Wednesday, October 11, 2006
Nothing Left To Lose
Yesterday, I accepted three commissions for large-scale paintings which, on top of several other private commissions and exhibition commitments, have closed out my schedule for 2007. I will now have to tell clients and galleries that I'm unable to look at any new projects before January, 2008 – and maybe later, if I decide to spend Christmas, next year, in Brazil, where I want to join a samba school and dance in one of the Carnival parades. I am still a little gob-smacked by how quickly all this has happened. Eighteen months ago, I was working part-time in a clothing shop to make ends meet. I was living with my father and trying to recover from a debilitating mental breakdown. I hadn't touched a paint brush in almost six months. My last solo exhibition at the John Buckley Gallery in Melbourne, in 2004, had been a bust – it took a year to sell all the paintings – and at least a couple of artists and gallerists I knew were already talking about my career as an artist in the past sense. Hell, I was, too. There was nothing in my life then that suggested any reason for optimism. What got me off my sorry ass and working again was the opportunity to paint... a skateboard. Thanks to the artist, William Quigley, I was the only foreigner among 75 artists and celebrities – everyone from Julian Schnabel, William Wegman and Tony Alva, to Peter Beard, Robin Williams and 50 Cent – invited to submit a hand-painted skateboard to be auctioned for the benefit of the Boarding For Breast Cancer charity. The boards were exhibited in a show entitled Style Sessions at Milk Studios on West 15th Street in New York, and on the big night, my board attracted one of the three highest bids (which equalled what one of my large paintings were worth then). A month after the auction, I quit my job and decided to leave Melbourne for Sydney. I committed to the idea of being an artist – or die trying. As I packed up my few possessions, I couldn't help thinking of this passage from Goethe: "Until one is committed, there is hesitancy, the chance to draw back, always ineffectiveness. Concerning all acts of initiative (and creation), there is one element of truth, the ignorance of which kills countless ideas and spelndid plans – that moment one commits oneself, then providence moves all. "All sorts of things occur ton help one that would never otherwise have occurred. A whole stream of events issues from the decision, raising in one's favour all manner of unseen incidents and meetings and material assistance which no man would have dreamed could have come his way. "Whatever you can do or dream you can do, begin it. Boldness has genius, power and magic in it. Begin in it now."