Tuesday, July 13, 2010
"When you look into an abyss, the abyss also looks into you."– Friedrich NietzscheLately I've been finding elements of my life really fucking confronting. Everything is in flux. Nothing is certain. Life is often like this but after all I've been through in the past year – the slow unravelling of my mind, the several weeks I spent in hospital, my inescapable bankruptcy the diagnosis of my father's cancer – I've been left with meagre emotional resources to be able to withstand much more. Then again, there's nothing quite like watching the one person I thought might live forever confront their imminent mortality to shatter child-like notions of immutability. stability. I realise now how time is so easily lost or, worse, wasted. I've spent the last year in some kind of fatalistic stupor. Fearful of a future in which my natural independence and solitude might isolate me, I tried in vain to jury-rig a safe, socialised structure to protect myself instead of just embracing the occupational risks – creative, emotional, financial – of making art for a living. It leached me of energy and daring. And when it failed, I fell into the role of a powerless, frightened victim.I've spent the past several weeks caring for my father in a city that is one of art's stagnant backwaters. I stopped painting for a while. I even thought of stopping for good. All the determination I once had dissolved into self-pity. It took a random image in my head of my half-paralysed, tumour-ridden father facing down death with grace and good humour to bring me to my senses.Instead of stopping painting, I stopped hiding out. Yesterday, I finalised dates for the first of several solo exhibitions next year, both within Australia and elsewhere. The first will be at MARS Gallery in Port Melbourne, Victoria, from 10th to 20th November, featuring the first new enamels I have shown in public since 2004. The second, opening on 12th November at Latrobe Contemporary Gallery in Morwell, Victoria, will coincide with a number of local events and workshops focussing on my experiments with other media. I'm working both forward and backwards from those dates to organise other exhibitions to bridge the second half of 2011 and the first half of 2012. I'm re-thinking my schedule to enable me to complete all my outstanding commissions by the end of 2010. Logistics are always a mind-fuck, especially when they involve shipping several dozen works to different locations, but I am already getting my head around the hassle – and the gob-smacking cost. I'm determined to make a more space for the future by paring down what I've kept of the past. I've decided to rid myself of piles of sketches, studies, and works on paper done since I was discharged from hospital. In part, it will help to finance the space and material I need to make new work, It'll also unleash me from old ideas, old methodologies: even reference materials for past works have been catalogued and packed away in archive boxes at a storage facility in Sydney. I've decided to live in much the same way as I work. When I make art, I start with an idea of what I would like to do. I know it won't turn out exactly as I imagined but if I worried too much about that at the outset, the idea wouldn't be realised at all. It isn't always sucessful. It doesn't always work. But sometimes it turns into something much more than I first imagined. The key is to keep moving – even if it isn't always forward – to avoid stasis.Longing for certainty is common to all of us. I have never longed for it so hard or so often as I have during the past year or so – until it struck me that the absence of this longing is exactly what sets the artist apart from everyone else. It might be comforting but it offers no provocation, no challenge. The truly creative not only adapt and evolve in response to uncertainty, they relish it. They might be disciplined in their work habits but inspiration is often unruly and unreliable. Attempts to control it, to corral it, make dull art. An ability to collaborate with uncertainty has always been the mark of a great artist.As my father is teaching me, the only real certainty is death. Like him, I intend to spend every day of the rest of my life facing it down.