What is original & what is quality? Part 1
all art and words (c) pete kennedy (except the hands of Leger pic which is not my copyright)
I know my work has originality within it. I think it has good quality within it. But, ‘how good?’ is another answer, one which I am in an impossible position to say because I cannot be objective about me.I can of course be relatively objective about all other human beings (hubeings…ube-ins…ubeans) but only relatively cos I have my own experience, knowledge AND prejudices. Objective is hard to define (in the arts) as there are few accurate measurable. They say to get 100% in a Maths ‘A’ level is do-able but it’s more difficult in English because the latter depends on subjective decisions. Most people believe that science is a ‘fixed’ or ‘set’ field of knowledge, within which Maths may be included(?) but it is now known that science is an open, moving, field, not so fixed. There are frequent discoveries & realisations. Similarly in history where they thought the bronze tool was first made 4,ooo (4K) years back until a man was found in the Alps in a very well preserved state with a bronze axe and a stone knife and he lived 5K years back so the acquisition of working bronze was pushed back a thousand years. In almost every field of ube-in* endeavour there are shifts both small and substantial. So, let me like Paolozzi said, return to my original obsession, art(s).
*Hey, I’m tinking about this. Why not call them ‘ubes’? “I am a ube, or more corectli “I Am an ube’” the strange creature on planet earth said when we interviewed it.
I mentioned Hockney wat is about 10 years older than me in my last blart. He was ‘a precocious talent’ at school for sure, considered to be brilliant at the what-was-considered-then-to-be ‘good’ art. I was apparently not, altho this can be debated…when I about 13 I did a still life of some woodwork tools in pastel shades of yellow and with an expressive brush-stroke. Eye (oops, Freudian slip) I let loose, making the surface of the painting throb with texture and vibrancy. The teacher who triggered my effort was about to depart the school appreciated my efforts but Bennett the incoming guy did not and my expressive skills had to be put on ice only to be re-awakened when I discovered a chap called Van Gogh in the biggest retrospective of his work ever to be held in London when I was a sixth former visiting the capital during the first half term about 4 years later. I knew I had found my master. But before that my art floundered as I was pretty useless at the normal for those days requirements. My mate Steve Hezzlewood, everyone knew, was like Hockney, a genius with the norm gaining a grade 1 at ‘o’ level with me a close bottom of class with a grade 6, the lowest pass. I should have dropped art, it was my worst grade by far, but being me I chose it as my main focus for life. Silly me. So, with my gradesix in the bag I decided I was to be an artis. But, as I entered the 6th form art class everything for me changed it did. (ta Yoda) In Padiham town hall I saw a Gaudier Brzesca pastel sketch, Alan Smith another art s precocious talent with a grade 1 from the local sec mod school joined our class making it tree and persuaded me to accompany him to a little southern town called Londres during the October half term in the first year sixth where I saw the big Van Gogh show. I took the bit and I bit very hard and that’s why am doing this now.
However, as I said in a previous blart, altho he loved my work and said not to do a Fine Art degree at Leeds cos it would stiflekill me but to go down the road to the art college and mention his name I ignored Quentin Bell’s advice and did not go to art school, whereas Hockney had gone to first Bratferd then the RCA colleges. Hezzy had joined the police cadets cos he thought he wer Barman and wanted to chase criminals, and after gerrin a good grade at A level I went to ‘Teachers’ Training College’ in Exeter. And that’s why am doing this now. So, I enter St Luke’s college and by now I am the precocious talent. I took my wrapping paper off my stuff wat mi mum had packed for me to leave home with, lots of different shades of green an brown and did an abstract like wat Matisse did . Immediately the 3rd year who had taken me under his wing said don’t let the art dept see that or you’ll be kicked out. Boom boom, ‘they shot me down’ said Cher. The course at St Lukes was overseen by Dereck Lawrence R A and was quite old fashioned by 1973 standards. By the end of the 1st year they’d invented a new grade for their 3 most vociferous ‘rebels’, me, Charlie Kavanagh a ‘mature’ student (they were drafting all the folk they couls get into teaching then) and ex-army PTA and a girl with lots of talent called Siobhan Kelly, an E minus grade. And DLRA aksed me to please leave ‘As this is not an art college this is a ‘Teachers’ Training College’, go and do an art college course as you’ll never make a teacher. But that wer a red rag to a bull, I had to stay on and become a teacher even tho I knew he wer right. And I stayed on, to the bitter end, And that’s why am doing this now. Only a handful of the other forty odd students could draw, but that didn’t matter if you wished to be a teacher apparently, you just had to shut up and do what you were telt. And he had this irritating habit of giving out sweeties to the good obedient students, I never got one. However I did become a star there at the end of the 3 years and Ruskin Spear RA said my work was good but to be careful not to get stuck in a particular era. My art had a ‘pop’ feeling to it, so I said not I won’t but my art will define an era. Then at the end of the 4th year the Prin from Brum Art College wer my external and he said I should apply to do an MA there, but I dint and that’s why am doing this now.
I thought I wer good in some limited ways BUT I had already missed the first big boat- my days wer filled with Art but also Philosophy AND Education theory & teaching prac with other distractions like photography (wet) graphic stories (comic) and reading books on the supernatural & spirit like Paul Brunton, J W Dunne and Joan Grant. Had I gone to art college my days would have been filled with (just) art. In 1969 a good art dept would have fuelled my fires whereas Lukes doused mine, even a new box of matches had difficulty re-igniting it. It didn’t help when I was in the 3rd year, using the second rate facilities in screen printing when I paid a visit to the RCA’s print dept Final Show. The talent there with their access to much better resources became vividly apparent. I saw work there which made my meagre efforts look like a toddler’s work, I most certainly was not meeting his standards in my best work. I wish I could remember the name of the artist whose degree show in graphics blew me away, burri can’t. His work made Hockney & Hezzy look like Alfred Wallis. But all was not lost. I always seem to rally round in the face of adversity.
My appleheadman comics were certainly different and I was incorporating ideas from the likes of Alfred Jarry into my work, very strange. I thought IF I can’t join em beat em with knowledge. By being informed by the history of thought and ideas I could do stuff which was conceptually ‘out there’ on its own.my character creation was weirder than wierd. I mean, a talking apple with ears? One guest editor at Sennet the college paper I put Apulhed ‘comics’ in said Hell, what drug is he on? When he saw my strips. My ‘originality’ was based in the surrealists, dada, Gerald Scarfe and others if that can be called ‘original’ (see next blart)
I was different and some of my product may have been considered excellent but I was leagues behind the stuff I saw at the RCA. My lack of access to good equipment didn’t help, ours at Lukes was primitive BUT that did me good as I had to learn to produce quality out of nil resources, a lifetime habit it became said yoda. I was very hands on with the techniques I was using, I could smell the ink and feel the textures. So when in 1973 I saw Dieter Roth’s work with screens, his constant shifts and changes, instead of doing 100 edition all the same, I loved them cos I wer already doing the same as he. Then the books he made subliminally led me to do my first book, ApulOne in which I was showing my body of work was not opuscule!
I had spent about seven years dedicated to improving my skills as an artis and my knowledge but the galleries were locked to me as player, stable is full, I heard that so many times and ApulOne was my way of saying, Hey, I’m here, notice me I’ve arrived and I am not going to go away. I’m an artis. The next few years saw me trying to break into the art world to no avail. I failed to see my buk had done it already, I didn’t need to fight to get accepted I just needed to do more buks. I did write another book several years later when I realised I really was an artis, but that like so many of my scripts awaits publication. I am plowing thru them, slowly. I sed plowing not pluffing. You know plough, rough, trough, all spelt same all sound diffrunt.
So what is an artis?
Well look at me for one. But they are hard to define. It is a state of mind, It is a state of mine. So, a politician is not an artis, no way.
I wanted to be an artis all my life and one wonderful day back in the 80’s I realised I could stop striving to be this artis I wanted to be becos I had ‘become’ that artist. It was not a case of trying to be (good enough) it was in my case I was one. I had been in this constant internal mind stretching bemused state, ‘How can I prove to the world I am an artist (of worth)? Then I realised (enlightenment in the arts) I already was and that ‘I’ did not have to ‘prove’ anyting. I had my grade six be blowed. The art you make/produce is that, just that, the art you make, nothing else. How the art you make is received, accolade, put down, ignored, praised, prized, honoured, given noble piece awards woteva, that’s down to those out there but wot yu produce, that’s wot meks you a player. and they can’t stop you.
I attended a little show Thursday back and I had two pieces on show. I thought as usual my work was good. And there was a young lad whose little drawing appropriated from a manga page wer also on show. And he wer proud of it. And he wer an artist. When you look at a copy of a manga sketch you may tink oh that is easy, anyone can copy that, and it may be so. But that lad had done it and it wer a stage in his development, like the first 5metres you swim is the start of your swimming life. Good for him. Being an artis is not subject to any assessor, it just ‘is’, like Joseph Beuys said, everyone is an artist (if they wanna be) altho I don’t agree cos a politician is not an artis. Funny cos Beuys was a politician, he wer a politician on the Eur-Asian world stage and he stood up for the environment and all that. Funny too cos by saying watti jus said above, I too become a politician, in the game of who’s who and who’s good (enough) etc. So as a politician, by the rule I created above, I cannot be an artis, which shows how stupid rules are even mine and of course rules are made to be broken. And I do…break rules.
One rule I broke was to write about originality in this blart, so just wait for the next blart when I want to talk about Maclean, Smithson and Maria Popova’s article on originality.
pps I wish to mention an English scientist whose work was ahead of his time but who (allegedly) gave up because of adverse criticism. Born on November 26, 1837 in London, England John Alexander Reina Newlands was a British chemist who noticed the repeating pattern of elements arranged by atomic weight where every eighth element had similar chemical properties. He called this the Law of octaves and was a major contribution towards the development of the periodic table. Because he then tried to explain his idea using an octave on a piano the hundreds of scientists present at his talk ridiculed him and he never recovered Mendeleev, the Russian who is credited with creating the first real periodic table of the elements, where trends (periodicity) could be seen when the elements were ordered according to atomic weight, was able to move into the gap Newlands left. I point this out for two reasons. The men who laughed at Newlands did so out of ignorance, they just couldn’t understand where he was coming from, they didn’t have his insights. The fact that circumstances pushed him to one side and allowed Mendeleev to ‘shine’ through is either fate or an accident of history. But for me it shows that we (ubeins) cannot ‘know’ evryting. Newland’s giving up allowed another man through and in a way Newlands has a right to be proud of his achievement/failure. I was shortening words, spelling them differently partly for speed writing back in 1973. Many thought I was (just) a fool. Nowadays hundreds of thousands of people are shortening words, spelling them differently partly for speed writing on mobile devices, it’s called text talk. I didn’t ‘give up’ writing, altho when I left my teaching job in 1976 to write a book based on Apul-One I did spell the words in the more normal way, mostly.
Footnote & fancy free: Wattan idjet! I apogolise to all (3) of my readers. In my last blart I said I wert inking of entrin this years RA show. Well it’s too late, entries were closed in feb this year. Maybe that’s a good thing? I shall save the money and avoid the hassle. BUT I do need to put my werk ‘out there’ so I AM looking for spaces to exhibit. The 1metre by 1.39 metre version of my Venus Stares image arrived this week and WOW it is stunning even if I say so myself which I do. It’s the best ting I ever done. And there’s several key images from my oeuvre (posh way of saying output) ready for similar treatment. I am ready for a big show so c’mon you gallerists, who’s up to the challenge? Look, like the kids at the Pentagon in 1967, I’ll hit you with a flower http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Flower_Power_(photograph)
This is part of the big one.
I can see the headlines noo. ‘Unknown artisbloke becomes good at last!’ and ‘Overnicht success fer artis wat struggled with farty yearns’ artis says, ‘I all ways wanted to suck seed. It were hard But I did it at last before I quit this this owen coyle.’ Critics say, ‘He makes it look easy. In fact he got others to do it fer him instead of keep doing all that usual crap like screenprints and lino and etchers and lithography by hand, he just told his printer to print it BIG’ I don’t blame him.’ ‘Why bark when you got a dog what’ll do it fer ya?’ Radial Berst, Britpack artis was heard to have said.
WOW, I must share this with youse! I bought a book awhile ago from the barbican on Leger cos they wer selling em off cheaper after a show with his werk in. I like his werk but I always had him in the second tier, not up there with Picasso and Miro et al. I may be wrong. I know he influenced the likes of Roy Lichtenstein. I was tinking that my new Stares pic had a need for a stronger, but not as strong as Beckman, outline. And I had not looked at the Leger book awhile. Then I thought, Leger does tick lions around his images. So I pulled it oot and there on the cover was a hand holding a flower which is SO like the flower in my Stares pic! I am pleased abart that.