“The most interesting thing about artists is how they live” ― Marcel Duchamp, The Writings of Marcel Duchamp
One of the problems of being a maker of things is that it’s not necessarily the same as being a seller of things. The two are quite different skills. Most shops are rightly not terribly happy to swap linocuts or a wood-fired mug, irrespective of the wonderful ash effects, for goods and services. If only not to be snowed under by prints and pots – or to make room for more – it becomes necessary at some point to start selling the things. Hence the website. It’s been a long time coming, and even now I’m cobbling it together quickly in time when I ought really to be doing other things.
What Other Things ought I to be doing? We have a range of projects going on, both in our heads and in the real world. Over the next couple of posts, I’ll try to begin to run some of them by you so that you get a bit of a feel for what we do and why. Probably I ought to begin by saying that neither of us, Rosie nor I feel quite like we’re ‘artists’. Classic imposter syndrome. There’s no such thing as being a ‘qualified artist’. Of course it’s possible to have degrees in design or fine arts. But really, being an artist involves nothing more than deciding that the thing you are currently doing (be it arranging a few chairs around a table, writing an opera, designing a website, knitting a scarf, etc) be judged as ‘art’ rather than say as something in a different, perhaps functional, category.
In 1926 Breton and Aragon, probably egged on by Picasso, were affronted that fellow surrealists Max Ernst and Joan Miró were “selling their souls to commerce”This is, after all, only what Duchamps claimed when he exhibited his urinal under the title “Fountain” in 1917 to The Society of Independent Artists in New York City. He rotated it by 90 degrees from its intended upright position, signed it “R. Mutt 1917” and there you have the beginnings of “readymade” art. It doesn’t really matter whether you consider it brilliant art or not. The fact is that Duchamps wanted it to be judged as “art” rather than something functional for men to pee into. So being an artist isn’t a matter of qualifications or the skilled production of conventionally designated “art” items. It is the demand to be judged by standards that fall into the category of “art” rather than those of contemporary urinal technology.
“The creative act is not performed by the artist alone; the spectator brings the work in contact with the external world by deciphering and interpreting its inner qualifications and thus adds his contribution to the creative act.” ― Marcel Duchamp
Of what the standards of art are comprised is another matter. Perhaps for the moment’s enough to suggest that being an artist is nothing more than the desire to be regarded as such. I’m not sure that anyone else has to take any notice of that desire, but that surely isn’t the point? The point is that if I am intending my actions or products to be “artistic” then I am suggesting the kind of lens and gaze through which you are to look at some of the things I do or make. I’m just being helpful. If you still choose to judge me as a failed rocket scientist, dreadful cook or weirdly unremunerative brother, then so be it. So these posts are going to become an exploration of our thoughts on being an artist. Some of them will be more informative than others. Some will be written with more care and planning. The images which are obviously our own will probably come to dominate the posts as time goes by. We don’t usually make pictures or pots or undertake projects for no reason, and the reason (it turns out) is almost never anything much to do with money. So we’ll be using this space to work out our thoughts and ideas in the hope that you might gather something from what we’re doing for you own journey, whatever that might be.
“Beauty is no quality in things themselves. It exists merely in the mind which contemplates them.” ― Hume
The picture above is a linocut. It’s of a small hamlet on a rocky knobbly rising up from the valley floor below a limestone cirque in France. The place is fairly well to the south, located between Millau and St. Affrique in the Parc natural régional des Grands Causses, which is an area of vast limestone plateaus with incised stream filled gorges that flow mostly into the River Tarn. I cut the linoblock during the first lockdown period of Covid in spring of this year (2020) soon after I made the sketch. That was the last time I was out of the U.K. It seems a world away. As an anthropologist (my other hat, which you’ll also be finding out about, if I continue to write these posts, and if you continue to read them) I travel a good deal. I always have. This year has been the longest period I’ve spent in the UK since probably the mid 1980’s. That quick trip to France was just about the last time I could fly anywhere. The news from Italy and Spain were bad, but Britain was still in denial and self-absorbed in its Brexit. So although I didn’t know it at the time, they I made that sketch was the last time I will ever be in France, or Europe even, as a citizen of the EU. Next time I’m there, whenever that will be, it will be for the first time as a member of a third party state; an outsider. As such, the picture and my last visit are meaningful to me.
Most of the images will be meaningful in some way. And most of the posts will be looking into that meaning and working out the what’s and the why’s and the wherefores. It’s too soon to know where it’s all going, so bear with me, and I’ll see you in the next post.