Tuesday, May 12, 2009
Pre-Socratic And Pissed
Several years ago, I came across an interview with the then Dean of Smith College, Jill Ker Conway. Born and raised in rural Australia, Ms. Conway described Australians as "pre-Socratic... they don't like to think." It took me a while to recognise that I didn't like to, either. Or rather, I did but over the years, I'd become lazy about it.I used to pride myself both on my intelligence and on my fluency in communicating ideas. However, neither were attributes encouraged in teenage girls where I grew up and by the time I was in my twenties I'd turn silent, sullen and dull-headed from the drugs and alcohol I used to ameliorate my frequent bouts of depression. The best drug of all was to avoid thinking and I soon became addicted to it, even in my art, where I settled for effect – substance overwhelmed by high concept, a simulacrum of 'smart'.I still find it hard to look at some of the paintings I produced between late 1999 and early 2001 and not wince. Even in the best of them, I recognise missed opportunities to improve them with a little more consideration about what – or maybe why – I was actually trying to paint.Sometimes, I wonder if it's not so much an Australian as a female thing. We abandon thought to focus on appearance as a way to cope with anxiety, especially when it's related to our self-esteem. We go window-shopping, get our hair done, have plastic surgery. (Maybe men resort to empty action, like sport or driving too fast or wrestling with their mates). Whatever the reason, I've been fighting hard to overcome it, along with all the other limitations I've imposed on myself through stubborness, indolence and worst, a persistent but pointless desire to be liked.