Outsiders, i.e. those who do not attend themselves, might have acquired an unfortunate idea of what goes on at private views, imagining pompous uber-trendy strangers gathering to sneer, or of louche, debauched paint-botherers being lauded in a coke-addled frenzy as the next Hirst/Picasso/Vettriano after casually placing a shoe on a plinth (quickly sold for fifty grand.)
In my experience, openings feature art loving liggers propping up walls, chatting, draining the bar and sometimes pretending to care about the work. Jaded? Cynical? Guilty? Yes. I am a freeloader myself, but I always look at the work (I know!)
Recently, and totally out of the blue, Whitespace Gallery in
requested a piece of mine for an exhibition - Whitelines, a show about the practice of drawing. They found me via artists community website Central Station but I was still flabbergasted and flattered to be asked; so amazed that I even checked to see if the place was real, and the owner legit (he is.) Edinburgh
This is my first exhibition. It’s unnerving to be showing work in public, but friends travel to support me (and also drink the wine, served luke warm and in plastic cups by ancient tradition.) People are examining my work, and even discussing it. Perhaps because of having a research masters, I fight an evil urge to explain the piece. I admire how practicing artists do not unveil their intentions or bully a supporting theory into the viewers head: they hang work on the wall, and away they go.
Still, hearing visitors debate my picture is bizarre, and slightly frustrating, because it is so specific in purpose (see preceding post.) I can’t exactly jump in to insist: ‘No – that’s not what it’s all about! You’ve got it all wrong! Don’t come back until you’ve written a measured critique – one I agree with!’
Seeing ‘Am I Safe’ alongside other pieces, provides some useful context, and what I self-deprecatingly describe as colouring-in (or more formally hand-tinting) has been treated with respect. I remember the work that went into it, the layers of colour; hardly working down a coal-mine, but it took a while to complete. Just because work doesn’t take years to finish doesn’t mean it isn’t viable and valid. You see - I can’t help but justify what I do. I must learn to resist.
My work featured in another exhibition – the excellent Text Festival in
. I was overwhelmed at the sight of my samplers displayed in a magnificent Victorian hall, although both halves of a diptych are separated – a minor annoyance, but that’s what curators do. As I walked around the spectacular show, which crystallised the view that words, text and fonts are beautiful when presented as objects in their own right, I decided to take some pictures. Bury Art Gallery
Immediately, an invigilator challenged me to stop.
‘It’s okay.’ I said. ‘I’m one of the artists.’
And it felt good to say that out loud, in public: to come out as an artist, a word I have avoided until now. I need to grow accustomed to curators. I must harden myself to the comments, impressions and ideas of others regarding my work. And I must get used to exhibiting, because more shows are in the air.