Real art, for real people, in real life
I once read a tweet saying that you should never post on internet anything that you are not prepared to say or share with someone face to face. I think that’s sound advice and something that carries through into exhibiting art online. When you post your work online, you open yourself to others’ opinions, criticism, their interpretation and their questions - therefore curating your own work before posting is key. It is as key for me as not showing another person a piece of work before you’re ready to show it, before you’ve really completed it (for yourself).
Doing a “real” exhibition, rather than an online “virtual” one through a website or social media is today even more of a privilege for any artist than it was back when I first started out in this profession and when all the online exposure possibilities didn’t exist. You finally have the opportunity to meet the people that have opinions about your work, you can’t delete the parts you don’t like, Photoshop your art to look any different than it really is and you, as the artist standing beside your work, have the enriching opportunity to observe what, or if, your work honestly communicates to others.
I am fascinated by how today as much as when I showed my work before, people want to know “so what does this one mean?” or “what’s behind this one then?” I love that this then opens a discussion and conversation because I will inevitably ask in return, “what does it say to you?” The piece that you made and the reasons you may or may not have had for making it become merged with the viewers’, translated into their words and the person is moved in one way or another, or not at all, and the piece itself therefore evolves beyond you (and your control). And that is a humbling and wonderful thing: to witness this happening right in front of you, like a story that unfolds, sometimes silently and sometimes in words. Today more than ever, when it is expected and indeed necessary to have your portfolio uploaded and in some way available on internet, I think it is important and equally necessary for any artist wishing to evolve and really touch others through their work to exhibit their work “in person”.
I’m by no means saying that the numerous platforms now available to artists to have their work seen and get some kind of feedback about on internet is not valuable exposure and an amazing facilitator in connecting your work to people worldwide. But it has become so easy to be in some ways “courageous” on internet and publish all kinds of things about oneself and others and to hold strong opinions about things that may be more difficult to hold your ground on in a real conversation. I may be old-fashioned on this, but for me nothing beats meeting the people who have something to say about your work, watching and hearing them respond to it, letting the moment and their conversation lead into a discussion that allows the work to evolve further still and which will, just like any other experience that you let influence your work, have an impact on what you then create.
This kind of real and personal exchange is what I believe nourishes any artists’ creativity. It nourishes in a far more profound way than an intellectual or witty or complimentary written comment or criticism read online. The moment is not frozen through written text or mobile-phone-caught-photos, but experienced in the moment. An opinion can be elaborated on and voiced (literally) through conversation rather than it being “liked” or hash-tagged through a tap or a swipe on a screen. Personal opinions can be shared without the sometimes weighty or regretful consequences of these opinions being open to general public interpretation – if you’ve ever emailed, texted or tweeted something too spontaneously, you’ll be able to identify with what I’m stating here! But beyond the pros and cons of technology, I believe it’s just natural and healthy for us to meet and share what matters to us; in the case of an artist and their work, it is a necessity: it brings meaning beyond the self.
I have often questioned: does art need to have a spectator? If not shown, does it not become therapy, a hobby, pastime, journal through image-making or an endlessly unfinished study? Does the artist not need the public opinion to somehow see if what they are making alone by themselves communicates anything further than to themselves in their personal sphere? I make art because I like the process of making it, and I am generally fond of what I make: it in some ways represents pieces of myself. I also make art to communicate something to others and I think artists need and want some kind of an audience even if this dynamic between the artist and the public most often fluctuates between wanting to show/ wanting to keep for yourself, wanting to be recognized/ wanting the work to speak for itself.
Art and art appreciation has continuously evolved through time, as has its role and place in culture. We have never had such a vast platform for showing and sharing imagery and the potential to touch such an extraordinarily diverse number of people in the public through imagery as today. But we have also never spent as much time in virtual space and experience which is why I think that galleries, museums and artists holding their own exhibitions are invaluable today. People crave and need real spaces to see real things, have real experiences, real conversations and let themselves be moved by what surrounds them so as to not remain in their insular-self-made-virtual-reality. Some works of art are site-specific, are installations that you walk through, and that can only be fully appreciated with the public physically being there to experience the minimal or grand scale, the surround-sound, smell or sense of.
I think that part of arts’ value today is in its ability to bring people a personal and original, unique and real experience. I absolutely love music and hearing new sounds. I love the way, similarly to visual art, it can shift your point of view, your mood, and effect the way in which you experience something. I am an absolute fan of going to see my favourite artists in concerts and I go to great lengths and travel all over to experience their music live and catch a glimpse of them. Once you’ve listened to the music you love live, you never listen to it in the same way again. You’ve connected to it in a different way, it has become personal simply through you not only listening to it through your earphones, in a familiar setting or from a download – you went out to meet it, and hopefully it moved you in one way or another.
We are in some ways more and more connected and yet in other ways we have never been so disconnected from each other and our surroundings. I think that those experiences that are impossible to capture in a photograph, tweet or recording and that give you no inclination to pull out your phone to start an online chat about need to become a priority within our culture. Having recently done an exhibition of my work, I can safely say that this is partly what it’s all about for me: making real art, for real people, in real life.