I am undertaking a course on marketing for Artists at the moment and am learning many things. Not all of them are sitting comfortably, as those of you who are familiar with my work would know I am an intuitive painter. What that means is I don't have a preconceived notion of what I am going to paint before I pick up the brush and begin. I like it that way. It is very much a part of the journey of creating for me.
The idea of being marketable, at least from most Galleries perspective from what I am learning is producing quality and quantity of easily recognisable work, among other reasons I am sure. It is an interesting topic.
I understand from a business point of view it makes sense, if you invest in promotion and help build a brand to have the expectation that there is a continuity to draw on and build a loyalty to that brand and style. Then the consumer knows what to expect from a specific artist and the gallery can promote a certain aesthetic with confidence.
It works for many artists, I know it does, I have seen their work and yes there is a continuity of theme or style that one learns to expect from them. It means you might recognize their work before reading a signature and if you like their style, you may return for further purchases or be confident in recommending their work to others.
I also feel it has the possibility of making a studio into a production line based on the idea of sales rather than pure artistic exploration, which is fine too unless, like me, creating art is an exploration of self through my materials, as much as it is a means to create a painting of aesthetic value.
There are artists who managed to engage in a specific subject matter they wish to explore continuously and with passion without a production line tendency. Robert Ryman, with his White Paintings for example. His approach to his subject was not the identification with color or image, rather the act of painting itself and the exploration of what various strokes, techniques and additives meant to the paint. The very fact he explored the physicality of painting itself produced a body of recognisable work with a recognisable theme of investigation into his materials. (See my blog post below, from May 13th 2011)
I consider my work to be a collaboration with my materials and what the paint teaches me along the way to a resolved piece IS the point to my time spent in the studio, it is the joy in the very act of painting that makes being a painter so fulfilling to me. A discovery of my personal qualities along with the qualities of my materials and how they interact.
A gallery perspective may be that it is 'safe' to change a style once a brand loyalty is established as long as there are underlying principles that run through the different variations, again making the work identifiable at a glance or at least having enough brand loyalty to inspire investigation into the new style of work. I really do understand this concept. Finding a way to achieve this with my own work is more challenging.
I experiment with layers of Glaze and Pigment, techniques to produce different outcomes and palettes that resonate over the build for a satisfying outcome. The colors differ widely depending on my mood at the time, often more colorful when I am feeling energetic and more neutral or earthy tones when I am seeking calm. I definitely feel affected emotionally and energetically by the color choices I make and consider my time in the studio a sort of 'life therapy' as much as an investigation into the properties of paint. The idea of even pre-planning the palette rests uncomfortably.
So where does this new approach to making art (in terms of a Gallery relationship) leave me in regard to my arts practice? The same place I was before I suppose but with a better understanding of why they do what they do and why I do what I do. Finding a compatible Gallery may not be as easy as it might be if I was to focus in on a particular style, if I stay true to my experimenting and intuitive approach but I am sure I will find one who relates to my work in the way I do.
Meanwhile, I have interpreted this dilemma- perhaps literally and over the past weeks of losing sleep and my creative urge in order to explore how I could apply this new found knowledge to what I do, I collected a couple of paintings from the studio, cut them up into little inch squares and cement glued them on top of another painting. This was a way of working through the thoughts about this topic while remaining creative but not committing brush to canvas in any chosen style. It was extremely cathartic and an enjoyable process. Each tile carries with it the vibration of it's origin and contributes to the new work comprising of many pieces coming together as a whole.
I am happy to say I like the end result as well, which is a bonus and I am choosing to explore it a little further in the process of repeating the process with varying sized tile and different styles of my work selected to deconstruct and reconstruct. I am going to call the series 'Resurrection'!
It's a metaphor for the resurrection of my faith in my own intuitive, creative process as much as it is in the resurrection of deconstructed works into something new. On with the journey!
Blog post May 13th 2011: http://www.deborahrhee.com/robert-ryman/