Joy is an elusive emotion. It’s far more expansive than happiness and far deeper than feeling good. I love the word JOY. Even saying it or reading it lifts my heart just a little.
I’ve been making art for twelve years, and along the way, my practice has been influenced and enriched by many ‘teachers’. Some of them great artists of the textbooks, others, relatively unknown outside their own communities. You know how there are some moments in time, some shining spots in the tapestry of your life, that you can look back on and nothing was quite the same after that? I had one of those moments of clarity many years ago when I went to an exhibition of work by Sue Codee, an artist in Albany. When I walked into her exhibition, my heart lifted, (and my jaw dropped :).
I felt a kind of wonder as I walked around the room. I recognise that feeling now, it was joy. I was just an iddy biddy art student then, at the very beginning of this adventure, and I had NO IDEA what kind of art I would end up making, no clue that making and teaching art would define the course of my life. But in that moment, I knew that if I EVER, EVER had the opportunity to do what Sue had done, and show my work in an exhibition, THIS is how I wanted people to feel.
Fast forward five years, and I was in the middle of one of our final assessments in art school. I had all my work up on display and my teacher was giving me her feedback in front of the whole class. By this time, I’d already had one solo exhibition, and been selling my work for 4 years. I was still a baby artist, but I was really conscientious and used to be being well received by my lecturers. I was even honoured by being represented by a lovely little gallery, and that my work had been acquired by Robert Juniper. I say this (not just to name drop 🙂 but to place in context what happened next.
My teacher was less than impressed. In fact, she gave me such a damning assessment, that I very nearly quit art school that day. She said several things that were difficult to process, but one of her major criticisms was that I was “overly concerned with aesthetics”.
It took some time, but I became very grateful to that teacher. Bless her heart, she unwittingly pushed me across a threshold in art that I never even realised was there. Of course I agonised over it. Was I was being superficial? Did my art lack depth? Had I missed something vitally important despite five years of art school?
Then gradually, wholeheartedly and completely, I became what she criticised me for – an artist who is unapologetically concerned with beauty.
Sidenote: In art school, we rarely study “beautiful art”, or try to make it. The concept is king, and the art that is studied is often, to the casual observer, difficult to understand – a blinking light bulb, a stack of bricks, an artwork made of feces, food, urine or semen.
Strange as it may sound, I have no problem with any of the above. I think art draws from, documents and is defined by, the preoccupations of the day. And our ‘day’ is complex, messy and difficult to define. We are explorers of the mind and heart, not knowing ourselves very well, but eager to extend the boundaries around us.
And while I’m as messy and complicated as the next person, I’m going to keep things simple, in my art at least. I am overly concerned with aesthetics, and I’m so darn grateful that I am 🙂
“surrounding yourself with beauty is never “shallow” or “superficial.” Quite the opposite. Whenever you make or are drawn to something beautiful, you are directly responding to the call of your heart.” –Kelly Rae Roberts
My eighth solo exhibition, JOY opens in 3 days and you are all invited! Whether in spirit or in person, please be with me at the Opening Event on Sun Dec 1, at 11am, at the Victoria Park Centre for the Arts, 12 Kent Street, Western Australia.