As a busy and productive year comes to an end, and having finally landed on my own sofa for a while, with a little space and time to think, I have found myself wandering the web, in search of something – traces of some refreshing proposal or idea that I have missed, that might bring me that smile of recognition, and help blown away the dust that seems to have collected on some of my thoughts – like a breath of artistic fresh air.
Tired as I am, I think I still have enough self awareness to understand that I am really looking for a spark in my own thoughts, rather than encouragement from others. But, even so, for now, the search seems to have cast more shadows than light.
When the accumulating clips of copy and documentation start to provoke cautionary voices from the past, it is probably best just to look away.
These last few days it has been echoes of Sol Lewitt that have been whispering warnings to me as I explore. “Banal ideas cannot be rescued by beautiful execution, while it is difficult to bungle a good idea” I hear him say, “what the work looks like isn’t too important, it has to look like something if it has physical form, but no matter what form it may finally have it must begin with an idea” – “the idea becomes a machine that makes the art” – “not theoretical or illustrative of theories” – “new materials are one of the great afflictions of contemporary art, some artists confuse new materials with new ideas” – and finally, “one usually understands the art of the past by applying the conventions of the present, thus misunderstanding the art of the past”.
To which I can only add my own concerns at possibilities in the present being misunderstood – or just missed – through conventions assumed from the past. Having old modernist voices returned to my mind with an “I told you so” edge, is always disheartening – however insightful and pragmatic the particular statements might be.
So I have decided to stop looking, and spend a bit of time drawing and listening to The Fall. Which is helping.
And, as the same echo also reminds me, “if the statements I make are unclear it may mean the thinking is unclear”.
Image: Mike Brookes, ‘a piece of cake’, oil on canvas, 30.5cm x 35.5cm, 2004 – from the ongoing small dilemmas series.