingís being done to subdue their concerns. I think the money should be ploughed into hop-hop, art and dance. Positive role models within communities, visibly displaying the possibilities, 50-cent and Damien Hirst style. It would surely cost less than the millions it costs for portable metal detectors on posh high streets, manned by uncountable coppers at lunchtime. Searching them, prying their hoodies from their studious heads, which hold their growing college brains as they grab a sarnie from Sainsburyís. Lets give the youth viable and provable creative alternatives. Real possibility. The real answer isnít to create a fear, hype it in the media, and then be seen to provide the cure. What a way to channel funds. What a way to prove your capabilities to the voter. I wonder how I can make a point like that. Then I realize I just did!
There was cardboard everywhere, bits of flat pack furniture in shards. I needed to breathe so I met up with artist Piers Secunda to take a peek at a space Iím curating a show with him in. On the way back we popped by Arcade Fine Arts, a new space near my studio. I was amazed by the installation they had by Jeremiah Day, in which slides of New England are presented alongside an audio soundtrack. The audio is experienced through headphones which makes the experience all the more personal. Chief Flying Eagle of the native Mashpee Wampanoag Indians talks of the recent political struggles of the tribe, whilst music from a short lived but charismatic rock band from the area plays. I was connected to the sublime and perfect, lonely landscape photographs on the slides. All the while the narrator explains that when the English came on their boats they were so far from the nativeís experience that they simply thought they were islands. The piece raises the question as to what the British didnít see, of what we never saw. I wonder what we still donít see.
Iíve not been to the Camden Arts Centre before; itís just a bit far for me. Anyway, one of my heroís Tal R had an installation there. Iíve been obsessed for a while, especially after the stunning show I saw in New York last Year. Tal has a direct flow in his work that I envy immensely. He has this ability in which his work just flows from him, literally sculpting his cartooned worlds from oil paint. His process is so fluid, nothing is forced making it therefore incredibly direct. He takes you to a land that seems as if it must have once been occupied by the Moomins or Telletubbies. The thing that hits you is the smell; oil paint is such a beautiful aroma, with such a history. It bought back memories of my childhood when Iíd play with oils in my bedroom. Talís work is musical; the plinky-plonk of a childís music box describes lonely roads, tree people and boats. With his scratchy graphite almost hidden under layers of thick oil. Heís looking for a heart he lost somewhere and heís in a rush to get it back. However he enjoys the journey, but shyly. His work is terribly sad and terribly celebratory at the same time. When I see them they touch me, from afar as incredible emotional experiences of fantasy and up-close in a whirlwind of marks that point nowhere. Thereís something about freedom and expression that I nearly grasp but then a woman in the coffee shop moans about her lack of olives, Sunday morning kids scream on the lawn and I leave with a pile of books from the book shop. Horkheimer, Jacques Ranciere and Renata Salecl will be my companions on a long bus journey home.
So after my adventurous month, I lift my now razor sharp sanguine oil pencil to my paper. Jay-Z preaches that ďIím not a businessman, Iím a business manĒ and I freeze. After my narrow brush with a dead guyís privates, a vision of the machinery of the universe in the not so hallowed halls of Ikea, Talís iridescent Moominvalley world and seeing New England through the eyes of the Mashpee Wampanoag Indians, Iím honestly way to tired to paint! But believe me Iíve got my mojo back!