On not making art, The Sound of Sleat and other Musings.

It has been a long time since I wrote anything to publish on my art related social media outlets. I am often reminded of that fact by the non-human masters of those sites. Automated messages can be so annoying, they remind us that we can feel guilty in the stasis the human condition can put us in.

Oddly though I haven’t felt guilty about not publishing, instead I seem to have been focused on looking inwards. I feel perplexed at what I see when I look inwards. I try to map the landscape being formed inside this mind from the seismic shift of loss caused by death, loss and dismantling of solidity from before death to the alien landscape of after.

It’s an odd place to be, in the gaps, the interstice of the place I was and the place I will be. Externally it must look as if I am still the landscape of before with just a few external changes, but the seismic shift and re-ordering of the internal landscape is huge even if it is hidden.

Oddly I get markers for my map every now and then. One of the latest markers is from a web site that allows it’s ‘members’ to ask questions and anyone signed up to the site is then invited to answer. I cannot recall how I ended up signed up to the site but that’s a different story. However, dropped into my email box was a question about what an artist does with all the paintings they have made and not sold as the artist reaches their later years and start to think about what happens to their lifetime works. I’ll come back to that later.

I’ve been without a physical studio for some time now. It is another transition that has landed me in the need to project manage something I never ever intended to project manage, but that is also a different story.
The content of my studio is in store and is accumulating dust, paintings are well wrapped up, but still their wrappings are gathering dust. The dusty content of my studio store, the tools of my trade, the stock of paintings, sometimes feels like a metaphor for what is happening to me.

I’ve recently been to Skye. For years I had wanted to go and the desire to go increased exponentially around the Millennium after I’d bought a used book titled The Sound of Sleat, An Artist’s Life. It was about the artist Jon Schueler (Sound in this context for those who may not know, is a large sea or ocean inlet larger than a bay, deeper than a bight, and wider than a fjord; or a narrow sea or ocean channel between two bodies of land.).

I recall that when I bought the book it had been more to do with the way the title played in my head, after all there is quite a distinct sound when it sleets and I loved the poetry of it.

When I’d taken the book home and showed it to my husband, Alberto, eventually mentioning to him I wanted to go to Sleat one day, he said he’d also like come with me.

It didn’t matter to me that the artist Schueler had lived on the mainland overlooking the Sound, he knew Skye and I wanted to see Sleat from Skye.
Years went by without a visit to Skye and eventually Alberto was diagnosed with Alzheimer’s. Any travel became difficult so I for him so the choice was made to take Alberto back to where he was born for the last time, where he had lived until he was eleven years old and where his sister still lived in Tuscany Italy. Alberto died in January 2018.

Suddenly from being Alberto’s full time carer (caregiver), there was only space: time seemed to take a shift sideways and I felt and still feel I’m a disconnected observer of a world where humans invest in so much dross, often seemingly without the realisation of the futile pathos of it.
At times I function very well, other times not so well. I am still passionate for what I think is right or against what I think is wrong so I must appear as I’ve always appeared but… there is a difference.

I wonder if the disconnect I’ve tried to describe is a permanent one? I’ve asked myself, is it purely the result of losing a lifetime companion or is it age? I’m officially old, 70 but am told I look more sixty (ha, seems I have some remnants of vanity!) yet there is a difference in my internal perception.

I’d like to have people queuing up to buy my paintings and maybe if I were to do more (or even anything) about marketing I might be able to make that happen but alas that is not where my interest is. My paintings are already in private collections in different Continents so at least I know that I won’t die without ever having sold anything. In the art world nothing is as romantic as the myths people like to imagine, poor Vincent and all that. His work did not suddenly become a must have after his death until an astute marketing campaign swung into action.

Whether I do or do not find people beating a path to my studio door (when I have a studio door to answer) their part in the proceedings is not the raison d’etre for my paintings. I make the paintings because each one is a voyage of discovery and is part of my making meaning. Externally that reason might seem futile but is only as futile as life itself. Making my own meaning works better for me than searching a lifetime for some supposed Nirvana.

Please do not misunderstand me, I love it when people see something in a painting I’ve made and want to buy. It means I have connected with another in some fundamental way, and it means I do not have to store the painting. That brings me back to the question about what an artist does with all the paintings they have made and not sold when the artist reaches their later years. There are many answers to that question, many of them inherently also full of pathos.

I have heard people say they would like this or that artwork but could not afford it. Value is a funny thing, we have many different ‘values’ in the many meanings of the word value. How do we value something? Cost? Or something precious such as a love of another person? A painting is a luxury item if we consider we can do without it in our lives. Is a car a luxury item or any of the other accoutrements of modern living, (I’d personally hate being without a car as it represents the freedom to when and where I want).

I’ve taken this from http://mentalfloss.com/article/82874/10-writers-and-artists-who-wanted-their-work-destroyed : ‘During his lifetime Kafka only published a handful of shorter works, which gained modest critical attention. Plagued by self-doubt, Kafka burned a huge amount of his own writing and, aware that his fragile health was failing, he asked his good friend Max Brod, who was to be his literary executor, to destroy any unfinished manuscripts on his death, unread. Kafka died from tuberculosis at the age of 41 in 1924, and Brod, feeling that Kafka’s writings deserved to be shared, went against his wishes. Thanks to Brod, Kafka’s most important works were published, including The Trial in 1925, The Castle in 1926, and Amerika in 1927.’
If you haven’t read The Trial by Kafka I recommend it for reading in the current crazy world we inhabit.
I also recommend the above web site to see what others have wished for their work.

I took my copy of the Sound of Sleat to Skye with me, it seemed the right thing to do It was a Pilgrimage.

Whether Jon Schuler is remembered for his paintings or for the book, or is not remembered is not relevant in this context. What was relevant for me is that a connection was made because of it. I had found reading his account rather depressing but it still touched me. We have the ability to be sad for lots of reasons. We also need to recognize the reasons to be happy.

A friend came on the journey too and we had many laughs, it was like having a sat-nav with built in bon mots for the poor driving mistakes we saw on too many occasions (she says we only see them, not make them!).

I don’t know what will happen to any work that survives me, let’s face it, I won’t know and won’t be in a position to care. It gives me huge satisfaction that some of my work is ‘out there’ and enjoyed by those who have it. It’s rather nice to have some recognition for the efforts one makes in life but it isn’t the thing that ends up bothering me too much. What bothers me that I need better storage and will continue to do so because I will be making more paintings! I want to go on with work that was interrupted when I had to leave my old studio.