A Boost To My Artistic Confidence After A Difficult Week

This week has challenged my faith and confidence in my artistic and creative ability. Firstly there was the Nam June Paik exhibition, in which I felt confused and out of my depth, and then I visited the London Group Open exhibition.

I went to the London Group Open so that I could see an exhibit by Beverley Duckworth, who creates mesmerising pieces using dust, hair and human skin. She explores feminism, expectations upon wonen, beauty, disgust and the discarded. I’m in awe of her talent.

The rest of the exhibition was powerful, and I connected to some of the art more deeply than others. One of the pieces, Leave or Remain by Maya Ramsay was the charred remains of a shipwrecked boat used by migrants. A powerful question about what happened to those migrants, and commentary upon the current Western political state of affairs with the rise right wing nationalism.

hdrplLeave or Remain – Maya Ramsay

Tarantalla by Phillip Tunstill appealed to me as well. I liked the colours, geometry and space. It made me ponder upon my need for routine, and partitions in my mind that, when structured so, leaves me with a sense of order, space and safety. It’s like I need to structure so I can live freely in the space.

qrfTarantalla by Philip Tunstill

There were many other examples of cleverly conceived and created art. However, following on from my Nam June Paik exhibition it added to my sense of inadequacy as an artist.

Today has been a turning point for me. I subscribe to Curator Space, which has many opportunities and open calls for artists, and I saw an exhibit that I felt that I could contribute to.

I selected four of my pieces of work, and wrote my bio and description and submitted them. The process was magical, I am pleased with the works which I chose, and they represent some of my skills, ability and talent as a conceptual artist and photographer. It was such a joy to think “Bloody hell, I have something to say as an artist.” A refreshing end to what had been a challenging week.

When You Take Away My VoiceStandard: When You Take Away My Voice by Richard Keys

Nam June Paik And Olafur Eliasson With The London Regional OCA Group

Got to be honest here and say that I really struggled with the Nam June Paik exhibition. My childhood was such that I went to sporting events and airshows, and have had no experience of exhibitions until recently. I think the lack of artistic culture in my formative years has left me with a lack of expertise when viewing art at exhibitions. I’m going to make a point of reading “How to read a painting” by the National Gallery.

On the whole I found the Paik exhibition to be confusing, bewildering and overwhelming. There was a cacophony of sound and light, and other exhibits that I felt little connection to. Whilst trying to connect with what the artist was trying to communicate I found my mind was left blank. I didn’t connect with his art at all. I feel almost tearful at my inadequacy when it comes to reading art, especially of this discordant and abstract nature.

However, there were two exhibits that I connected with. The first of these were a selection of artefacts from Paik’s studio.

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I may not understand what Paik is conveying, but I appreciate how ideas formulate and concepts develop, and I find the creative process to be fascinating. Ideas emerge in the space between the minutiae, little seeds germinate and creativity branches forth. Some of these will die along the way, but they still remain valuable to the branches which produce fruit.

The second exhibit that I connected with was a projected, blank, 16mm film.

hdrplZen for Film (1964)

The accompanying text states that the film represents “emptiness, boredom and random interference… events such as the shadows cast by the spectators, became part of the work.”

Bev, Johnathan and I enjoyed became part of this transient piece of art. It highlighted to me that the meaning of art changes dependant upon the setting and the viewer.

Interactive art then became the theme for the rest of the day with the Olafur Eliasson, In Real Life, exhibition.

Wow. What an experience.

Welcome to a new world Richard.

In Real Life is not an exhibition to watch and read, it was a fully immersive experience in which one interacts mentally, emotionally, physically and, dare I say, spiritually.

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IMG_20191123_115522Big Din blinde passage

“Big Din blinde passage” was 39 meters of sensory deprivation. The passage is full of fog created by food additives. I could barely see in front of myself, so much so that at one point I almost tripped over a woman with a buggy. I couldn’t see either the floor or the walls, and my sense of hearing increased. What made the experience so joyful for me was the laughter of children walking along with their parents. Sensory deprivation made the laughter so pleasurable. The taste of the fog was rather pleasant as well. When I left the tunnel I couldn’t stop smiling. The experience left me awestruck and lifted my mood so much, which was needed after the drop in my self esteem from viewing the Paik exhibition.

Most of the rest of the exhibition was enthrallingly interactive, and I very much became a part of the exhibit. I particularly like the viewing windows, in which the glass had been cut and shaped into hexagons. Each had been cut at an angle which reflected and reflected the view back as if one was looking through a kaleidoscope. Regrettably I did not record the name of these installations.

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I also enjoyed the room with the mirrored ceiling. So many people were laying on the floor and looking up at the view.

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The whole exhibition felt like play time. I will endeavour to return before the exhibition closes. Never have I found art to be so fun and inspiring.

What the experts say

Nam June Paik 

“I always thought of Nam June Paik as a livewire avant-garde figure from long ago but for decades my experience of him has been as a permanent Art Biennale fixture whose work acted as an instant soporific.

Represented by piles of TVs showing mass-media random information with no particular meaning, the sight of his name on a wall label usually sends me straight into a coma.” (Collings; 2010)

“In 1963, artist Nam June Paik had his first solo exhibition. The show took place in a three-storey villa in Wuppertal, Germany and among the works was a room packed with 13 manipulated television sets. It was the first time an artist had used television as a medium for their art. 

For five decades, Paik built upon these TV experiments and continually bridged the gap between art and technology in a way no other artist had done before.” (Fulleylove; 2019)

Olafur Eliasson

“My works demand the visitors’ engagement; they are dependent on viewers to co-produce them,” he explains. “Many of my works are not only about the visitor’s encounter with the work, but the visitors’ encounters with one another. This is endlessly fascinating.

“I do not mind if people are moved by my work without knowing, or even caring, about any of the theories behind it. I think the art world often treats people patronisingly: take guided audio tours in museums, for example. I enjoy watching people interact without any of this guidance, without the instructions.” (Eliasson; in Alderson; 2015)

References

Alderson, R; 2015; It’s OK to disagree, the divisive work of artist Olafur Eliasson; Online; AT https://www.itsnicethat.com/features/its-ok-to-disagree-the-divisive-work-of-artist-olafur-eliasson

Collings, M; 2019; Nam June Paik Review, Daft, inventive energy from a weird kind of artist; Online; AT https://www.standard.co.uk/go/london/arts/nam-june-paik-tate-modern-exhibition-review-a4261856.html%3famp

Fulleylove, R; 2019; Why Nam June Paik is more than the father of video art; Online; AT https://www.creativereview.co.uk/nam-june-paik-tate-modern-retrospective/

The National Gallery; 2019; How to ‘read’ a painting; Online; AT https://www.nationalgallery.org.uk/learning/teachers-and-schools/teaching-english-and-drama/how-to-read-a-painting