Wednesday, 22 September 2010

One Among Many

As a postscript to my previous post, this is a painting that came directly from the experience of my rejection by the selection committee for the Discerning Eye exhibition.
After I climbed those basement stairs, with my bags of paintings swinging from my hands, I meandered along to the Mall Galleries, where I would have shown in November, had I been accepted. It is one of my favourite galleries because the cafe is in the centre, so you can drink your coffee and entertain lofty thoughts about the work around you. On this day it was the prestigious Threadneedle Exhibition, which I'd been tempted to submit work to. I realised that my work would not have fitted the tone of this show.
This realisation instantly offered an idea for a new painting. I made an emotional little drawing in biro about being just a number among many, and the eternal fight to carve an identity, artistically, personally and creatively. In today's ever-homogenised world, I believe that many people feel that they are merely a tiny and unimportant part of an impersonal machine. This is why many of my figures have towels over their heads.
('One Among Many,' Oil and acrylic on canvas, 51cm x 41cm. 2010)

Tuesday, 21 September 2010

Dread and Inspiration

Friday September 10th.

I woke up with a stupid knot of dread in my stomach. It slowly worked its way through my whole body, as I opened my eyes and realised that I had to go to London to collect my rejected paintings. My first thought was, 'Oh no, everyone will see that I'm collecting ALL SIX paintings!' Then as daylight and my pink orchids shimmered before my eyes, it occurred to me, 'Who exactly is everyone?' It wasn't as if the whole of the world was going to mutate into some composite being, (there's an idea for a painting!), which was going to sit there jeering as I collected my pictures. This realisation was calming, as it made me reflect on how one is viewed, or thinks one is viewed. How many people have to like you, or what you do, in order for it to be valid?

Before I went to collect the work, I was lucky enough to see an exhibition of drawings by one of my favourite English painters, Keith Vaughan (who died in 1977). As I entered Gallery 27, in Cork Street, Keith's rich visual energies enfolded me, and instantly I felt all the potential for creativity return. That's what good art does for you - it gives a sense of life, and its onward flow. As I admired this artist's work, I felt a kind of encouragement from each drawing, as if it was saying, 'You never fail, because there's always the next painting.'

As I stepped down into the dark basement where artists were queuing to collect work, several sad faces peered at me. They were all feeling that sting of rejection. No one jeered, no one passed judgement. Silently I wrapped the six paintings. It didn't really matter that I'd been rejected because I knew I'd done exactly what I set out to do in each painting. Even as I walked back up the narrow steps, I had the next paintings in front of my eyes, and could hardly wait to get home to start them.
(Paintings: 'Autumn Stripes,' and 'Flooded Fields.')

Wednesday, 8 September 2010

Other Artist's Successes

When I began this blog my aim was to describe my experiences without any sugar coatings! I'd read many artist's blogs and most of them sparkled with glowing reports of this and that success, each one creating a picture of a logically developing career, with step by step success. I know of artists whose careers do in fact progress from one success to another, and of course success tends to snowball, as people start to see your name repeated at different venues. I've often wondered if my own struggles were a rarity, and it crossed my mind that maybe my work wasn't good enough. Over the years I've been to numerous exhibitions to see what is actually accepted, and I've come to believe that there are many artists who don't get noticed simply because they don't fit the bill of what is wanted, or the selectors' tastes. The narrow band of acceptance will always be defined by these things, which can sometimes be at odds with artistic merit or aesthetic merit, and certainly it's not an even playing field. And so we go onwards.

Today I received yet another rejection notice, this time from the Discerning Eye Exhibition (a prestigious annual show which takes place at the Mall Galleries each November). I don't want this blog to degenerate into a bitter and twisted tirade along the lines of 'I never get work accepted for anything, I'm one of life's unrecognised artists!' So I tried to keep a balanced outlook as I opened this notice. Then I saw the dreaded and heavily written R in front of each of the 6 works I'd submitted. I felt a sharp pang of disappointment followed by disbelief. I squinted to see if perhaps one of these R's was really an A, but no such luck! I was drinking coffee in my favourite cafe, a new ploy to prepare myself for the inevitable jolt, and my mind stumbled for a few moments, seeking some kind of explanation or reassurance. Then I remembered something. An artist friend told me recently how she'd seen a painting that was rejected from a famous show one year, but went on to be accepted the following year, and won the top prize. There is no rhyme or reason, it comes down to the tastes of the selectors.