Poetry = Conflict (and that's a good thing)

"I see the play so lies that I must bear a part"

The Winter’s Tale - Shakespeare

'A Frogman in the Garden Barrel' 20cm x 20cm Photo Collage on Paper 2017

Those reading these blogs may have noticed a certain discombobularity in the sentiments I have been trying to articulate recently. I understood this while I was writing and did not want to whitewash the thought process of an artist in the intoxicating midst of his daily turmoil.

I think things need to be bashed out this way and shared in order to see more clearly what one is trying to say.

These past few weeks two conflicting ideas have been at war with one another.

The optimistic belief in the achievability of a Utopic existence VS the power of our innate preference of conflict over boredom. Conflict will out! It's more interesting! Poetry is nothing without it. Art is nothing without it. And Utopia as I have posited twice already would have no place for anything superfluosly creative unless for practical or decorative purposes.

The other thing which has been occupying my mind-pump is the desire to be completely truthful about my feelings without whining.

The artist Chantelle Goldthwaite put it brilliantly in a video post on the terrific Facebook page 'The Becoming Artist Birthing Room with Jessica Serran'. I encourage you to take a look at what Chantelle has to say as regards our uninvited but frequent visitors here - the 'Shit Talkers'.

"I ask myself, ‚What Story are you telling? Am I telling ‚Oh I’m a sad artist and no one will come to my exhibition and life’s rough and being creative is hard and money sucks and I don’t have enough money and everyone wants money from me. Is this the story I am telling? Because if that's the story I am telling that is exactly the shit I am going to get back. The story I want to tell is ‚Hey this is fun! Doing this is fun. I love doing this.‘"

We are here to stay, play and win. You want to paint about your lack of self knowledge, self-awareness, self-confidence, self-worth, self-esteem?

'Shit Talkers' 20cm x 20cm Felt on Paper 2017

One can have this internal and external discussion again and again, it doesn't ever change the fact that the artist would rather do something than nothing. That is of course one of the artist's main weaknesses as well as his over-riding strength.

Don't worry about making everything perfect, about trying to make things which will be 'great'; that is for others to do for you. It is not your job.

You just do what you do and do not be afraid to look for or ask for help.

Ideas won't always hit their target but you know, there are plenty out there who will help shift those targets to your advantage if you keep flinging those brain-burps-made-physical with the gay abandon of a clueless child.

The art and the artist must be fetishised and you can’t fetishize yourself. You can try, but you won’t reach!

It’s about learning to juggle. Juggle your conflicting ideas to create something of a spectacle, something more beautiful, more palatable than the jarring arguments that would stand alone and beat you to the ground or else encase you in a fantastical bubble of over indulgent worthiness. If you drop some of those ideas during your performance don’t sweat it.

Conflicting ideas and conflicting images and titles reflect beautiful things even peace cannot conjure

Everything is out there to be used. The world is our material and the only thing that really flows is our time here at the epicentre of this perfectly imperfect storm.

Which brings me to my next point.

Conflict and Style.

I have finished the last painting of my 'Artist As…' series - Artist as Master of Disguises.

This is the end of what turns out to have been a two and a half year long epic visual essay on The Role of the Artist which has spanned over three distinct projects; 'What we do After the Revolution', '333 Paintings' and 'Artist As…'.

Here I have embarked upon complimentary themes offered in very conflicting styles. On the surface they mainly appear to conflict directly with the collage-style work I was doing before my 'Haitus' in Vietnam.

Artist as Master of Disguise is about process as much as it is about persona in much the same way that I intend for these blogs to reveal something of the methodology of artists and the underlying human simplicity of attempting to deal with and in turn simplify our devilishly complex philosophies.

Artist as Master of Disguises.

This is a fitting final piece to a complex project since it illustrates the main theme of almost all my recent paintings. In it we see the inner workings of the painting and get an impression of the plethora of masks people wear every day. Whether I am playing Michael as Teacher, Michael as Artist, Michael as Husband, Michael as Salesman, Brother, Son, Friend…

I would like it to be remembered also that despite the choice of the name 'artist’ in the titles, these reflections are projected images of all of us regardless of profession or position.

Different masks for different occasions are worn by all but we are still one underneath. KNOW your disguises.

KNOW your characters. KNOW your roles. There are many bad elements to be dealt with too but they are all one in the end.

A friend from the art world told me recently that there is no separation between the honest, sincere, real artist Michael and the promoter, salesman, 'razzle-dazzle 'em' Michael. Neither of these roles are beyond my metamorphosing capabilities, nor anyone else‘s for that matter.

We put on the masks and we perform for others whether we like it or not. Every word that comes out of our mouths is a kind of mask after all.

You must be a sort of poet or artist to use these symbols with any semblance of reliability.

Choose your audience. Play to your strengths. You are one and the same; Martyr, Child, Dreamer, Recluse, Conduit, Clicktivist, Artist, Pioneer, Storteller and Master of Disguises.

Embracing the conflict

“No method nor discipline can supersede the necessity of being forever on the alert. What is a course of history, or philosophy, or poetry, no matter how well selected, or the best society, or the most admirable routine of life, compared with the discipline of looking at what is to be seen?” Walden - Henry David Thoreau

'Blank Canvas' 20cm x 20cm Pencil on Manila 2017

The same thing goes for artist’s styles and their body of work as it does their persona.

A Studio space is valuable for so many reasons but one of the most important has to be that it allows you to see all your work in one place. Here one can reflect upon the links between past, present and future projects.

As I look at my collection of more than ten years of work I gradually peel back the layers to see things even I missed in the process.

They are all about the inner world. Rarely about my immediate surroundings. Influences from world literature, cinema, theatre, art, television, music, news and social media are prominent but only as reflected ideas not literal interpretations.

At this point in my life I can't imagine painting trees and countryside and street scenes. When I am in the countryside I want to BE in the countryside.

In my studio I can travel anywhere I want, much like the convict Darrell Standing in Jack London’s The Star Rover.

Why limit oneself to 'reality' when in search of beauty and inspiration? Especially when reality is such a temporary and fragile little liar.

Eberhard Havekost showed us the many different styles he had produced in just the last ten years in his recent Rudolfinum exhibition LOGIK which I wrote about in an earlier blog. This was a bold statement which suggested that just because you change methods or styles from one week to the next does not lessen the solidity and focus of one’s general artistic purpose.

The people in the my What we do After the Revolution pictures were BEING there. Not disturbing the fabric of their peaceful moments; which is what I want the viewer to experience when they stand in front of them. It is also what I want for myself more than anything.


'You should put an explanation next to the painting on the wall that says what you just told us about the Duchamp thing and how you painted these from random photos like 'found objects' beacause you wanted the picture to be anti-theist and apolitical and for the viewer to be faced with themselves standing in front of a painting which would go some way to emphasise the importance of one’s own world view and the beauty of the present. Can you remember that?"

For all the mental 'Shit Talking' we receive, we are also occasionally placated by a little encouragement in the guise of 'perspective' and the seemingly disparate pieces finally fall into place.

The 'Artist As…' series showed me the masks we wish we didn’t have to wear, the masks we must wear and the masks we enjoy wearing. It was another series of self reflective paintings which had the same underlying purpose as the 'Revolution' paintings.

And then there is the '333 Paintings' series which are daily touchstones on my current state of mind. The permutations of mood made visible.

'Alternative Left' 20cm x 20cm Photograph on Paper 2017

To be immersed in each project is to pay close attention to one's current work.

To take the time to look over everything. To reflect. This is priceless.

Season Finale

Jim Stark - Why do we do this?

Buzz Gunderson – Well you gotta do something, don’t you?

Rebel Without a Cause (1955)

It is not enough for 'art' to just be though.

Art must be shared and enjoyed and discussed and explained.

If I am to play the game I must embrace this.

To be an artist is to be an entertaining educator, a healer, a mental masseuse, tough-nut bootcamp trainer, and above all a hard worker.

None of this is easy but the rewards are incalculable.

"Perhaps art could be defined as the ability of a person to join up naturally occurring complexity into something beautiful." Carl Roland – Father/Architect/Artist/Eco Warrior

You have a choice: Strive to survive as a poet and an artist or else BE the content human you would strive to be if you were to become a poet or an artist!

Like I said, it’s not easy but it’s a hell of a lot of fun and I love love love doing it.

'Living Room Sketch' 20cm x 20cm Pen on Paper 2017

Orit Ishay

Země Jelena / Deer Country

6/6 – 10/9/ 2017

Galerie Hlavniho Města Prahy

Dům Fotografie

Curator – Dalia Levin

On the matter of storytelling I must make mention of my friend and curator's spoken tour of Orit Ishay’s fascinating first solo exhibition in the Museum of Photography on Revolucni street.

"What story do you want to tell?" Chantelle asks herself. "What story is it telling?" Asks the viewer. Hagai Segev answered this question with consummate ease and admirable erudition. He also, with Chantelle's help, finally hammered home to me the importance of getting my own story straight before I try to share it. People really do want to know.

Let's take this particular exhibition as a case in point. Orit’s work is by not what you might describe as 'accessible at first sight'.

Enter Hagai.

His clarification of not only the process but the influence and purpose of the largely surreal, abstracted elements in her blown up photos and poetic video art was invaluable as a gallery visitor.

Most of the pieces had explanatory notes close by but getting the gen' from a close acquaintance of the artist and an expert art historian himself is a major bonus.

This I would add can be more rewarding than having the artist try to explain their own work to the public.

As I said, it is not really the artist's job; though they may try. Remember there are people to do that for the artist. What the artist must be proficient at is making his 'story' resonate with these experts who are there to help where 'the public' are involved.

I will emphasise the notion that it can be ruinously difficult to try to do this sort of work with no support.

Orit’s work concerns Israeli national identity as well as global political, social and security related themes.

There is a unique vision and a cool, serious eye controlling the mixed elements in this show. The hand behind the work is steady and focused and each piece unfolds the mystery as well as guilds the enigmatic qualities of the works which preceed them as you walk around this extremely well paced exhibition a thousand miles away from the busy street on the other side of the gallery door.

I enjoy showing people the Prague art scene and what it represents and presents to us.

Simple stories. Short messages. Quick news. Small Aha! moments, guidance, encouragement and perhaps a little exhilaration.

So if you have a group of friends who have the same interests, let them know about this blog and follow me on Facebook.

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