Tuesday, 26 June 2012

The guide for the unsuccessful art student (part 1)

You just finished your fine art degree, but no one cares. No mentions in the press, no prizes, no gallery offers, no residencies, no sales, no job, no internships, no way to store your degree show piece, no peer recognition, no street cred, no good hair cut, no trendy trousers, no one-night stand after the degree show opening.
Your artist statement said your work ‘will divide opinions’, but there were no opinions to be had. You are the solo album of the ex boy band member, who wasn’t the pretty one.

Don’t commit suicide just yet, though! Stick to this guide and defer your death by depression for at least 10 years after your degree show flop.

If you are from a poor background, please continue reading, if your background is a wealthy one, please click here for a guide tailored to your needs (http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Q_L52eExAHU).

This week: DON’Ts


1. Don’t move back in with your single parent

Now how did I know you only have a single parent? Well, you chose the poor background guide, and you were a fine art student - a tragic combination that can only manifest itself through the guilt of a single parent (mother) not being able to provide you with a ‘healthy environment’, or through general apathy towards your life decisions (father).

However it may be - do not move back in with your single parent! Seriously, don’t do it. If you can, stay at least one city away from them - better yet: an ocean apart. An ocean might soak up all the pity and secret resentment they harbour for your failure as an artist.

You know how bird parents push their offspring out of the nest to force them to fly? You’re the bird that claimed it can fly in this new quirky way, and you actually did for a second, but then nose-dived into the rocky cliffs below.
Unfortunately you survived, and, although your bird parent kindly offered you to come back to the nest, they don’t mean it - as all their claims in front of the other bird parents about how special you are, and how you’ll find your own way in the world, suddenly feel a bit stale when confronted with the possibility of nursing you for the rest of your flightless life.

Moving back in with your parent will bring them to wish you wouldn’t have made it out alive after your crushing defeat at the degree show, as at your funeral they could have claimed that you “were too in touch with the raw emotions a true artist feels”, that you “were too good for this world”, and you “were the special light in everyone’s life”. Do you see that single parent over there? That single parent has lost his/her child to art. Such tragedy! - it’s wonderful.

But you just had to make it out alive, don’t you? Anything that is said about a burnt out art student by his/her parents ends with a sigh and shrug - “S/he’ll get back on track... I’m sure... some day” sigh, shrug.
It’s your parent’s coffee machine for the rest of your life. No more frappuccinos for you, motherfucker.

What I’m saying is: Don’t move back in with your parents - it will kill your street cred right dead.

2. Don’t politicise your work

It is tempting to go from enjoying the blissful freedom of a capitalist state school system to categorically hating the same capitalist state once you are out of education and are expected to make a living for yourself. This is especially true for the failed art student.

How could you ever expect to enjoy art genius success (+ the money showers that come with it) when you are living in a system that is ill-equipped to even start to understand the political scope of your work? How could any of those capitalists swines like your work when it so clearly puts a mirror in front of their greedy faces?
Your failure surely doesn’t mean you are merely a shitty artist, it can only mean that you are a visionary. A socio-political visionary that cannot be understood in the present day, but only by future generations of global communist bohemians - and thus began your career as a political artist.

As a political artist you will either move to Berlin, or to the nearest Occupy enclave, or both. As a political artist you will trade in your intellectual freedom for political pragmatism: your art will now have a message. That message will be intellectually flat: FREE this. OCCUPY that. How dare they! How could they?
You will now be part of a group of people. You will have many friends. You won’t know all of their names, but you’ll know they are comrades. Comrades marching towards the goal to make your art even shitier.
You will be their historian, your art the chronicles of the failure of their ideology. That’s kind of fitting, though, isn’t it? A failed art student engulfed in failing ideologies.

But hey, you might be lucky and put your money on the right ideology - but then again you chose to do art with a poor background, so how good can your judgement be?

What I’m saying is: Don’t become political - you don’t know what you’re doing: You’ve studied art. You know nothing.

3. Don’t become a curator

By now you should have realised that the gallery’s door will forever stay closed for you, but somehow the following fantasy has manifested itself in your otherwise unimaginative mind:

‘Let me in, let me in,’ you scream waving your art threateningly - ‘But your art’s too shitty.’

‘Hey, maybe let me in and curate the shows you put on?’ - ‘Yeah, alright then.’

The gallery’s door swings open, high-fives all around, the baristas of the gallery’s own cafe know how you like your coffee, the volunteering invigilators with their master degrees in art history adore you through their thick rimmed glasses, the gallery’s manager gives you a knowing wink and then throws tickets to New York at you, as well as a paid studio loft in the Meatpacking district and unlimited coupons to exchange for sexual gratification from absolutely anyone who has ever claimed s/he has ‘a passion for art.’

And then, as the new great band in town starts writing songs about you, you pull your shitty art out from behind your back: ‘Maybe I could curate a show with one of my pieces in?’
All the smiles wiped off the faces, coupons voided, barred from New York, baristas’ spit in your flat white, you wake up in the industrial part of town, surrounded by people who graduated with you, who you always knew were even worse artists than you, in an abandoned, asbestos-ridden factory you’ve chosen as the ‘fantastic’ venue for the art show you’ve organised and curated, all of you clinging to the false hope that some kind of art mogul will get lost, and miraculously end up in your stupid impromptu gallery held up by desperation and rat shit.

What I’m saying is: Don’t become a curator.

4. Don’t start writing about art
It will just make you seem bitter.

Do you want to know how to turn your bad fortune around - how to become an actual, full fledged artist? Check out next week’s DOs.

Monday, 4 June 2012

Isaac Nugent: A painting

When you’re dealing with figurative painting, there’s a neat way of telling how successful a painter is with his/her skills, and one part of it is done by looking at the hands of the figures. As you can see Isaac Nugent scores a 5 ¾ on the scale, which settles him nicely in the midfield of successful art pieces.
There are some other factors, however, which will deduct from this score - you might laugh at this notion of score counting, but it’s the official method of measuring an artist’s success in figurative painting. It has been taught at art schools for centuries now.
Lucien Freud for example scored a breathtaking 14 ½, Mark Rothko on the other hand still managed a surprising 2 ⅔ (mainly due to the lack of the colour pink or ‘caucasian flesh tone’ as we professionals call it).

But back to Isaac Nugent’s painting. As already stated the hands score Nugent a 5 ¾ (hands not hidden away in pockets, inside of one hand fully visible without separation of the digits, second hand cut off), but we have to make the following deductions:
- Fluorescent light bulb used instead of head (silly)
- Mob not fully recognisable as phallic substitution (disappointing)
- No boobs (predictable)

All in all the numbers add up to a round 3, which makes Nugent a better figurative painter than Mark Rothko.

Mark Rothko: Reclining nude in field of tulips, 1966

I think whilst it is clear that Nugent has a greater technical grasp of his material (paint, probably poster/powder, its a well known fact that oils take too long to dry) the emotional depth of his work also challenges that of Rothko.
 The emotional content of Rothko’s work is infamously simple roughly coming down to “I like her tits so I’m going to paint her” (see his famous piece below “Hey bitches let’s get high and talk about high modernism in the nude”). The motivation behind Nugent’s piece is fraught with far more troubling sexual desires.

This is perhaps most obvious in the confused use of mop in place of the phallus. Does Nugent want someone to have sex with or someone to clean? Does he want both? Is he simply cisgendering everything in sight? Or is it a radically masculinist statement? Is the use of the light bulb a nod to fan fiction about Minority Report? Googling “Monica is going to be murdered in the next four days and they don't know who will do it. John Anderton is assigned to protect her and forbidden emotions brew between them. set before the movie” doesn’t help.

Is Nugent Tom Cruise? Is he Brian Sewell? Is he both? Why haven’t I got dressed now? Where is the paracetamol? Why do I feel so ill? Was it something I ate? Why do I feel so cripplingly alone? Should I switch the lights on? What would it feel like to be loved? Are Pink Silk Sheets morally reprehensible but carnally desirable? Why do I even bother anymore you never listen to what say or do you? Overall I feel like this painting poses more questions (lots) than it answers (none).

I really do wish the painting could provide an answer, in whatever way possible, to communicate to us what it is we are seeing - I cannot bear to see JDA suffer from all the ambiguity. 
Surely there must be some way - maybe give it an appropriate title? Maybe label the objects in the painting? Like so:

Now I know that I’m far from being a figurative painter (I’m still stuck at pointilism), but I think my subtle additions are rather fetching, and will enable JDA to overcome his anxiety that this painting used to create in him. Assurance. That’s a word. It’s the word that abruptly appeared in this paragraph. Assurance. That’s what you feel. It’s the feeling that abruptly appeared in the painting after my addition of labels and arrows. Assurance. It’s also a great title for this piece.

First of all I’d like to just thank DJR for his excellent system. The room has stopped rocking and I feel a lot better. I’d like to see this extended to other paintings, sculptures, performance pieces and life itself. I call for a complete labelling of everything, of meta-labelling, of labelling of meta-labelling. Never mind blurring the boundaries between art and life let’s label them!

I  think labelling will help clarify the art world a great deal and believe that we should also have small signs explaining the art in greater detail so people know why this is art. Here of course it is very easy to tell that this is art because it is paint on a canvas which only gets done in art. Here are some more common types of art:
  1. Photographs on photo paper in a frame on a wall in a room that is white and only has photos in it.
  2. Really big things in public places with no clearly defined function
  3. Things that look like things but are not those things because they are copies of things
Obviously this is far from being a comprehensive list but this is definitely the way to go, a really big list of what is art. In Nugent’s defence he has gone some way to achieving this with his lovely written description of the piece. All the piece needs is clearer labelling. My suggestion to our errant artist would be to reprint the piece with DJR’s additions and exhibit it like that.