November 07, 2013

Grayson Perry - "How do we become a contemporary artist?"

Grayson Perry's fourth and final lecture in the Reith series was went by the title, I Found Myself in the Art World. This fourth lecture was directed by one question, as Grayson asked himself and the audience rhetorically: "how do we become a contemporary artist?"

Firstly. We need to work with an almost unconscious awareness. A "relaxed fluency". For as Grayson Perry said, "self-consciousness is crippling." As he said:
"Pablo Picasso said, “Every child is an artist. The problem is how to remain an artist once he grows up.” And I think what he’s trying to say is that you know a child has this unselfconscious joy of creativity and they’re always playing and painting and making things without a thought in the world, and then as we get older of course we become aware of art history and that what we’re not doing might not be very good and so it makes it harder and harder and harder as we get older."
The irony is that art education is an education in self-awareness. As Grayson Perry said:
"And one of the things that is very troubling, of course, is that art education in many ways is an advanced course in self-consciousness because you have to become very aware of the business you’re going into. A central irony is that the very enemy of expression - that is being very ‘oh my god, am I doing the right thing?’ - is tortuous necessity to enter the art world."
You need the "carefree joy of a child". That require's work. You need to kindle the child's flame of creativity and "keep that sort of burning, precious, childlike glimmer of creativity burning."

Secondly. Artists who've faced hardship and difficulty in their upbringing can find themselves using and transforming this experience, through an amazing process in the mind, into gold and into marvellous masterpieces that everyone can all appreciate. As Grayson said:
"The clinical scientist Raymond Tallis, he said, “Art is expressing one’s universal wound - the wound of living a finite life of incomplete meanings.” And I like that idea - that you know it’s quite a sort of noble journey we’re on."
It's the artist's mythologizing story.
Thirdly. Art is a "very primitive creative urge." As Grayson said:
"Art is not some sort of fun add-on. But if you go back to the Ice Age, the artists then, they still made art and yet they were constantly under threat from cold and starvation and from predators, and yet they still set aside hours and hours and hours to make art. It’s very, very deep - this need to express."
Fourthly. Outside artists can make great mainsteam artists because they can often operate free of the crippling self-consciousness. Grayson said:
"Outsider art is art done by people who haven’t been to art school, probably don’t even have much knowledge about the art world or the market or they’ve maybe not even been doing it for other people; they just do it for themselves and never show anybody."
Fifthly. It takes time. He said:
"It does of course exist and that shock of pleasure is one of the you know greatest things that anybody who’s interested in art can experience, but the best artists, they take quite a while to find their voice. It takes a long time. I mean an art career is a marathon, it’s not a sprint."
He further explained: "And I think one of the best descriptions of that process is by a guy called Arno Minkkinen, a Finnish photographer, and he had this thing called - The Helsinki Bus Station Theory, he said. And when you’re leaving art college, he said, and you choose your style and what path in the art world you’re going to take, it’s like going to Helsinki bus station. There’s about twenty platforms and each platform, maybe ten buses leave from it, and you choose your bus and you get on the bus. And each stop is a year in your career. And maybe after about three stops, you get off and you kind of walk into a gallery and you show them your work and the people look at it and they go, “Oh very nice, very nice. Reminds me a bit of Martin Parr though.” (LAUGHTER) And you go, uurrrgh!! (exasperated sound) I’m not original, I’m not unique, and you get really cross. And you get a taxi back to the bus station and you get on a different bus. And of course what happens is the same thing - you get off at three years and the same thing happens. What you need to do, says Arno Minkkinen, is stay on the effing bus!"
Sixth. Crossing the boundary from student into the realm of the artist. He said:
"And then there’s that boundary, you know the boundary between being a student and becoming an artist. And I think that moment often happens to you at a party. You’re at a party and someone says to you, “Oh what do you do?” and you go, “Errrr …” and you have to summon up the courage to say it and you go, “I…. I’m an artist.” And I think that’s quite a poignant moment. You know you’ve crossed that boundary, you’ve started out on that hazardous path."
Seventh. It's a privilege.
"I think it’s a very noble thing to be an artist. You’re a pilgrim on the road to meaning."
Eight. Be careful of the "Picasso Napkin Syndrome". He said:
"It started to get into this sort of airy-fairy whatever anybody will pay for it kind of arena, and that’s a very strange moment. And at that moment, you start getting what I call “Picasso Napkin Syndrome” (LAUGHTER) and this is after the mythological power of that famous artist. He could sort of pay for an expensive meal by just doodling on the table linen. And it’s a very dangerous blessing that an artist can get - that Picasso Napkin Syndrome - because it’s like the Midas touch. You’re suddenly tempted to churn out your signature works because there’s a big collector demand for it and anything you sign is worth money! I mean literally artists like Andy Warhol literally did that. He would just sign you know a dollar bill and then suddenly it would be worth a hundred dollars. And that temptation to churn it out is very dangerous."
Nine. Be wary of the art world. He said:
"It’s a delicate organism and the art world can be very corrosive. Caustic atmosphere. I protect my ball of creative energy, I protect it with a shield made of jaded irony. (LAUGHTER) A helmet of mischief and a breast plate of facetiousness. And I wield my carefully crafted blade of cynicism.
Lastly. As Grayson Perry said:
"There’s no recipe for being an artist. That’s what’s good about it nowadays - you can be any sort of artist."

Funny quotes:

"A skip is sort of like a pot pourri of broken dreams."

"Becoming an artist is not just a process of having low impulse control or a burning unconscious desire to express yourself. There is a point, a fixed rung if you like, on the greasy pole of becoming an artist; and it does feel - many artists here will probably say - it does feel like a greasy pole. There is a fixed rung and that is going to art college because anybody can become an artist without going to art college - I mean outsider artists are a fantastic example of it - but it’s very difficult to make a career as an artist."

"So art history is a kind of long chain of Chinese whispers and I think that’s the fascinating, brilliant thing about it - people get it wrong."

"The same as we copy something, we’re going to be influenced by something as artists for the first ten years of our career."

"I left college with a 2.1. Nobody’s ever asked."

"I did what many people did when I left college. I immediately applied for an MA because I was terrified of the wide world you know that suddenly spat out - oh my god, I’m an artist. So I applied to Chelsea for an MA. But that most difficult moment I think for a young artist is that moment when you leave art college after all those years of education and suddenly it’s just you and the world - unprotected, undirected, nowadays of course very much in debt."

"I have an acute allergy to cliches. In fact my mother ran off with the milkman. (LAUGHTER) This is why I have such an intense allergy to cliches and I have to protect that part of me from becoming a cliché."

"Jennifer Yane. I don’t know who she is, but she had this quote. It was, “Art is spirituality in drag.”"

"But the metaphor that you know most best describes what it’s like for me being an artist is a refuge, a place inside my head where I can go on my own and process the world and its complexities. It’s a kind of inner shed in which I can lose myself."

"A phrase that I like is “relaxed fluency” you know when you get into the zone and you’ve done your 10,000 hours and you’ve become really skillful."
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