Sunday, September 09, 2007

The Way I Was, And Am Again

I came across an old black and white photograph of myself, taken when I was about 18. I was living away from my family, although I didn't really have a home of my own, just rooms I rented at different times in half a dozen different apartments around Brisbane's grotty, working class suburbs. I had just committed to taking myself more seriously as an artist and I was working towards my first exhibition. I was idealistic, angry and what my few friends at the time described as 'intense'. If I wasn't entirely certain of who I was yet – what 18-year-old ever was? – I was damn sure of who I wasn't and any attempt to argue compromise with me was met with sullen contempt. I wasn't exactly easy to deal with then but I liked who I was becoming. I relished the hardcore resolve within me.
I don't know what happened to me over the next few years – actually, I do but I'm not ready to write about it yet. I lost my inner compass and self-confidence. I continued to work. I earned some critical and financial success. But more and more I was persuaded (by people for whom, in retrospect, I had very little respect) that I had to submit to convention, to become more user-friendly, to accept that art and, increasingly, artists were just another high-priced commodity to be packaged and sold.
By the time I was in my early '20s, I was a mess. When my
Self Vs. Self show at the John Buckley Gallery in Melbourne bombed – it received good critical notices but it was another year before all the works sold – I fell into a depression so deep that my whole personality disintegrated. I gave up art and went to work in a shoe shop.
I've come full circle during the past three years. I've recovered my desire to make art by resolving not to compromise, not to listen to what middle-aged men in suits tell me is the 'right way' to manage my career and not to say 'yes' to anything that doesn't feel right, no matter how much money or publicity is on offer. I've also begun to exert greater control on how I market and sell my art, disintermediating the connection between my collectors and me and making my art and myself, as the artist, more accessible. In a sense, I've deconstructed the process that's often the biggest obstacle to most artists making a decent living. I made it work for me – the 'me' I wanted to be – rather than the other way around.
According to some, I'm once again not too easy to deal with. But I like who I'm becoming.


Daniel Sanger said...

Great photo:) I look at who was at 18 and am certain it was a different person to who I have become or becoming:)

drips of paint said...

This is a success story .. if not apparent on the outside it is an internal glory ... often hero were not set out to be but made in the process ... the journey is never ending and just want you to know that your trail is much appreciated by some.

You have taken the plunge at 18 and that to me, the passion & courage is want count .. the twist and turn that it encompass are simply what they are ... keys to unlocking your inner spirit and your art.

I do understand that an artist has to deal with the commercial aspect of life and so enjoy reading your steering through this maze ... it is an inspiration to me.