A question of posterity

"I want to make art which will stand the test of time."

Which artist hasn't thought this at one time or another?

My quandary this week - Is the idea of 'posterity' poisonous to the artist?

Take Nietzsche's famous quote,

'The maturity of man—that means, to have reacquired the seriousness that one had as a child at play.'

Kids discard their paintings and games as quickly as they invent them. Children don't keep notes and refer to them the next day when 'play time' begins. They experiment and they use what they remember spontaneously and not as a matter of course.

A child would never ask itself, '"Where will this doodle stand in 20 years time?", "What is the context in which I created this finger painting?"

Now another question arises; "What's so great about kids?!"

I know! They're mostly dickheads, despite that wonderful 'freedom' of thought and expression and action' they have over and above us repressed older sorts.

This early morning brain nugget is moreish and I'm going to keep nibbling

To take Nietzsche's quote seriously means to take children seriously and we do, us oldies, we do take seriously that niggling envy we sometimes have of those sprightly young fuckers mindless of consequences but exquisitely mindful of their precious existence.

Mindful they are and they rarely look back, and looking forward further than a day is pure abstraction.

For an adult to think that way is, more often than not, irresponsible.

For an adult artist to think that way....well, one can untie oneself from unwanted influences, negative judgements and fear of failure, can't one?

Posterity affects our choice of materials, our choice of subject matter, our relevance in galleries, our value to buyers, our comparisons to the Masters, our unhealthy attachment to and desire to repeat what we are told are our 'successful' pieces.

So there's the way things could, would, should be in the future and there's the way things are. This is how things are for me.

There is a kind of knowledge that strips whatever you do of weight and scope: for such knowledge, everything is without basis except itself. Pure to the point of abhorring even the notion of an object, it translates that extreme science according to which doing or not doing something comes down to the same thing and is accompanied by an equally extreme satisfaction: that of being able to rehearse, each time, the discovery that any gesture performed is not worth defending, that nothing is enhanced by the merest vestige of substance, that “reality” falls within the province of lunacy. Such knowledge deserves to be called posthumous: it functions as if the knower were alive and not alive, a being and the memory of a being. “It’s already in the past,” he says about all that he achieves, even as he achieves it, thereby forever destitute of the present.

Emil Cioran – The Trouble With Being Born

Working in this way I must ultimately consider what I get from other peoples‘ art I like when I am ‘experiencing‘ it.

Jessica Serran spoke recently, in one of her many engaging webinars, about the importance of understanding how you want to make someone feel when experiencing your art and how you yourself imagine feeling when your art is going to be shared.

She mentioned the feeling of being 'seen' as being crucial to an experience of art we love, the feeling that you are not alone, that someone has just normalised your own view of the world. This often happens in such a simple form too.

Listening recently, for the first time, to Syd Barrett's scattered solo pieces, underproduced records, restarts and faltering vocals was so beautiful to me. To witness the process. The deliberately unfinished, unpolished working of the human brain. I see it, hear it and read it in Joyce, Beckett, Dylan, Daniel Johnston, Jonathan Meese, Basquiat, Vic & Bob, Kenneth Anger and so many other artists and entertainers.

The temporary feel of each sentence, each word is so reassuring to me.

Such artists‘ loose approach always hints at so much more to come. As if they are saying „Don't get bogged down with this trinket when there is so much more to live for; this is a disposable sketch of a painting/a world that has already been rendered perfectly."

If I should have to think that every painting I produce must last forever I would never be able to put the brush on the canvas with anything like the confidence I do when I am convinced the painting might be worthless immediately. To paraphrase a philosopher I have been quoting with wild abandon recently; once you have realised everything is unreal why go to all the trouble to prove it.

Let it go.

Say less.

"I want to make art ------ ------- ------- ------- ------ ------ -------"


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I am committed to making this blog as snappy, fun, experimental and accessible as I can. If any of what I post, paint, paste or print resonates with you, please forward to friends and colleagues with wild abandon!

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