This past Monday (07/12/2015) I attended (and participated in) the opening of a final exhibition for 2015: The 13th Affordable Art Exhibition. It was also the final opening of an exhibition at the artSPACE durban Gallery. Sadly (but understandable in these dire times) they will be pursuing more profitable ventures from now on. This is a great blow for the aspirant and emerging artists of Durban as we will no longer have any serious galleries to exhibit in (ones that will have us anyway). While at the opening, a fellow artist and I were discussing artists and comfort zones. I am all for continually pushing oneself out of them and regularly re-inventing oneself. She however said something that has been worrying me ever since: she said she understood why certain artists stuck to what sells because it is their livelihood and that we (she and I) were fortunate to be able to create what we liked as we did not depend on it for a living. I have to say, if I am fortunate it certainly does not feel like that! I have to work extremely long hours in a terrible, soul-destroying industry to pay the bills so that I can use my precious limited free time and resources to create extremely personal works that nobody really gets or wants. And I am always so frustrated! When I am busy with all the menial and tedious tasks my job entails I am dying inside because I am not following my passion and creating. And when I am creating I am tortured and plagued with so many self-doubts and insecurities because I receive very little real affirmation and have very little hope of ever making a living creating what I am driven to create. In order to earn a living I would have to what I call “dumb down” and begin creating the sentimental and the popular; unicorns and angels and kitty-cats. Not that I don’t do that, but only for myself, especially kitty-cats.
Sigh, so yes, I am whining but this is what keeps me up at night (well, one of the many things). It is like I am floating all alone in the middle of this vast ocean and I do not know toward which horizon I should be swimming. When I am faced with these self-doubts I try and orientate myself by looking at recent accomplishments so here goes:
This year I participated in 9 exhibitions –
– Anima (2015) joint exhibition Anima-Animus with Bernice Stott at artSPACE durban Gallery
– Threaded Drawings Group Exhibition (2015) at artSPACE durban Gallery
– d’Urban d’Art Exchange Group Exhibition (2015) at artSPACE durban Gallery
– Prick! Subverting the Stitch (2015) at artSPACE durban Gallery
– Response: UNISA Staff Exhibition 2015 (2015) at UNISA Art Gallery, Pretoria
– Pulp Fiction Group Exhibition (2015) at artSPACE durban Gallery
– Portraits and Selfies Group Exhibition (2015) at White River Gallery, Mpumalanga
– First Glimpse (2015) at the Breathing Space Gallery, Durban
and finally the Affordable Art one.
I received some really good press in 2015. I was featured in a number of newspaper articles, and was notably interviewed by the South African Broadcasting Company (national TV and Radio) –
– SABC TV: Morning Live (31 May 2015)
– SABC Radio SA FM: Friday Edition Khanyi Magubane (05 June 2015)
I was also invited to speak at two conferences –
– Guest speaker at Visual Arts KZN Regional Conference for the Independent Education Board (14 February 2015) St. Anne’s High School
– Guest speaker at Vega School of Brand Leadership (26 May 2015)
Below: The Ringside (2015) Viscosity Monotype – swany
On the academic side, my proposal for my Master’s was successful and I have received my ethical clearance to proceed with my full dissertation and accompanying exhibition (2016 is going to be another hectic year). My students were also very successful this year, especially my 2 senior students who both received distinctions. This of course reflects well on me whether I had much to do with it or not. I am hoping that I did at least have a little to do with it.
So yes, all told a really successful year…BUT guess how many sales? Yep, that is correct: Zero, zibbo, nada, NONE! And that is what kills an artist, an uninterested audience. Ask my man, Vincent (van Gogh), who driven to despair, first chopped his ear off and then later shot himself! He apparently only sold one painting his entire life and that one to his brother. Sad, so sad! How much better would his life have been if people just shown a little interest in his work? And how do I prevent myself from lopping off my ear you may ask? Well, I am always challenging myself and taking on huge, adventurous and challenging tasks. I set myself goals like an exhibition or meeting academic requirements and this keeps me focused and prevents me sinking into melancholy and despair. In addition working with students, although seriously draining, gets me to step back from my own art-making and critically focus on another’s work. Plus encouraging another artist amazingly encourages one’s self. I also further venture out of my comfort zone by learning new skills and techniques. For instance this year I experimented with monotypes, cyanotypes and linoprints. I also experimented with drawing and painting with inks. And that is how I keep going and how I keep doing what I do.
I also find that if I can keep going with my creative life then I can keep going with what the rest of life throws at me and this year has been a bumper year! Most notably of course is watching my beloved mother suffer so in hospital: she has come out of the coma but is still on life-support after having had a tracheotomy operation (basically having a hole cut in your throat and a pipe stuck in it). So although I got my wish to be able to let my mom know just how much she means to me one more time it is a terrible thing to see her suffer so. The fact is we have the technology these days to keep ourselves alive indefinitely, the question is should we? In ancient times the old and infirm when they could no longer benefit the tribe would walk out into the wilderness to meet their Maker. I see in my mother’s eyes her weariness and desperate plea to be allowed to go but how does one even go about doing that; delivering the mercy kill? And would I even have the courage to do it if I was allowed to? Things that keep me up at night.
Below: Self-sacrifice and the Selfie (2015) Viscosity Monotype – swany