Socio-Political Challenges


Paying artistsit seems there is a negative reflexive process going on within the education of artists. Conceptual art, for all that it had offered to the Artworld, is notoriously difficult to sell at anything but the higher end of the market. Therefore, those that have not been particularly successful must find a living elsewhere or go into education. In education these same artist will tend to educate and reproduce other artists of the same ilk. Article in NewStatesman

I was thinking.... is there any meaning in the falling into disuse of Christian Churches and the use of these decommissioned buildings as centres for the Arts?

Does it suggest that as we lose religion as a framework for our understanding of ourselves that the artworld and culture offer something to fill the space? Maybe religion is and always was a cultural pattern with attendant art forms ( literature, poetry, music, visual art and architecture)  and this is merely the acquisition of empty cultural space by another cultural form?

I haven't yet read Richard Dawkins, The Selfish Gene, but I have read around the subject of memes, a contraction of the Greek mimeme, meaning imitated thing, and is used to denote a unit of cultural behaviour of idea transmitted by imitation from one person to another, in a manner that can replicate and mutate in a broadly analogous fashion to genetic. The idea is somewhat contested in scientific circles, but I find the idea useful in describing the threads of artistic and philosophical behaviour and ideas.  It might be particularly where the meme is a simplification of an idea and is repeated without a deep (or any) understanding the underlying science/philosophy. Obviously memes can be useful or destructive.

My work with the Sumi Ink Club (see article on The Bridge Project) is a good example of an artistic meme. An artistic practice and form was created and is successfully imitated and repeated. The use of the internet here cannot be underestimated. What historically could become a local phenomenon, and an artisanal traditional art/craft practice, handed down from generation to generation, can now travel rapidly creating a new international, interconnected "tribe".

I think the changes to society because of the interconnectedness of the internet far surpasses that of "information", our whole understanding of who we are, and who are our peers, and how we fit in the world, are as yet unrealised in their scope and impact. It's hard to see what this will mean from the "inside" of the experience.

Most major religions offer a story, an understanding of how and why the world is. They have been the motivating forces behind countless works of art. As a confirmed atheist I am not immune to the beauty and power of ecclesiastic architecture and soaring paintings and sculpture, despite my horror at what Christianity has done to man. I find Wagner musically thrilling, but despise his ideology. It is clear to me that ethics and great art are not inextricably linked, but I would prefer that it were more so, and for myself it must be.

This brings me back to my quest for a overarching theory for my work. I want it to be Great Art,  but not at the cost of being Good Art (ethical), or even Very Good Art ( inspiring higher ways of being). In fact I would like to produce Great and Good Art , with some Great and Very Good Art thrown in. I never want to make Cynical Art, and would rather make a painting of a white jug that sold for £200 that was exhibited proudly in the entrance hall of  21, Cedars Park Road, Dunstable, than an £2000 piece that took me away from authenticity. (Don't offer me £2,000,000 though....I'm only human and I've got a family and budget to balance )

I certainly want my work to reflect those principles that will lead to the greater good, and I don't want to shy away from making such commentary on others, despite the risk of being wrong.

I think that if my art  absolutely needed to have the accompanying text describe in detail "stuff" about the work so the viewer can "get" it I have, in my books, failed.


The environment ...we're going to have to catch up:

In early 2014 Julie’s Bicycle published a national survey of attitudes and actions on environmental sustainability across the UK arts industry. Over half of the 350 respondents were not Arts Council funded.

The findings were fascinating:

• That leadership was coming from the middle of organisations, not the executive level – in other words those people tasked with measuring and managing their impacts.

• Boards are dis-engaged.

• Climate change is the lowest business priority in a range which includes audiences, finances and artistic content.

• The sectors that do the most on environmental sustainability consider themselves to be doing the least and vice versa.

• The organisations that are leading the cultural sector are almost all from the Arts Council reporting cohort.

Our conclusion is that the Arts Council initiative has been a success, and that the conditions for leadership – a confident, doing community with a common evidence base and increasingly diverse responses – are in place. Which is just as well because, as the science makes abundantly clear, much remains to be done. At the time of writing the scale, type and quality of artistic responses to sustainability and climate change is unprecedented. 2013/14 will be recognised as the year where the science coalesced into an appalling tale of human neglect and carelessness which seemed to be greeted with indifference and apathy. But actually it takes a while for difficult information to compost into fertile material which will transform problems into solutions. And culture needs to change, the values that underpin our lives need to place climate change and sustainability as the cornerstones of our future. The arts have a huge part in that shift and are well and truly making it happen.

 Sustaining Creativity: National survey of attitudes and actions on environmental sustainability in the creative industries, Burns Owens Partnership, Julie’s Bicycle December 2014