People have asked me, ‘Isn’t it boring in Bridlington, a little isolated seaside town?’ And I say, ‘Not for us. We all think it’s very exciting, because it is in my studio and it is in my house.’
– David Hockney –
Like Hockney, I live in a little seaside town and my house is also my studio. Well, to be more exact, I had my studio built on top of my house earlier this year. Either way, house and studio are one experience. And, like Hockney, I have been asked by various persons whether the seaside village where I live isn’t boring?
The experience of living in a quiet neighbourhood as an artist (with partner, child and dogs) is expressed by Austin Kleon in his New York Times best-seller Steal Like An Artist. Kleon is of the belief that the ‘romantic image of the creative genius’ is over, and that it’s more in the interest of the artist to retain energy for creativity. Kleon quotes Gustave Flaubert: ‘Be regular and orderly in your life, so that you may be violent and original in your work.’ I tend to agree with this outlook on creative energy-spending, perhaps because I don’t have so much of it (energy) to spend. After all, I’ve just turned 50.
In hindsight, I realize all too clearly (now) that having brought my living and working spaces closer together increased by creative energy & ability in ways that I had not foreseen. More importantly, the shift in my thought processes has been quite profound: I find that I am less concerned with the idea of making ‘good art’ and am seemingly able to allow life-living to infiltrate my art making process. This is liberating. I am currently experiencing a seamless way of living that includes walking my dogs, doing washing, homework with my daughter (should she need me) as well as spending time interacting with my family. Nothing needs to be put on hold for me to – later – make art.
I fully realize that not all artists feel this way about living in Suburbia. For many, even the idea thereof is to be filled with absolute terror and horror. Other artists are navigators and travel the world over as they make art in foreign and sometimes obscure places. Here I am reminded of a remarkable artist I met in Alexandria (Egypt) whilst preparing for an exhibition we were both showing in. Eric van Hove is a Cameroon-raised Belgian conceptual artist, but it would be unfair to contain him to one or two geographical spaces. He describes himself as a ‘citizen of the world.’ In my opinion, Eric is the supreme art-navigator that revels in continuous, inter-cultural exchange & movement as he traverses the globe. And, although we met briefly, I have great admiration for him as he does what he must. Though there are significant differences in the way Eric and I approach art making – the greatest being that of staying home versus being on the move – the similarity lies in the search for connections, which is what most art is about.
I would like to believe that William S. Burroughs did not restrict himself to traveling in the physical sense alone when he said: ‘It is necessary to travel. It is not necessary to live’, although I may be slightly idealistic here. However, Burroughs does make this powerful statement relating to joining the dots in order to augment creativity which leaves no doubt to methodology:
Only by embracing the onslaught of information and images that defines the post-modern landscape and only by making connections amongst the flickering clusters of experience can any creative vision be expanded.
Experiential clusters can occur wherever you are. So can joining-the-dots.
- Austin Kleon:
- Steal Like an Artist (2012) Workman Publishing Company / ISBN 978-0-7611-6925-3
- Show your Work (2014) Workman Publishing Company / ISBN 978-0-7611-7897-2
- Eric van Howe: