Monday, August 30, 2010
Surviving The Storm
If yesterday's post, written in the early hours of the morning, ended on a plaintive, self-pitying note, today's post, written just before midnight, reflects a rather different mood. Let me couch it in the vernacular of my rural upbringing: right now, I feel meaner than a cut snake.This year has been the worst of my life: annus horribilis doesn't even begin to describe it. A manic break drove me to destroy the works of half a life-time as the new year began. A few weeks later, I was committed to a psychiatric clinic. With no income and no sign of my being able to generate one for a while, my accountants filed a petition for bankruptcy. Whatever I hadn't already destroyed was seized by the state-appointed trustees handling my insolvency: books, photographs, small sculptures, unsigned studies and sketches, and half-finished paintings went under the hammer at a series of low-key auctions, to be cherry-picked at fire sale, 'no reserve' prices by savvy punters. For a time, the value of all my work in the secondary market was affected. I was discharged from the clinic after three months of largely ineffective medication and therapy. Still fragile, I was able to support myself only because of generous commissions from a handful of loyal collectors. I had just got back into a productive routine in a new Sydney studio when I found out that my father's cancer, diagnosed six months before, had metastasized and he was unlikely to survive the year. I decided to return to Brisbane to be closer to him. I have remained there ever since.I could have kept all this stuff to myself. I chose not to because a raw, unedited, ongoing narrative of my life is elemental to my identity as an artist. If I began editing those parts of it I find embarrassing, discomforting or painful, it might undermine my credibility. Too bad if the narrative occasionally provokes a delicious rush of schadenfreude among the many who dislike my art and my public persona. I have pissed off a great number of people – my decision not to take the traditional route when it comes to marketing and selling my art has put me at loggerheads with well-known dealers, curators, critics, and big money collectors and let's face it, I don't suffer fools, bullshitters or misogynists gladly. The last few months have been grist to a relentless mill of ill-informed and sometimes downright malicious gossip at the margins of the local art world.I expected it. The last eight months have been something of a 'perfect storm', an untimely convergence of a handful of intense 'lows' that might yet drive my career onto a reef. And while I think I might have weathered the worst of it, there is still enough uncertainty to make me prickly with fear – and to have my detractors rubbing their hands in gleeful anticipation of a chance to pick through the wreckage. The mere thought of that has pissed me off and galvanised a determination not to come to grief. I'm not going to heave to and let the tempest rage around me. I'm strong enough – and talented enough – to survive, to remain intact. I'm going to throw caution to the wind, set more canvas and sail my way off the looming shore. There's no way I'm not going to raise those far-flung ports to which I set a course when I was still a teenager.As André Gide put it, "One does not discover new lands without consenting to lose sight of the shore for a very long time." And new lands are where not only reputations and fortunes are made but legends as well.