“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.
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:
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 :))
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.
Against all odds- conferences, functions, exams, deadlines- I have produced something each day. Mostly small doodles and randoms, which I’m totally unused to showing anyone, but I said I’d post so there ya have it.
Compared to my output rate for the past 24 months, this is prolific indeed…what I usually do is to spew out a body of pretty much spontaneous work in a short intense frenzy, uncomfortably squeezed in between many months of complete flat lining.
I’m enjoying this discipline, unexpectedly, my brain is happily buzzing with ideas while my pen wanders on the paper.
Art Month International. Yeah how grand does that sound!? Two participants so far, let’s see if we can start a trend here!
Day one getting off to a good start, terribly precious and uptight though, wanting it all to turn out good and useable and showable. Meh. Have to work hard at keeping the quality demon muffled. The goal is just to release, to engage fully with The Flow by not getting overly in the way…
Sending sunny spirit to all NaNoWriMo participants 🙂
Will post pics every three days. Demon or not.