02 Jan Asynchronous Discussion
I have enjoyed absorbing all the cohort perspectives over the last few days and took time to reflect on how I situate within this sandwich of discussion.
I have always had a ‘ground up’ existence with the ‘art world’. Financially there are no artists,that I know personally, that can solely make a living from gallery sales. It is what people think artists do. Make art, frame it sell it. Isn’t it refreshing to consider, thanks to Bowie’s wonderful synopsis of Murikami’s stresses amidst the designer bags that his practice has the same challenges! Artists creating art are valued significantly lower than the people who mediate art for public consumption, fact. On a bad day in 1998 I felt it was akin to the relationship between a prostitute and pimp. So I circumvented it. Retrained in business and management, and have been able to pay my mortgage since. I never stopped making art, working in art but I became less emotionally and financially dependent on the system that controls what is/is not publicly accepted as art. A low income is a permanent state of being that one must learn to live with as a self employed artist. Why? The mind mapping exercise last year visually demonstrated to me the number of crossovers that exist within my practice. I rely on various relationships between art and business. Like Hans Haacke highlights, it is a form of industry. A service I provide, creative problem solving, creative project management call it what you like. The hidden systems, like the book keeping involved to sustain another year of being a self employed artist certainly wouldn’t be sexy laid out on the floor of the gallery but after the accountants fees are paid I often end up with a welcomed tax refund. Last year it was €5k, which was more than my sale of artwork in 2018. So what? On a gallery floor it would certainly demonstrate an interesting point about what an art practice is. It’s a business.
Not turning away from ‘top down’ standards is important, art fairs and galleries but distilling their best practice methods, to experiment with local audiences has been valuable to me. Engaging in this Masters has allowed deeper reading and knowledge of this best practice. Moments of traditional making, building skills and reflection in the studio and turning away from outside influences only have meaning when reworked and re-presented to audiences through new artwork, otherwise work looses dynamic purpose for me. Context and value has a complex and interesting relationship – one that I like to challenge and play with. We don’t have access to galleries and art fairs locally, we focus on the artist led initiative approach. I have my own, separate purpose built studio space at our home. I am lucky. Unlike my peers I don’t have to pay an additional €400 a month to enable me to work or make. Practical challenges like this are a huge barrier for a lot of the talented artists I know. We have achieved more working together as a collective creating new platforms for engagement.
I have always been amazed by the veneers of the system, like the Maurizio Cattlan exhibition, the appearances of an art practice – the bogus websites, the fake personas, the filtered images on instagram, the slick brand of ‘artist’ – the performative nature of all these things take so much work. It’s a pity that the art isn’t as interesting as concept. I have no issue with playing with these populist systems if it generates revenue for the artist as long as the down to earth, approachable ethos prevails. The real artists I know are always generous with nothing to hide.
I’ll end on this tasty bit of data and artwork from an inspiring art group I met in 2018 – Yoke, Ideas that Unify Us 2017 https://www.artistyoke.com/.
“In 2016 figures were published revealing that the UK’s creative industries contribute £84.1 billion net a year to the UK economy, generating £9.6 million per hour and accounting for 1 in 11 jobs…….comparing these figures to the figure of £10,000 per annum that represents the average earnings of an artist is alarming. It shows how the artists creating the art are valued significantly lower than the people who mediate the art for public consumption”.
Happy New Year to you all!!