“Only Jesus can be naked on the cross. You can’t do that to President Zuma…an insensitive creation by a white person”.” ( Barend La Grange, vandal of Murray artwork)
Well, with so many interesting debates going on about censorship, racism, cultural ethics and the nature and purpose of art, who has time to worry about unfinished paintings?
I have thrown this topic into numerous lunch and dinner conversations, and am always delighted at the way it gets everyone hot under the collar! No more talk about the weather and the price of petrol!
Real thinking required
Please feel free to leave comments and engage with this fascinating debate! I personally go with Mike van Graans review of Brett Murray’s entire exhibition “Hail to the Thief”
Interesting/informative links discussing the Zuma Spear Controversy..:
I was chatting to my son’s squash coach the other day. He mentioned that none of our country’s top players have the discipline to play themselves on the squash court, which means playing the same shot hundreds of times… this seemed to imply to me an explanation of their lack of presence on an international level. I drew a comparison with art, where I’ve made similar observations: if someone is not willing to practice the same thing over and over again, they won’t advance as far or as fast. The coach added that in his experience as an English teacher, he always spent time teaching kids discipline, which usually lead to them having better self-discipline; an invaluable attribute in his opinion. Now that might sound terribly old-school, conjuring visions of corporal punishment, petty rules, and intimidated kids. But I think what he was referring to is discipline in the sense of structure and boundaries, which I have come to realise makes perfect sense in my own teaching experience:
I started off being nice. Ha. Chaos and mediocre creativity, even at university level. When I made it clear-unsmilingly- what I expected of my students in terms of punctuality and work ethic, set them challenging tasks, and had no mercy for lame excuses and negative attitudes, output and standard soared. They loved me, and I wasn’t nice. A revelation, especially for a woman
Now the real sticking point is of course the application of all of this insight to myself.
I struggle to finish my paintings. I have little discipline. Unless there’s a deadline like an exhibition opening forcing me to get on with it, I have problems carrying through the original impetus, procrastinating until the work has lots of all of its original appeal/reason. New Age advice has me search my chakra balance/childhood/ascendant for causes of this. So far, I have self-helped admirably in some areas but not when it comes to my art. I obviously need a stern tutor such as the squash coach, who looks like he can deliver!
So what to do when you only know the kind of discipline that leads to repression, depression, and denial, and must therefore be avoided? Thanks to an authoritarian upbringing I’m unfamiliar with constructive discipline. I rebel at the mention of daily practice, even though that is what I teach others. My excuses are many, but I’m getting bored with my own dysfunction here. There are times when I think that I’m just not cut out to be an artist, and should rather spend my spare time teaching my kids self-discipline
Anyone out there willing to share/suggest/coach?
Some of my unfinished paintings. Sigh.
A human being is only breath and shadow. ~ Sophocles
Because everything we say and do is the length and shadow of our own souls, our influence is determined by the quality of our being. ~ Dale Turner
Thanks to http://destructivetesting.wordpress.com for posting- had to share!
I really admire people who can transform “junk” into unique forms of creative expression. Saving the planet and inspiring it, excellent choice!
Dörte Berner has been a sculptress for fifty dedicated years. She and her husband Volker came to Namibia 46 years ago and started a carpet weaving business. Dörte managed to maintain a high level of productivity, throughout the challenges of managing a family, business, and her art. Her numerous exhibitions locally and in Europe always landed rave reviews, and walking through her newly opened sculpture gallery situated in the old weaving rooms on the farm, is a captivating experience: The artist’s diversity of medium and message. Her deeply symbolic and metaphorical themes. The sheer skill and dexterity required, working with stones such as serpentine, basalt, sandstone, marble, and granite; using only hand-held tools, never electrical ones.
A lot of Dörte’s works are lyrical interpretations of African life- animals like warthogs, vultures, goats; workers sowing, native religious customs, mother and child figures, drought allegories. Mostly, though, she delights in portraying universal concepts such as metamorphosis, spirituality, power, the mysteries of time, space, and death; and so on. Her later works become increasingly conceptual and abstract, often commenting on social or political situations, such as war/torture. Combining wood, felt, and entire installations like the hanging uniform seen below, with her stone sculptures adds even more dimension to an already complex and very engaging body of work.
We spent hours talking and looking, and still felt like we hadn’t seen everything. Dörte explained every single piece in great detail, and it was a humbling experience to witness so much fierce commitment, knowledge as well as wisdom in one artist. We will be back!
All sculptures by Dörte Berner,
for more information please visit:
I read this article on the an website this morning: http://www.a-n.co.uk/ and thought I'd share it:
"Drawing from the Artists talking blogs and the artists who keep them, this article will examine the many positive benefits of keeping an artist’s blog.
With, at the latest count, over 3000 social network sites on the internet, and with any organisation or individual with a desire to be seen, heard and acknowledged poking, prodding, blogging and tweeting their little hearts out all over the (non-)place, it is more vital then ever that you have an online presence, and blogging is a flexible, gainful and deeply useful way to get it.
Tada! The insights of almost two decades of experience condensed for you. Now start making art already.
Five Things that you need to know about Creativity and Art Making
1. Muses: Rare visitors…
Inspiration rarely comes sweeping in on the north wind, ready to lead you, deliriously, down the road of effortlessness. Before effort though, comes the ability to engage: Even when there’s nothing particular moving you to create something, just playing with the materials without a goal in mind often sets off a chain reaction of ideas and yes, inspiration. Doodle, smear, dab, experiment, cut, roll, paste at random and trust that making art has nothing to do with thinking hard. Should you be aiming to become a professional artist, working hard, on the other hand, should be a daily mantra.
Tip: Borrow a toddler if you’re struggling with making a mess and having fun
2. Failure: The f-word
If you were, like me, brought up with rigid rules about right and wrong, and wasting things (parents of the war generation…), you might approach art making with fear and trepidation: What if I get it wrong, wasting time and valuable resources? The deeply held beliefs of judging our efforts according to failure or success have been contested by many famous people who created new ideas and inventions. It was precisely through their many failures that they found their way to achievement. Letting so-called failure demotivate you- and it is only your perception which sees it as such- instead of seeing useful stepping stones on the road to success holds us all back from expressing ourselves freely.
Tip: Embrace your mistakes. Be a kind, generous parent to your creativity.
3. Failure part 2: The pauses make the music
If it doesn’t feel right, take a break. Take a step or ten back. Look and listen. Oprah even said it- “..doubt means don’t. Don’t move. Don’t answer. Don’t rush forward” Part of the incredible adventure that is art making is the frequent experience of present moment awareness- if you can tune in to the oft-mentioned flow or zone while creating, you will be able to feel when you’re in need of changing direction. I used to get so obsessed with finding solutions I would ignore those feelings and work myself into a dead end, winding up with negative feelings of irritation, of judging myself as having “failed”. Some days are just not going to make it- accept that perhaps you should rather be weeding the garden, phoning a friend, or taking the dog for a walk. All of which are also creative acts, or beneficial to creativity, by the way.
Tip: Don’t flog a faltering creation.
4. Learning: if the student is ready…
There’s no rule that says you must go to art school. Many good artists, pro or not, never paid for tuition. Learning about techniques, mediums, and art history can happen between you and your buddy Google; plus you will get a diversity of information that a single teacher could not possibly provide.
That said, finding-or being found by – a fantastic teacher can influence your artistic course significantly. Face to face feedback and exchange can be an important, perhaps vital, experience, if the person doing the teaching aims to provide a supportive, patient, and stimulating environment. My discovery of art certainly lay in the hands of my fun, funky and irreverent art teacher in high school. Thanks again, Mrs D’Unienville.
Tip: Find, explore, adapt, develop and trust ways that work for you, ignore the rest.
5. Growth: The importance of past and present creative community
No artist is an island. Broadening your experience of the world, and creativity specifically, by treating it as a community can only inspire and open your mind to a spectrum of possibilities. My connections with poets, photographers, writers, cooks, gardeners, moms, activists, and travellers on the web are not random interactions but fertile exchanges. This also applies to the history of art making, which never ceases to fascinate me, with its myriad of intriguing characters and astounding accomplishments. To quote John of Salisbury, 1159: “We are like dwarfs sitting on the shoulders of giants. We see more, and things that are more distant, than they did, not because our sight is superior or because we are taller than they, but because they raise us up, and by their great stature add to ours.” That about sums up what the past can effect for the present. Thank you Titian, Leonardo, Cezanne, Vincent, Picasso and all the rest!!
Share your creations without fear- no-one does it just like you. Hoarding whatever treasures you think are yours to guard from theft or criticism only leads to stagnation and art that does not feel joyful to either the viewer or the creator.
Tip: try blogging, timeline surfing or art instead of pills next time you feel down )
Rites of Passage
‘Rites of Passage’ is an interpretation of my personal experience. The questions that arose from this experience correspond directly to the effects of a dysfunctional society, as well as to the effects of my own dysfunctions.
A Rite of Passage usually denotes a major change in one’s life, tied up with a number of often contrasting and confusing emotions. A certain amount of pain and discomfort is an inevitable part of the process of maturation and growth, and the official opinion seems to be that we can, under normal conditions, cope with and assimilate such growing pains. But just exactly what constitutes normal conditions?
I believe that the line between ‘normal’ and ‘abnormal’ is blurred at best and indistinguishable at worst, as each individual experiences emotion differently.
What is traumatic for one person might be less so for another.
Yet there is an unspoken consensus that when trauma exists, coping and assimilating becomes either a lifelong task or a permanent wound in the psyche.
Victims of physical, sexual, and emotional abuse are forced to undergo a distorted Rite of Passage, and in the case of children usually long before it would have occurred ‘naturally’. The damaging effects of such trauma are indisputable. What I am querying is our responsibility, or lack thereof, as individuals and a society, towards such children: Should they be helped, can they be helped, will they be helped?
Is their premature loss of childhood innocence a hurt that will never be healed no matter how many well-meaning sponsors get involved? Are the wounds of life there for a purpose, and must therefore be endured?
Are the perpetrators of abuse merely victims of their own unresolved trauma? At which point in the cycle should the need for accountability arise?
Do you hold yourself accountable for your own dysfunctional actions?
The monstrosity of what human beings are capable of is not something I can or want to judge. I can only observe the ongoing negation of each and every one of the ideals that supposedly elevate us to an “advanced” level of evolution. The distortion and abuse that revered ideal such as ‘love’ ‘respect’ ‘truth’ ‘goodness’ etc. suffer from, as evident in the massive occurrence of abuse, murder, rape, theft, corruption, and divorce, suggests rather that humanity, despite its delusion of advancement throughout the ages, still prefers to adapt these ideals to its behaviour rather than its behaviour to the pursuit of ideals.
Excerpt from a review of the exhibition by John Sampson:
The Silke Berens exhibition, “Rites of Passage” at the Omba Gallery is a disturbing show. The title is an immediate hint that this is not your run-of-the-mill themed showing of pleasant works. The theme of this exhibition is quite the opposite, dealing as it does with child-abuse, not a popular area of focus.
But artists are not immune to the aberrations in society and it behoves them to comment on the ruptures in our moral/ethical structures, and the value systems that should be cultivated in our homes and families. It is precisely in this so-called comfort zone that children are abused, and Silke Berens speaks about this in her work.
Good exhibitions, invariably, speak to one at the visual level, this one does that, but more so, it sits in the throat, because it makes no excuse for its confrontational aspects. Child-abuse must be confronted. Perpetrators must be apprehended. And society requires a cleansing mechanism. An artist working to expose the underbelly of our society does precisely that, but in a manner that draws on more than the psychologist’s intervention.
Images, pictures, are stark reminders of our troubled psyches, whether we want to admit that much or not. And if we do, then we have to accept the gauntlet that has been thrown down.
Berens has been intimately associated with this painful subject, having worked with children, whose futures have been fractured by the monsters that lurk inside many of us. She chooses to bring the issue nearer through the clever use of style, together with a few more approaches that appeal to those with a deep-seated yearning for content at a different level. The style is intentionally childlike. The images of children seem as if drawn by a child. It has the quality of the amateur, and that is by intent, not by accident. One is struck by the fact that the children in the works do not take up bold central positions as forthright confident children living through a happy phase in the process to adulthood. These children are shying away to the edges, to the periphery, trying to avoid. Trying to avoid what? Trying to avoid more of the same. There is an intrinsic knowing that all is not right.
The pictures have been hung much lower than would normally be the case to once again associate the work with the child’s place in the maturation process. And the titles have been chosen to indicate the average height of adults. In the case of the children depicted one wonders whether anything in their adult lives would indeed be average. That would be a start, at least. It is far too simple to speak of a dysfunctional society, when, in fact, it is not society that is so affected, but our families. Society consists of dysfunctional families and individuals, and they are the ones imposed on all of society. And the figures in the Berens works, well….like we hear so often these days; they are seen as collateral damage! The most vulnerable seem to suffer the most.
The use of colour, or the lack thereof, also speaks of a considerable amount of introspection in planning this portfolio. There is no fun embarking on such works, and any artist doing so, is confronted himself/herself by the stark an inevitable reality of the burden of responsibility. This is evident in the Berens exhibition. It is a responsibility that rests on both the artist and the viewer.
The format of the works is appropriately small to once again draw attention to the young victims of uncaring and unhinged adults. Anything bigger would have rendered the works impersonal; anything smaller would have made it all disappear. It is when an exhibition of artworks confronts us with the joys and perverseness of society that an artist succeeds as a commentator on society. The gratuitous presentation of aestheticism, at the retinal level, is often, all that a body of work is capable of doing. In this exhibition the artist has
gone beyond the usual expectations and that accounts for this being an admirable body of work at both an aesthetic level and social level. It should be seen by everyone who has the welfare of the child at heart.
Some glimpses into my world…a place of extremes of space, light, and love. I’m a lucky girl.
All photographs by Andrew Robson
Wise words from the master. Paul Strand said that the work becomes more your own once you remove ego out of the equation. Perhaps not remove ego, but in Jung's sense integrate ego into the Self through the process of individuation. Then a more holistic, less grasping art might appear.
"One often thinks of seeing as a completely natural activity - your eyes open, there is the world in front of you, you're not doing anything, just seeing.
I’m currently teaching A Girl with No Talent. She’s 18, and for the past six years or more she’s been informed that she has no artistic talent. Yet she has decided that she likes art and wants to take it as an examination subject in her final school year. Moreover, she would like to study architecture.
So I’m coaching a supposedly hopeless case four hours a week, trying to prepare her for her final graduation exhibition which is in about thirteen months. I’m still not sure what made me agree to try and help this girl, because I too, upon seeing some of her previous artwork did not feel at all hopeful- objectively, her drawings were at the level of a ten year old child. My head thought no but my instinct knew better. After years of teaching art, I have seen over and over how patience, encouragement, and deeper psychological insight can make a big difference. How big this difference can be I’m now privileged to witness.
It’s taken us close to three months to get comfortable with one another. I’m relentlessly pushing, demanding her best effort, she’s got learning disabilities and years of damaged self-esteem built up thick around a beautiful dancer’s soul longing for lightness and freedom. Some days it felt like we were going nowhere fast. She would awkwardly force her lines onto the paper, afraid to make her mark for fear of getting it “wrong”. When I talked about her emotional connection to her art making, and the need to reflect intensely on personal reasons, experiences and attitudes in order to create meaningful artwork, she would look at me as if I was from another planet.
I made her write, compose poems, improvise freely, scribble wildly, stand up, change hands, research, and a dozen other things designed to break the icy spell of our culture’s unfortunate judgement of superficialities, which turned her into a passive, timid conformist. I made her cry when I told her she wasn’t trying hard enough.
It took one charcoal drawing of a flamenco dancer for me to know that something had shifted. The facial proportions were all wrong, but her marks had a flow and energy to them which finally started to echo this girl’s inner treasures. Her sense of possibility is more than restored, it’s positively blooming.Who are we to judge one another, especially children, as harshly as we do? All it takes is the willingness to listen, to empathise and to affirm the other’s unique inner world.
All I’m doing is helping her to connect her spirit with her hand, and the paper under it. Simple, awe-inspiring magic. No talent required.
Shoewee. I yet have to count my output for the month, so not sure if I made my goal. But it’s almost the 1st so I needed to post.
Regardless of numbers, I’m amazed at what I thought was impossible to produce. I’m gonna carry on in this vein, so keep watching this space!
To all NaNoWriMo participants, arrived or not, well done and thanks for all of your inspiring words on so many wonderful blogs.