Monday, 18 June 2018

Print: Smile / Happy artist's blogging and how to succeed...?

Bored at Work I Google 'art blogs' despite previous experience telling me I'll not find one that I like. On one of those 'Best Art Blog'-type lists I notice a recurring theme based are being 'positive' and offering advice....being smiley, upbeat and exuding gorgeous, white-toothed, wholesome optimism...FUCK OFF!

I also note that cartoonists seem to be popular...well WTF...when looking for artists cartoonists ain't what I have in mind...

...but that's how you get 'popular', right? You do popular, upbeat shit. No-one wants to follow an artist's blog that's full of misery about how no gallery accepts them or they made no money last year (boo-hoo), do they? As far as I can tell at least half the blogs begun by artists died years ago (they kept checking the stats). Popular is telling nice life stories about...I dunno...a trip to the mountains with the kids...and here are the photos...(see, I have a rich, well-rounded life as well as working in the studio at my lovely watercolour depictions of...birds! Which you can buy in my brilliantly well-organised shop)...etc...

...good luck to them. Meanwhile, this series is called Smile. The top one is the original print derived from my own fotos and a found image. Thanks for dropping by...ta-ta for now! (Next post: my happy life and how you too can be a happy person).

Monday, 11 June 2018

There is nothing up here / Where are you going with your art?

Sometimes the road, or in this case, the steps, really do lead nowhere. That's not actually true since they lead to what I think were the backs of residential buildings on West End Lane in West Hampstead. I didn't continue for fear of invading the privacy of those who obviously didn't want strangers poking around, hence the message scrawled on the wall just off the street at the base of the steps. I didn't see the message until I'd been to the top and back down...

...still, can I use the photo/message as a metaphor? If I want. Sometimes stairways lead, not to heaven, but 'nothing'. We've all done it, whether the 'stairway' is a click bait link on the screen or a telephone inquiry to a large corporation; you go nowhere. Or at least, nowhere that's of any use.

Occasionally people have asked me where I 'want to go' with my art. I've always found that impossible to answer. Where do artists 'go'? Presumably, for the ambitious ones, they see themselves on a set of steps to recognition and subsequent financial reward. As you may guess, that's never been me. The first and possibly last place I want to go is the completion of a piece of art. That said, through chance and, very rarely, self-promotion, I've got somewhere in terms of exhibitions and publications.

It's an old adage but I'll dust it off again, artists (musicians etc) must create first and foremost for the love of their art. Obvious? Perhaps, but how many set off every day/year with a view to climbing those steps to Success before really discovering themselves as artists? OK, I know that's a lifetime's work, to me at least. Others hit on a 'winning' formula and cease discovering anything other than the next way to present their Vision...again and again. 

If my 'steps' lead to 'nothing' in the eyes of some, so be it - I don't care. If they lead to places I'm happy to be in, that's good. First and foremost, though, as in the second of these two photos I took on Sunday, the steps lead to a dazzlingly bright place. It may be a place of my imagination, or simply a piece of work I'm very happy with. Either way, what drives me and many others is the idea that there is something 'up there'. 

Friday, 8 June 2018

Print: Certain Indifference / Being arty-farty with John Cage

Certain Indifference, R.Tomens, 2018

Dress down Fridays at Work is usually an excuse for employees to commit sartorial crimes and go unpunished; for me it sometimes means being able to wear a jacket with one of Mark Pawson's badges pinned to the lapel (that's how radical I am!). A favourite is from the John Cage set he made. Nobody has ever commented on it, until today.

A woman who works close by stopped me and said 'What does that say?' I showed her and some explanation was necessary, obviously, so I said it related to an 'artist from the 50s (no, I wasn't about to give a rundown of the decades he actually operated in or all the disciplines he covered) who made a recording called Four minutes, thirty-three seconds, it was silent'. She half-smiled and walked away, saying to the air something including the term 'arty-farty'.

I went away and thought about the term 'arty-farty'. I wondered if an equivalent existed in other languages, or is the philistine put-down particular to Britain (and America?). Put-down? Well, it is, by it's very essence, which is to suggest that anything deeper, artistically, than an oil painting of the countryside, or a portrait, is...'arty-farty'. Or worse, it's used by completely ignorant folk for whom art is an alien concept. 

Is liking Ed Ruscha 'arty-farty'? Is making a print such as the one above 'arty-farty'? Is going to Tate Modern 'arty-farty'? I don't know. It's most likely to be used as a class weapon, perhaps, as in the 'arty-farty' crowd who, by the very nature of both class and culture (in the UK), will be middle-class. 

Whatever. Perhaps next week I'll wear the I Love John Cage one...and probably be considered gay.

Tuesday, 5 June 2018

Print: Pause / Reading on the bus / Being a Lettrist etc

RTomens, 2018

9.10 am, on the 91 bus to Crouch End doing what nobody else is - namely - reading a book. Not that I consider such an act either particularly noble, rebellious or outrageous, only that, looking up from my copy of How German Is It by Walter Abish, of which I have only read 12 pages so far but from those alone am very impressed, I noted that most other occupants of the top deck were, of course, quite naturally, glued to their little screens. I almost said 'reading their little screens', but suspect that at least half would be partaking in that activity commonly known as 'zombie scrolling', which is not commonly known as that at all, since I just made up the expression.

Possessing only an ancient Nokia mobile phone which, although fairly 'smart', is stupid compared to newer ones and still remains smarter than me, I am not tempted and neither is it possible to join the rest of the Western world in their addiction. However, worryingly, I may soon be able to courtesy of an upgrade, insisted upon by Work, which believes them necessary, no doubt under the illusion that the workers all use them only for important matters of business when in fact they can be used for social media, unlike the Work laptops, on which blocks are in place to prevent idlers socialising instead of doing their jobs.

I only use my mobile to occasionally call Home and receive a call from either Home or a man who has had the wrong number for a couple of years and texts every Christmas to wish me and the family all the best. I really should reply this year, thanking him for the sentiment but informing him that I am not the person he thinks I am.

Aside from being an exception in my reading habits on buses I also go against the grain by writing in notepads, especially outside cafes. Sometimes, whilst doing so, I am not who I am but who I think I might be in another time. It's not even a fantasy, as such, but an imagining of Paris in, say, the 1940s, when, I believe, even if only as romantic thinking, writers would sit outside cafes on the Left Bank, making notes for novels in which characters grapples with, what else, existential angst. That or formulating essays on existence for newspapers and magazines. 

I may, however, be more suited to cafe/bar life of another kind, getting drunk with Jean-Michel Mension and the 'tribe' along with committing petty crimes, all as part of a proto-Lettrist gang of sorts. Whilst not being an 'easy' lifestyle, as such, it would have been easier than trying to write a novel.

I used to write novels, none of which were published. I was another kind of writer then. Today I prefer to communicate via this site and construct visuals, such as the one at the top of the page. It is coincidental that it should comprise of a book and text when I considered reading literature this morning on the bus. I made the piece a few days ago. But life has a habit of mirroring art, of catching up with creative activity somehow, doesn't it? It's as if, sometimes, the motor that drives a creation then dictates movement towards a correlation in life outside. More likely, of course, that once the senses are alerted to visual content they are more likely to notice connections with them in the world.

Sunday, 3 June 2018

Print: Dedicated To x 4

Warm, sunny Sunday morning with Horace Silver on the hi-fi and action on the printer. Here's a quick piece I made today. The original (above) was then recoloured. I don't have a favourite version but perhaps you do. Dedicated To is comprised of a found magazine image combined with an altered photo I took on the street last week. But who is it 'dedicated to? You, of course? For what is any art but a dedication to the viewer? And, I must say, a dedication to the maker...who must be dedicated...and give her/himself....something...

R.Tomens, 2018

Friday, 1 June 2018

Wednesday, 30 May 2018

Foto 38 (street shot, Kentish Town) / Your opinion is worthless: the backlash against democratic speech

Foto 38, RTomens, 2018

Hey, remember when everyone's opinion was considered important as part of the revolutionary online democratic platform scenario, circa 2003? Yeah? 

What happened?

Now nobody cares to hear what an ordinary Joe(anna) thinks. We all got sick of comments everywhere, from YouTube to newspaper articles. It was all too easy to spout shit from a ready-made digital soapbox so everyone did!

Blogging became popular, heralded as the Great Democratic Liberation of The Individual - at last! - in opposition to the previous tyranny of inky professional opinion by experts in their field - hurrah!

Fast forward: no-one reads blogs. People, like The Prisoner, want information. It's the great infotainment scam, with nonsense masquerading as journalism, fake news and fucking vacuous subject matter pouring out of the screen to flood your eyeballs in candy sludge.

That and actual information, such as how many films did Agnes Varda (90 today - Happy Birthday, Agnes) make, or how far is it from Earth to know, useful stuff.

Art opinion only gets read by those in the business and students dreaming of being in art magazines one day, presumably. The industry feeds itself. Art and advertising are wedded to such an extent in magazines that they can barely be differentiated. 

In Housmans bookshop I see that fat, glossy, 'high end' magazines seem to have made a comeback; the racks are bulging with them. Meanwhile, they do keep the faith with zines, at least, which tend towards scrappy little pages of nothing much but I'd rather them than the glossies. 

My opinions on art are worthless, even to me. You don't care. I only care intermittently, depending on what mood I'm in, you know? One day It's All Fine, even Photoshopped landscapes and digitally rendered Goth Porn. Another day I want to KILL THEM ALL BECAUSE IF YOU'RE NOT PART OF THE SOLUTION YOU'RE PART OF THE PROBLEM!

What's 'the problem'? What am I rebelling against? What have you got? Kitsch digital art, bad painting, soft porn images of women and girls, portraits in oil, landscapes in oil, psuedo-Surrealism ('surreal', a word so misunderstood that footballers use it in interviews, as does any moron on TV), crafting, zines that look like they were made in craft workshops...etc

Now that the backlash against the opinions of us Nobodies is fully under way I feel even more like carrying on - not that I spout outrageous opinions too often (do I?) - because I've usually gone against the grain. I may be part of the New Pictures Generation but even then as a reluctant member. After all, pictures are part of the problem, or rather, the proliferation of them in the form of selfies, make-up shots...I dunno, whatever numbskulls follow on Instagram. I'm on Instagram...and to boost my Follower count I shall soon be conducting an all-out barrage of selfies in my new Hipster identity...drinking coffees in overpriced places...getting my moustache trimmed...whatever 'hipsters''ve been warned.

Footnote: I have noticed recently on Facebook that more and more people are taking less interest in what their friends post and using it purely as a platform to promote their own activity. I find this interesting. Yes, I know it's a common phenomenon but people I thought better seem to have succumbed to the lure of The Self. This may or may not relate to the backlash against the opinions/work of Nobodies...I don't know.

Footnote 2: it's quite possible that I'm just becoming a bore to these people...ha-ha-ha!


Tuesday, 29 May 2018

Room Photos / The eye outside my body...

“The best thing about a picture is that it never changes, even when the people in it do.”
— Andy Warhol

Word falling, as William Burroughs may have once written - so I played around taking photos in the flat on Saturday, satisfying the urge, paraphrasing László Moholy-Nagy, to use an eye outside my body. The camera eye has held much appeal of late, as a break from exercising my own in the service of image-making. Not that one doesn't use one's eyes to take photos, of course, but I like the idea of the mechanical eye seeing for me. Once removed, how does 'reality' look? Is it reality once captured in photo form? That and other philosophical questions will remain unanswered by me. Suffice to say that objects somehow become transformed when captured by the camera; even mundane, everyday ones. 

Saturday, 26 May 2018

Print: Snow Baffles Beast / Text: Never went to no art school...

RTomens, 2018

Bush Tetras are currently telling me that 'You can't be funky if you haven't got a soul', well, that didn't stop them trying. But can you be an artist if you never went to art school? Yes, obviously. 

I ponder the matter of art school in relation to a conversation with an ex-student outside the Buna Oromia Coffee place in Camden. He studied in Paris and had a French bulldog with him to reinforce his Frenchness in my mind. Nice fellow. Turns out he hasn't made art in a long time. His expression a demeanour conveyed considerable angst about this. I told him to just start scribbling anything on a piece of paper. I don't claim to be an art motivator, but it's not bad advice. He needs to free up whatever's inside him. The trouble is, he used to work large, painting. I reassured him that the principle still applies.

The more ex-students I meet the more I think college does great harm. I used to know to ex-English Lit graduates who really wanted to write fiction but couldn't. They ran a writing group of which I was a member. I got the impression they envied my reckless approach to poetry and prose. This, I'm convinced, was because the weight of knowledge and classics were not a burden I carried. My inspiration at the time was the Beat movement, as any friends receiving my 'spontaneous prose' typed letters would testify.

I also know a few ex-art school students who have trouble creating, or rather, seem to go through long spells of inactivity. I don't know for sure what art school teaches students today. From a conversation with a teacher at Central St Martins a couple of years ago I got the impression that skills have been largely replaced by simply proving time, space and support in exploring ideas. Or something. Not a bad concept. Large paintings in galleries by people who can't paint well, technically, compositionally, or colour-wise, make me laugh though. Still, there's something about that idea that appeals.

As you probably know (can tell?) I never attended art school. Ironically, it's a fact that has probably sustained my output (with a few gaps) over the years. I never was in a place where the proposition of becoming a professional artist was viable. That dream was crushed when I was about 12 and the next four years only heightened my distaste for the education system. Therefore, I got my big disappointment over with early. 

So I carry on...I just wish that French chap would take my advice, though. Deadened creativity is a terrible thing. 

Thursday, 24 May 2018

William Burroughs' London - Westminster Reference Library

I went to the exhibition curated by X-Ray Audio's Stephen Coates and Paul Heartfield with Barry Miles, about William Burroughs in London. It was very small, just one sectioned-off part of the library, but there were some great photos, such as this one of him smiling, impishly! Plus the obligatory gun play...

Photos by Miles, 1972, 'taken after an evening of whisky drinking at 8 Duke St, St James's'

...the best parts were undoubtedly the two vitrines, filled with small photos and have a browse...


...finally, this great portrait...

Photo by Brion Gysin, 1966, Christoper Gibbs' apartment, Cheyne Walk