Tuesday, June 15, 2010

Last Woman Standing

I've been back into my usual Sydney routine for less than a week and now I'm packing to leave again. I am flying to Melbourne tomorrow. I'm to be filmed in an interview with Michael Short, who edits a new multimedia section called The Zone for The Age newspaper, and I have meetings with galleries and collectors. I'll stay at The Cullen, one of the Art Series Hotels, as a guest of the owners.
I spent the morning cleaning a handful of my Renewed Originals acrylic on paper studies before they're consigned to buyers in four countries. Nothing leaves my studio in less than pristine condition but one drawback of my new studio is the amount of dust that infiltrates it and settles on every exposed surface, including drying painting. The painstaking task of inspecting and (sometimes) re-coating each work is slow and mind-numbing.
Later in the day, I had to surrender myself to my accountant, a hard-headed but immensely intelligent, perceptive woman who is a director of a leading 'wealth management' firm headquartered in Sydney's central business district. We sat opposite each other across a a conference table covered with files spilling balance sheets, expense reports, tax statements and correspondence from the trustee administering my bankruptcy.
There was good news: I was making headway in my financial recovery. There was also bad: I was going to have to work even harder over the next 12 months to repay back-taxes and to ensure a measure of stability. "You're selling your work too cheaply," she told me, in much the same tone a mother might admonish a recalcitrant child. I protested and reminded her of my recent high prices at auction. She offered a thin smile then showed me a spreadsheet where material costs for my largest enamel series totalled tens of thousands of dollars.
In the evening, I went to the gym for an hour of merciless cardio' and weights training. I used to think I was pushing myself physically to get my body back in shape and maybe to still my troubled mind. Now I realise I'm hardening myself up like a boxer for a long-coveted title fight.
As a famous Australian writer once observed, somewhat cynically, "If there's a secret to success in the arts, it's being the last man standing." Or woman.

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