Covid and animal crackers
When dark cynicism engulfs the world then it is the duty of an artist to face up to reality along with everyone else. It has been over a year that I, as an artist, have not been able to exhibit or have friends in the gallery that represents me. There is no separation between the frustration felt on the street, to that felt in the art world. Artists are part of society, and the idea of a pandemic or political turmoil keeping people apart is as alienating to a lone artist in a studio, as it is to a corporate office worker in a busy office.
I have been determined to work hard throughout the Covid pandemic. It has been difficult to produce works that speak of pain and anxiety when you know that people would rather be entertained and freed from their burdens. That is why, I guess, I began thinking beyond a visual representation of our collective angst; and I began making prints mostly comprised of words.
In my frustration I thought of the colouring-in books that children deface in the process of learning why colour occupies the place that it does in our field of visual representation. I began to remind myself why I am an artist, and when expletives emerged I wiped those out with black tape.
‘Open your eyes. The world needs lookers more than it needs seers,’ I wrote in order to encourage myself to always adopt an open-minded approach. And towards the end of a series of prints I called the Fringe Facsimiles, I was so spent that I wrote: ‘I don’t get lost.’
This was a reminder to myself to stay on the path that I had originally defined for myself as an artist. That road cannot be the road of subterfuge, even if I keep my identity a secret. It has to be a journey towards understanding the universality of certain images.
In most of my works I have loaned famous animal characters, and some comic superheroes, to be my ambassadors in my art. It’s not entirely unique, I know, but I always try to adhere to an alternative hierarchy where the underdogs of the comic world seem to be overcoming their setbacks in order to triumph.
In this way I am able, in my art, to take all of my freaky friends with me. And perhaps on my print of ice-creams falling from the sky, I should have written ‘We don’t get lost,’ (instead of ‘I don’t get lost’) thereby acknowledging the fact that art making is always a group effort.