The secret gallery’s blog

Maybe the first secret gallery in Doolin, Co. Clare, Ireland

Archive for May 2011

The Art Of Positive Influences And Support

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Prayer flags in German and English, indigo on recycled cotton trousers

Art work by Svenja Seegers and Marianne Slevin, Kilshanny 2010

Sometimes you meet or see another artist’s work that relates so strongly to yours that it could have come from you. It is both a relief to find someone on your path but it can be a bit disconcerting. Sometimes you can find yourself not doing something you would have done because it is too similar to the other artists work, you might have started it before them but they realized their project, you left yours unfinished. Now their’s is hanging in a prestigious gallery. Or you fear that if you look at artist’s work that is similar to your own that it will influence your work too much. My husband brought up an interesting question about it. He said it seems when artists talk about being influenced by deceased artists work it is talked about positively, but when they talk about being influenced by contemporary artists it is seen as a bad thing. This seems quite true for some reason. Some of my biggest influences would have come from my art college friends. Not so much what our work looked like but our philosophies about art formed and grew together in some ways. We were all living in the same city at the same time, not only going to college and studying art together  but socializing together, talking for hours about art and life almost every day for several years. It was a wonderful environment for creativity.  But at one time or another you have to live again outside of that cosy world so you have plenty of material to work with, it is not just output, but you are refilling that inspiration tank. It is like having all the tools and skills without having experiences in life to take from.

There is something to be taken from this close community of artists that many of us loose when we leave college. Life takes over, many great things happen but for many their contact with other artists is on the sparse side. For me I live with a wonderful muse who has encouraged me to make art for the last almost 7 years, otherwise I would have probably stopped. A couple of months ago I started an Artist’s group that meets up regularly and it reminds me of being back in college, drinking tea and coffee and talking passionately about what art we are going to make. It is an organic type of group, growing and changing. It started out being about artists making art work including poetry and text in the public spaces that seem neglected both urban and in the landscape. This is still the main focus of the group but having a supportive network of other artists is a wonderful thing. One of the other benefits of working in  a group is when you are working in a public space on your own can seem like a daunting and sometimes embarrassing challenge, but when there are a few of you doing it it feels a lot safer and less embarrassing.

We have all come from different art backgrounds and work in different ways, but even though we have just started there is already a sense of harmony between the group and huge potential for growth. We are open to sharing ideas and collaborating to make projects that bigger and more far reaching then any one of us could do alone. We wish to continue our own solo practices while having the opportunity to work with other creative people when we wish to. It is definitely a time to join forces and encouraging creativity in others rather then competing with each other and owning ideas.

A wise lecturer in College many years ago, called Mick Wilson told us some truths about contemporary art practice. He said we better think creatively about the whole of our art practice not just the actual art we make, but that we can’t relay on selling our art alone to make a living, but we need  to be creative and inventive about the way we are artists too. He asked us all what we planned to do when we left college. I remember having some very naive plan to have a studio in some castle grounds where the visitors would come in and  see and buy my art work. We may not get our studio in the castle but on a realer level we can help ourselves by creating a network of like-minded individuals and getting our art out without waiting to be invited or at least as well as being invited to exhibit in our chosen galleries.

Written by Marianne Slevin

24 May, 2011 at 10:07 pm

Oh F*** People Are Looking!

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An artist spends much time making their invisible world visible, and for long periods of time this stays invisible to most of the word, either it is not ready to be seen or the rest of the world is not ready to see it.  When one catches up with the other and the art emerges out into the wider world a strange thing happens. Suddenly the artist realizes that people are looking at their work, the walls of their studio have turned into crystal and every thing they ever made stands bare and alone without the shelter of secrecy.  This is the day the artist has long awaited but what happens now?

Why did I take such rushed photographs of my work? Why did I group my work like that, it looks so disjointed, why did I leave that writing the way I did without re-reading it? But most of all why did I waste so much time not believing in myself as a real artist? Worrying that my work would neither be the sort of art that the majority people would hang in their homes or ever be shown in the art museums and respected art establishments, but fall somewhere between the two in the great void.

One answer is to never shrink your talent to suit your immediate surroundings, you may not live in New York but there can be great artists living and working in tiny places too, can’t there? Do not rely on the fed back of strangers or even worse the lack of interest, it is no reflection on your work. I have come to learn that in many places  many people don’t care about art.

One day out of the blue many people start to look at your work, are you serious about your work now? Nothing has changed your work was just as real before other people started to notice. It can be hard to keep your courage when even mediocre galleries turn you down, every application comes back months later saying you did not get the award/bursary/exhibition this time but do try again next time. You and a few others really believe in your work, but why does it take so long for other people to respect it? I have some ideas but I don’t really know. The art world is predominantly a fickle world. Commercial galleries have to make money to stay open so they have to sell art, and to sell art the artist often has to start to imitate themselves so people feel secure about what they are buying.  If your work does not fit neatly into a box then people have not the time or energy to work out if it is of any value so they move swiftly on to the next artist for there are always plenty more artists.

So don’t wait till the rest of the work gives you permission to feel like a real artist. As my husband and muse, James advised me many years ago if you want something then pretend you have it already, so if you want to be a well respected artist then pretend you already are and it will be much easier and quicker for everyone else to realize it if you realize it first. What would a well respected artist do ?

Written by Marianne Slevin

8 May, 2011 at 4:19 pm

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