There’s nothing like spending time in the company of other artists to germinate latent creativity or motivation – as it was yesterday when I spent four hours in the company of artists at the first Cementa/Kandos Projects public event for 2014.
Unable to spend all afternoon at Kandos Projects, I loitered long enough to engage in conversation with Kandos Projects artists-in-residence and to hear two of the three scheduled artist talks (Adrian Clement, Beata Geyer and Marg Roberts).
I made a few random notes and took several photos (wearing my arts marketing hat). Looking back over my notes made during some of the Q&A sessions, which included some debate about artistic intention and colour theory and whether or not a work is intentionally anti-colour, I started to question my feelings about this contemporary art conversation. The event was open to the public and yet the level at which the presentations and discussion were pitched was exclusive to anyone not part of the ‘inner circle’. My partner was with me and while he has spent a large part of his life with artists and has been an observer to many hotly pitched discussions about art, his eyes were glazing over. I certainly didn’t feel like I was part of the conversation – I’m not living and breathing this stuff.
My thoughts about the content of yesterday’s talks have made me question how I present myself as an artist and how I pitch my work. For me, there’s no sense in the abstract. Here we were, playing out first world problems at a time when my reality includes families producing food for the nation struggling to feed themselves and having to shoot their livestock because they’ve run out of water. Or, smart, innovative farmers losing millions of dollars on a failed grain crop, now with their backs against the wall because it just won’t rain. Or coal seam gas companies and governments believing it’s okay to destroy valuable native habitat and water sources because our economy supposedly demands it – seeing farmers and green groups come together in protest for the first time in my living memory.
How does an artist respond to this? Any notion of being abstract about it is bullshit. Artists have a role within this world – making sense of the issues, documenting them, responding to the emotion, and as problem solvers. Creating new problems that have no perceivable value in being solved just doesn’t make sense to me.
While I was at Kandos Projects I put up my hand to do an artist talk as part of their program for the year. I’m a long way from resolving the work I have in mind for Cementa_15, but my thoughts about my intentions for it are certainly clearer after mulling over yesterday’s artist talks. While I do start with concept statements and a framework of ‘rules’ that direct my research, maquettes and finished works, when I put my work in the public realm I do expect people to engage with it at a sensory and/or emotional level – otherwise, I’ve failed.