I've been very withdrawn this week. This has been reflected in fewer entries here. When I'm unhappy or troubled, I clam up. I throw myself into work. But sometimes trying to ignore a problem, especially an emotional one, is a bad idea. I spoke to my father a few days ago. Our conversations are rarely about my art or my career but he knows that I've been under a lot of financial pressure lately. Technical mistakes in my studio, which I've written about here before, have been costly in every respect: I have had to spend a great deal on new materials and at the same time, forego new income while I repair or repaint some large works. I've always prided myself on the quality of finish – and durability – of my enamel works and its important to me that no second-rate work finds itself into collectors' hands. No matter what it costs.My father had called to offer me money. I turned it down. We have fallen out over money before. I've learned that, with him, there are always strings attached.
Having refused his help, our conversation soon degenerated into a fight. He told me what a failure I am and that I should have handled my career the way he had told me to. The trouble is, what he had told me, five years ago, was that I should give up art. This was after a widely reviewed and much-publicised show, Self Vs. Self, at a well-regarded gallery failed to return what I'd invested in it. He considered that a disaster. My father judges my success by the amount of money in my account and the number of my own paintings that I hold. Instead, I've invested in expanding my studio, increasing the number of my assistants and producing my own exhibitions and events. I prefer that my work is on the walls of collectors rather than in my store-room. My father doesn't understand that paintings don't just go up or down in value on their own. Their value is directly related to the amount of work I put in. At this stage of my career, paintings stashed in a store room do nothing for me whereas paintings in collections build awareness and appreciation of my work. Besides, I'm an artist, not a banker or stockbroker. Communication of my ideas is important to me. My father would regard this argument as ridiculous.In the middle of our increasingly bitter exchange, I mentioned the high price my work achieved at auction, at Christies in London, in December last year, despite a worsening economic climate. My father told me that meant nothing. All that mattered, he said, was how much money I had in my hand. The huge gulf between our values was suddenly so stark that I didn't know what to say anymore. I told him, simply, that I was proud of what I'd accomplished – especially as I'd accomplished much of it alone. His rage amplified and he hung up.Sadly, more and more, my relationship with my father has deteriorated as I have become my own person and made decisions that reflect who I am rather than who he thinks I should be. My father used to ask me why I was so quiet and didn't speak my mind. It was because when I did say what I thought, he didn't like it.My father doesn't really like the person I am and I don't like the person he wants me to be. He can't accept me as I am but I can't pretend to be someone else. What I can do is accept the way things are between us and ignore what he says to – or about – me. Which prompts me to admit the only untruth I have ever told in this blog. After the opening of my PORNO exhibition, last year, I wrote that my father told me he was proud of me. He didn't. He had looked pleased and I had really wanted him to say he was proud. In fact, all he told me was that his favourite exhibition was my first, ten years ago. Now I feel foolish for inventing what I'd wanted so badly to be true. It's time for me to accept the reality that it isn't and move on.