Thursday, August 24, 2006

Subjective Vs. Objective

At my recent solo show, Venus In Hell, at MARS Gallery, in Melbourne, I overheard two young women, both artists, discussing my work. One of them was visibly unsettled by the graphic sexuality of some of the images, and the undercurrent of violence, and she wondered aloud about my mental and emotional stability. “Well, I guess we all feel that way from time to time,” her friend replied. “It’s just that we don’t feel the need to paint it like she does!” Which got me wondering, if an artist wants to avoid the conflicts and contradictions of their interior life, what’s the point of making art at all?
I examined this a little in my recent esssay for the Griffith REVIEW: “The conceptualist American artist, Jeff Koons, who was once a highly paid marketing executive, insists that art has been too subjective in the past, too concerned with the messy, emotive sprawl of self-expression, as opposed to what he calls objective art, art so sanitised of the germy interior life of the artist that his or her only role in its creation is an idea. The actual making of the finished work, the elements of craftsmanship, are, for him, best left up to others, preferably others who have no real interest or engagement with the artist other than interpreting his instructions with as much technical precision as possible. In Koons’ world, being able to draw or paint or shape a material is a drawback: traditional skills are a distraction from the process of conception; they are too easily subverted by the awkward, unrefined impulses of inspiration that dance at an unpredictable tempo within an artist’s heart and psyche.”

I am
so not into this approach. The work I’m drawn to most often – in art, photography, music, literature or film – is intensely personal and inextricable from the artist’s every day life: if anything, the more diaristic it is, especially when it comes to words and images, the better. Lately, I’ve been experimenting with text, photography, and video to tap more directly into my everyday, not necessarily to create art in these media but to attempt to trace the seismic jitters of my psyche as a reference for future work.
As a friend of mine wrote in an autobiographical piece published last year (part of which I quote in an inscription on one of the paintings in the Venus In Hell show): “I read somewhere that the science fiction writer Philip K. Dick once argued that if two people dream the same dream, it isn’t a dream anymore – it signifies the existence of an alternative reality ... The insane always occupy multiple realities: their internal narratives are always different to their actual or external experiences.”In my case, I am trying to keep my story straight so I can retell it in my art.


janey said...

I like the messy emotional awkward personal art. I know the artist knows what they're talking about, because they're experiencing it as they're creating the art. It's real and it's happening, it's not about some distant detached issue or time.

Jennie Rosenbaum said...

I understand Hirst and Kostabi follow the more automatic approach of Koons, starting with and idea and creating an objective work (through the use of assistants). My personal definition of art is about emotion and empathy, creating a link between the artist and the painting, and the painting and the viewer.

Those women may have been uncomfortable because your work touched something deep inside them that they don't want to acknowledge... I think art is intensely personal and no two people are going to view a piece the same way or feel the same way about it, and personally, I like it like that!