22 January 2008

Art stuff - not yoga

Even though I'm not real keen on Rohan's artwork (left) I felt compelled to post his artist statement below - the brutal honesty of this piece of writing is awe inspiring. Especially because it was written at the end of four years of full time visual art study.
The statement was presented to a panel of four external examiners two weeks before they were due to assess the student for the Bachelor of Visual Art award. Artists' statements serve to inform the panel of what underpins the candidates' body of artwork. The panel then assess both the candidate's work and their verbal defense of it before awarding a grade for their degree.
Read this...

"I am not an artist. I hate the institution of fine art, the lingo, the people, the galleries, and finally, finally I have decided that I hate fine art education. I’m not an aggressive, opinionated man; I have trouble arguing anything with real conviction. So I don’t use the word ‘hate’ lightly. The main thing that we must display as art students is ‘evidence of learning’ – a superior of mine has repeated this like a mantra. Over the course of this degree, in particular the last few years, I have tried to learn things, honestly I have. It hasn’t worked, I haven’t learned anything about my work - its context within the realms of art and thought, its very meaning, how it reflects upon society…

Oh, I have skimmed over texts, taken quotes that I could reasonably tack onto essays about subjects that I could claim have some bearing on my work, but it has all been sputum, lies upon lies digested and regurgitated until at times I believed it myself. I began to partake in the complex shared delusion of people in the art world, but I never did it well, because some part of me didn’t let my mind fall completely into the quagmire. I still became dismayed when I saw a shit artist become successful - that contradiction would shine like a beacon of rationality in the grim marshes of pretentious discourse and intellectual masturbation – and I will admit it, I am not intellectual. My friend on the dole in his dirty flat is much brighter than me. After five years in total, I realise that I am utterly incapable of academic thought. So yes, this venom is based on the deep dismay of my own foolishness, but that does not mean I can’t feel passionate disdain for the institutions I elected as the vessels for this fall.

People don’t take my work seriously, which used to upset me – that was when I was embroiled in the delusion. The penny dropped as my major essay was defecated upon for the second time – it was ‘bad’, ‘cute’, ‘very strange’… these are adjectives a student doesn’t want to hear about his major essay, his last hope of retaining some dignity after years of confusion and self-doubt. But truly, my critic was right. I can no longer attempt to cling to these insubstantial morsels of theory and construct some kind of ludicrous story for the way my drawings and paintings have ‘progressed’. In fact they really haven’t progressed at all, they are essentially the same as my angst-ridden high school ejaculates, only slightly larger and way more expensive to make. The claim that I have progressed is another of those fundamental lies that I have managed to choke on for at least two years, and to tell the truth would have been academic suicide.

I can see it all clearly now: I could stay on track, stick to my lies, maybe even give them more depth, and appear as a mediocre graduate at best. Or I could use the truth, and make a cataclysmic, heroic balls-up of the entire thing. So here is the truth. My work is self-indulgent and devoid of intellect. The paintings are generally conceived in moments of frustration, extreme melancholia or some other irrational state. They are essentially self-portraits; I am inspired in moments when I wish I wasn’t such a coward that I could beat myself to concussion, when I wish I could spit toxic bile at the wall and make it corrode. I’d refer to expressionism but I don’t have the intellectual authority. They are an alternative to an act of mutilation, and I’d refer to abjection but I wouldn’t know what on earth I was talking about. I could do some research to justify my paintings in an artistic, social or intellectual context, but as I have said, I simply cannot do that. It would be like punching a stranger in the face without warning, and then calmly explaining in a reasonable fashion your reasons for doing so. It would be like asking your girlfriend, mid coitus, if she would do anal and then citing a philosopher for intellectual backup. You don’t make an act of passion (or perversion) and then ‘display learning’ - it’s preposterous!

As for my drawings, well. The iconography and style is tapped directly from popular culture. It doesn’t ‘refer’, ‘appropriate’, ‘satirise’ or ‘make a comment’ on pop, it doesn’t have foundations in the pop art or any other art movement. It’s just pure vanilla coke, pokemon, converse sneakers, bubble-gum, porno, mountain dew, horror, sci-fi, red bull, lord of the rings, mainstream pop. It is the culture I was exposed to, the streets I walk in, the manga I fed on, the epic fantasy books I continue to tee up every night like crack, the heavy metal I bang my head to when I’m drunk. It’s my friends, my computer, and my pack of longbeach original. It’s my irritable bowels. It’s a stream of consciousness, yes like the surrealists (evidence of learning? No, I just got lucky and found a snippet of theory). I draw things exploding, vast landscapes of viscera and disembowelled electronic devices, and in the past I rattled about the sublime. But I hate Kant and I missed the point of Gericault’s ‘Raft of the Medusa’, so I won’t attempt to discuss these things lest my ignorance be discovered.

I endeavoured to portray destruction, the human civilization gnawing on its own sphincter until it was raw and sore - hundreds of cartoonish figures, powerless and swept forward on a tide of progress, innocent as individuals and yet somehow accountable for some inevitable desecration that would challenge the foundations of love and beauty. I never said any of this, for fear of all the questions that would follow. I’m not into didacticism or Al Gore’s film about global warming. The drawings are just stories, narratives, mental flotsam.

In conclusion, I hate art and art school, but I hope that one day I will be able to love art again.

In a hollow, burnt-out hall, a wastrel dances amid green lasers and smoke, it is 5am and most of them have withered into mattresses, goaded by fatigue into cabs like hearses, but still he dances, clutching and spilling his beer, desperate in his intent, to deny waking life and cling to the ragged edges of night, the ragged edges of joy –
then through the black blinds and out onto the balcony which is drenched in sunlight, to his shock and wonder – the tops of buildings are painted in gold, the air is electric before the city is seared with the heat of a summers day – his senses suddenly sharpen like a blade, he witnesses life on the street below as people who have just woken emerge, as the street cleaner heralds the dawn with a steady beep and hum – the weight of lucidity threatens to topple him, he torturously pushes a cigarette between his lips and must clench his bowels as he feels a surge of excess –
there are others like him, pallid and frayed, equally as bewildered by the sun as if it were some scientific phenomenon, because for hours they have forgotten that the earth moves."

Rohan was awarded a High Distinction overall and he graduated with Honours...
Bravo!!!! Let Truth prevail.


Yogamum said...

I felt like standing up and applauding after reading that!

Bravo indeed!

gartenfische said...

Yay for honesty!

Yay yay yay!