Friday, 8 April 2016

For the Love of God

I recently watched Damien Hirsts’ documentary -Thoughts, Work, Life (2012). It struck me how much emphasis was put on the value of: ‘’For the Love of God’’.

In the part of the documentary where ‘’ For the Love of God’’ is presented, it is introduced with a few short clips of Hirst being interviewed. In all of these interviews he is repeatedly asked questions around the value of the artwork, its worth, and things such as how many diamonds were used etc.
Hirst repeatedly replies in a somewhat dismissive and annoyed manner, that: ‘’ it is not about the money...’’
This reminded me of a stage I went through a few years ago, where I really questioned what art is, or should be.
I guess most artists go through this- maybe even a few times in their career. The short answer I found, is that art is something truthful, created from a very honest place.
The monitory value has no indication of its value to the ‘true’ artist. In this case, Hirst.
Whilst I was grappling with art, what art is and art practice a few years back, Hirst happened to produce ‘For the Love of God’.
The way it seemed the large majority responded to the work, proved to me that capitalist notions exceed the appreciation for artistic genius, it masks meaning, in a way that takes away from the truth.
Despite the exact reasons Hirst created the work, to me the meaning was this – We will all die, despite the material possessions we have or gain in this life.
It spoke of greed and death and our sinful desires. How death remains constant, even when decorated. It spoke to me of a capitalist society, lived through wars started over greed of material things and religions.
In short I thought how most people received the work proved exactly these statements – the material value exceeded the meaning. The focus was shifted immediately to the value of Hirst’s piece.

I thought about the skull a lot – who it belonged to etc.
My dad always had a real human skull that was converted into a decorative ashtray in his bar at home. Ever since I can remember this scull- that I later found out was purchased on one of his trips to Hong Kong- was displayed and used in his bar. Guests were usually humoured by this ashtray, as a little girl I could never get my head around that.
This used to be a person – just like us – that died – just like we will. To me there was no humour to be found in this.

Furthermore, using the scull to smoke with and to put your cigarettes out in was like ‘cheating’ death in a way, perhaps mocking it. We all know the result of smoking.
It surprised me how our own desires and ‘greed’ our addictions purely for our pleasure was used to ‘mock’ and laugh off something serious and certain - death.

It reminded me how people put emphasis on the value of the diamonds on Hirst’s skull, but forgot about the person who died.
How people blindingly stare at death (the skull), but prefer to ignore the certainty of death completely and focus on the material. How our desires and greed is more powerful these days than life itself.

I decided to create a smoke room for my next exhibition. This all also happened around the new smoking laws in South Africa, where people had to smoke in a ‘room’ specifically created for smokers.
I was a student at the time, and had very little money, but I wanted to enhance this feeling of death – I wanted to shift peoples focus.
I managed to get a company to lend me a 6 foot walk in fridge/freezer.

I set the temperature to that of a morgue – this would be the smoke room.

I placed a little table inside with the skull ashtray on it.
(Interestingly Hirst also worked with ashtrays in his earlier work, I only recently discovered this
Around the ashtray I placed lighters with Palestinian leaders on them. To light your cigarette, you had to flip the lighter like a hand of cards.

The cards unfolded with the leaders face on the front.
This to me enhanced the idea of luck, limited time, politics, war and greed.
Outside I placed a cigarette machine.
Instead of writing the prices of the different packs of cigarettes, I wrote Hirst’s title…. ‘For the love of God’ on the digital price display screen.

People were confronted with their beliefs and religion, instead of a price tag when they collected a pack of cigarettes to go smoke inside the cold room.
They were also confronted with one of the titles of possibly the most popular work of art of our times.
I hoped to have shifted their focus, to recognise not only the real meaning in Hirst’s work, but to realise how often we miss the meaning by our inherent greed and desires. By masking reality with desire, we ignorantly can be the cause of our own lives lived in vain.
I found Hirst’s documentary profound. It answered many questions I have always pondered and explained experiences I had as a student and thus far in my career.

I have absolutely no doubt that he is a genius – a true artist, and in some senses a muse to me after watching this.


Monday, 7 March 2016

Writing Again - Drawing Again

So here goes – my first post after a long battle with writers block. Since I last posted, I have been drawing non stop, as well as moving and running my little family. I am still working hard on an exhibition, though I am not sure where and when it will be exhibit.
My hopes are obviously somewhere spectacular as soon as possible!

My last post was about drawing, and it seems the more I draw the more I discover and learn through the process – as with creating anything I guess.
The process of drawing is just such an intense, emotional one for me. At one stage after and during the last years of university, I remember having this fear of subject matter within drawing and painting. Is my subject matter valid?

I always enjoyed the drawing and painting process – since I can remember – even as a very small child. I remember having a best friend in grade two , I was 7 years old, him too. I used to go to the library and take out a book called OTTO – about a doggy and his mom. I used to think he was the most adorable little character.

 I would take the book to class with me, and my friend and I would sit at the table with the book open between us.
We created this challenge of seeing who could draw Otto the best (without tracing him, just looking at the page in the book.) I always won – which I am sure I loved as my poor friend turned out to be not interested in art or drawing at all later in is life.
He carried on to finish both primary and high school with me. We sadly lost our connection along the way though. Possibly because of our vastly different interests.
Another recollection of drawing I had was in grade 3, I was now 9, and had to draw on a large paper, a bicycle the teacher placed in front of the class.
I remember finding it incredibly hard to draw from a real life object, and to get down all the detail and proportions to my 9 year old perfection.
When I was finished drawing the bicycle, I felt I had nailed it – I remember feeling as if the bicycle was perfect and one of the things I felt proudest of drawing ever before that moment.
The dilemma came after – and this was maybe my first real encounter with subject matter. We were instructed to place our bicycles into a setting.
I found this odd, as I drew the bicycle with no intention and in the proportion of the particular classroom with no one riding it. I had to do as I was told, so I did – I drew a curved road, and decided the bicycle needed a man on it.
I drew a man on it – but I was never ever more horrified with the proportions of a nose I have drawn, than with this guy’s.
In an artistic sort of transcendent angst (I get this still from time to time during the creation of my artworks), I drew a red nose with the same crayon over his face – to make him a clown…. It looked terrible….
Then I drew some red hair on him….
I was losing my shit – everything I did to cover it up made it worse for me.
I remember starting to cry uncontrollably – something I never did in front of a class of piers– not back then anyway.
The rest was a blur!
I hated that drawing.
The teacher ended up putting it on the annual school exhibition, and I could not understand why.I guess she might have felt sorry for my tears over it, or maybe she was trying to teach me some lesson of sorts.
Nevertheless – lesson not learnt ,if there was one intended, and I still hated the damn drawing.
I threw it in the bin as soon as it came off the show – I would die twenty deaths if my mom ever had to lay eyes on it.

I was always doubting what I drew as soon as the teachers stopped giving us a theme.
This is something I feel universities can challenge students with – stop giving them themes – let them broaden their horizons, and find their own way.
After not drawing a few years, and all of a sudden starting again, I thought I would start out drawing things I liked.
So I have always enjoyed images – I have collected and taken them ever since I can remember.
I used to construct my painting themes by making my poor sister do the most ridiculous teenagy things – like posing with a cigarette etc. To put that into a painting with a much too broad theme for my hormone tortured 16 year old mind.

So now when I thought of a drawing exhibition, I at first decided I will just draw images I liked – of organic things. Little did I know these images will all be good enough and valid in every way, subject matter and all.
This is partly because I soon discovered that images (sourced from magazines and the web) are much more alive than I could ever imagine. In a way one could say each image has a life of its own.
Every time I started a drawing with an image, it made me think of another image…. And after a while I would pic images from magazines and other pop sources cause they became applicable and somewhat iconic to my own life.

Whilst drawing a stock image I found in a magazine, it started reminding me of a picture I took on a magical day I spent with someone being the most in love I think I have ever been. He always stands the same way the man in the stock image does for photographs, and he moves his hands in the same way. His pose on that day reminded me of Jesus – as well as his peaceful way.

I started drawing the stock image, of a person I did not know, and it turned out to reminded me of a person I know personally.
The T-shirt my friend was wearing on the day contained a scull – a laughing scull – this reminded me of how hard he lives. Almost as to try balance out this peaceful way. In ways that makes me think he sometimes challenges life.
The colour red is never something good in my drawings – the line serves as some sort of connecting narrative–– in this case the red lines symbolized death.

Some examples of red (line) usage in some drawings

In this particular drawing the lines also symbolize the fine line of balance between life and death and coming from the wrists, Jesus’ hands bleeding on the cross (sin etc.).
I never draw faces on my figures - these stock images become part of my life, the figures become people or symbolic to my story.

Pictures of the final drawing

Because I did not plan what, where and when before I began drawing again, I started on a piece of paper that’s size I liked (and had), not knowing what I was going to draw….
The first drawing I did became larger, as it started relating to my life and therefore other images I found needed to be added. I had to just add a piece of paper, and I did.
I thought about this. I liked how the drawings was still growing, yet they can still fit into my drawer. They found a way to fit into my life organically, whilst maintaining their freedom.
I realised that is how art, relationships, drawing and essentially life should be.
Free to grow.
Free to be what it wants to be.
Free to tell my story in its own language.

 I feel as if each drawing comes alive. The more I draw, the more I remember.
The drawing shapes itself around these nostalgic emotions. Each line is considered carefully on basis of these thoughts. Both in intensity as well as shape.
A simple stock image or advertisement becomes something along the lines of a personal diary. It morphs itself to fit into my life.
I try keep it as free as possible. I don’t confine it to a single paper. If it wants to be larger, I add another paper (and another) paper.
Even the lines between the two joined papers in this way becomes symbolic to me.

Both drawing and painting has proven to me that the process will always transcend the subject matter. That it is vitally important to keep the process free in order to achieve the maximum from the subject matter.