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March 07, 2007

Art, existentialism and tinnitus

I generally go on [and on] here about the struggle to create art. But once a painting has been created here in the studio its life is mostly wretched, languishing as it does in The Racks... “No! No! Not – the Racks!” they cry, as I cart them off to ignominy.

The racks, in case you haven’t been paying attention, are at best a creative limbo where paintings go to rest for a while, away from my critical gaze. At worst they are merely a holding pen prior to The Great White Brush of Repentance.

[Excuse the declamatory nature of this post, but I’ve recently had my toes massaged, with a view to reducing the tinnitus in my left ear. Victoria, for it was she, recommended I drink more water and less coffee, so it is in a somewhat hydrated, yet holistically euphoric, state that I write this.]

When does it become Art then? Some would say when I put down my brushes, others [god bless ‘em] when I pick up my brushes. For me it is when it is chosen. When someone buys a painting it begins its existence. Until that point It is just something I have done. Okay, as Bruce Nauman says if I consider myself an artist then everything I do is art [and Piero Manzoni took this to its ultimate extreme in 1961, see below] but it doesn’t feel like that.


There is no point that I am trying to reach, there is not a prescribed path I’m travelling along which has its outcome in Art. Before I make the marks nothing exists. But the “finished” picture has, and indeed should have, an air of always having had existed. Another tricky problem that.

As Mark Ravenhill said yesterday:

“It's even worse when the play is published. Whether a reader likes the play or not, it will look to them like an authoritative stream of text, a definitive statement. What I see is great black holes of missed opportunities. This is not false modesty. This is quite honestly what it feels like to open a book with my name on the cover.
I'm amazed that academics haven't grasped this. Whenever an academic talks to me about my work, there's still an assumption that here is a definitive, confident text that is at my bidding. I don't disillusion them. It's much more comfortable to talk about my plays in that way than as the poor undernourished phantoms they look like to me.” Mark Ravenhill, the Guardian.

Posted by john at March 7, 2007 02:46 PM