I am an artist and this artist’s voice has whispered, shouted and screamed in order to be heard or gain some solitude. I have often been incoherent; going off at a tangent; at times a rambling ranting stream of consciousness; a box full of wordless sounds, switching between that internal and external dialogue/monologue, losing my way, then finding some part of myself in pools of silence. Like most people I have many voices.
So let’s assume that there is no one singular voice of the artist – only the variations of sound and degrees of silence of the individual. I don’t know what kind of an artist I am any more, maybe I could be classified as an outsider artist, maybe I was one once upon a time ago but I am no longer certain of what the criteria is for such a role – besides it’s such a contentious term. I am sure there have been times when I could have ticked numerous outsider boxes, though… several times over!
Not knowing where I am on the art spectrum (be it marginal, established or emerging) is not a problem in many ways. Perhaps this not knowing is a part of my oeuvre, not knowing what I am going to create next or if it will be any good, not knowing where I will be with my work in a year’s time and so on. What I do know, is that when I go online I see that there are an incredible amount of artists out there, whose art is vast, diverse and ever-expanding which also means that there is a great deal of visual and vocal noise, whispering , ranting , shouting, screaming – along with deep pools of silence.
For every artist there is a genre which one can align to – Raw, Outsider, Naive being just three from one faction, the list is immense… perhaps endless … infinite. It seems to me that such terms as emerging or established are in the main used for people who have a vested interest in promoting a particular brand of art. I am talking about people working within what is termed the creative industries, an entity encompassing a multitude of online dot orgs, independent galleries, large institutions and even the self employed. This could include gallery dealers, tutors, librarians, writers, critics, publishers, curators, archivists, admin and arts council staff, basically the people for whom Art is one way or another a professional occupation. Nothing wrong in this and lets get this straight there is no swamp to drain here, certainly areas not to my taste and practices that I disapprove of but we as artists we encompass a kind of kindred spirit. But I am wondering about those creatives outside the perimeters of the professional realm , people such as myself if we are talking art in purely financial terms.
The proliferation of art online and its expansive range gives the impression that the boundaries of the past which kept differing art practices within specific areas have begun to blur and shift considerably. Now, more than any other time, it seems that there are endless opportunities for people to express themselves through their creative (Btw, I cant stand the word practice within an art context ) work online. However, I would like to question if anything has really changed since the advent of online resources ?- has anything changed inside or outside of the profession? If your creativity doesn’t bring in a regular sustainable income are you even considered an artist? Is your work worth considering? Does that wonky creative CV with its various gaps and deviations that you keep on submitting to open call outs, competitions and galleries really benefit you? Do you believe that if your work is good enough , it will eventually be recognised ?
Is there a permeable boundary or a discernible divide between those operate within a professional capacity and those who do not? Is the grass even greener on the other side? Is being endlessly online checking things out really going to guarantee some kind of breakthrough into a better world? Will more likes on twitter make your work any better? I am not advocating that a life of creative obscurity is somehow better, as something somehow more virtuous. I am just wondering what the value is in persistently navigating through pathways that lead to relative dead ends in the hope that one day you might hit it big, whatever that means .
I am wondering what happens when those on “the non professional” side of the fence (you either recognise this position or you don’t) start to speak for themselves? Do they /we get heard or are we/ they simply ignored ? By going online it’s possible to find a multitude of opportunities for artist to show their work (if you know where to look) in order to do this, it is often at the artist’s own expense. Which isn’t that much fun to do on a regular basis when you’re on a low income . There are offers of so many solutions to your art problems online …. countless vlogs , blogs and sites agog , top tips to selling /putting your work and self out there. Because living the dream is making it big … Well , maybe not . Fee paying competitions, along with opportunities to show work in emerging artists exhibitions in London, NY, Miami, Venice or where ever, that require hefty payments are a rip off as far as I am concerned , but who hasn’t fallen that notion that if you are serious about your work and if you want your work to be taken seriously by others, that you should be totally dedicated to your practice and be prepared to make such sacrifices. My sacrifice someone else’s profit…I am work at my work but I am no art martyr.
How Soon is Now
Of course there are amazing supporters of the arts and artists out there , great people , publications, organisations and institutions that provide opportunities for those in and outside of the professional realm. So yes, some doors may well be open and welcoming but experience has also taught me that institutions and organisations (like any other employer) have their own agendas and are looking for specific folk who are going to make them look good too (they run a business and need funding ) so the interest is not just in your work but in the works that will be of benefit to that particular organisation. If your work fits that’s great, but if it doesn’t , don’t think that you failed .
If the way you work or your past does not comply with the required criteria m so what ?If your creative process gets bogged down by endlessly knocking on doors that barely and rarely open. Forget it . Having one’s work rejected /not accepted can be a soul destroying experience , so step away from it , making art has many many positives , for one it may well bring people back from the brink of despair but always attempting to be part of an artworld that ignores or rejects you can take you to the edge too, so step away.
Not being part of the art world, doesn’t actually stop you , me or anyone else from making art .
Words and Images Brian Gibson