We Are All Artists

Sunday, 2 November 2008

Kent mentioned on his blog this morning how he was walking the dogs earlier this week and got to thinking about how we are all artists, because the Creator made us that way. Which was exactly the same conversation I was having with myself the week before while I was walking the dog. Must be something about walking dogs :)

I think this is partially the reason why I got so snarky when I went to the art gallery yesterday. It's been ages since I went. I wanted to go and immerse myself in other people's stuff, give me some inspiration and motivation to go and play with stuff because I haven't in any real fashion for a few weeks now and I'm starting to get bent out of shape. So off to the gallery I went. And I do love going there, I really do. But still, I think going there when I'm already bent of out shape is probably the best time to go there, you know? Saves time.

As soon as I got to the outside of the building, with its chlorinated water wall stinking up the atmosphere, a uniformed customer service person directed me to go in through the entrance to the right, not to the left. As soon as I got in the door a slightly overzealous second customer service person accosted me and told me I couldn't take my backpack in and had to check it in at the cloakroom. I told him that was a shame as I wanted to carry my water bottle around with me, only to be informed that water bottles were not allowed to be taken in either. I then asked him if I was allowed to breathe while I was in the gallery. Maybe he didn't like me very much :)

It was good to be in the art gallery yesterday because hardly anyone was there. As I walked in I battled that always-present feeling that accompanies public spaces that somehow you are not meant to be there. That you don't fit right. That you are guilty as charged for a crime you don't know about. And nowhere is that more apparent than the hallowed rooms containing capital A Art.

What annoyed me about the paranoic requirements of the government to have no water bottles in its gallery was that the only things I saw that were squirtable - ie not behind some form of glass, or bronzed sculptures - were some large Pacific Island totems made out of wood, but surely those also would have been sprayed within an inch of their lives to try to keep them for as long as possible? And anyway, those were being kept a close eye on by one of the many gallery ... what do you call them? guards? - who patrolled each room.

The architecture of the art gallery is interesting. There are little twists and turns and routes to walk down that you are unsure will lead anywhere, only to find around the corner yet another exhibition. It really is a space that invites playfulness and exploration, surely the very essences of creativity. And yet paradoxically, all of the walls are grey - either steel lattice work, as I saw on the escalator, or concrete gunmetal grey. The floors, often, are steel grey also. Rather cold materials and colours, in a place that is ostensibly meant to be about the creative outworkings of our fellow human beings. But then again, maybe gunmental cold is the perfect material for such a place - in my more cynical moments I consider the art gallery the perfect representation of what happens when the best of humanity is shat out through the very small hole of our peace and safety, reductionist, flatpack culture. But then, of course, the building is not meant to be the focus. We are, after all, here for The Art.

I make it a practice to mentally say "fuck you" shake the dust off my psychological feet when I leave places that make me feel unwelcome in some way - ie all of them, so it was nothing new to me to feel unwelcome in my state's own art gallery, owned by me, as a taxpaying citizen of this country, blah blah blah. And indeed, in my own small little way, on my beginning trip of creative self-expression, I went to the gallery because I wanted to be inspired. I wanted to fall into the art of others to fill my well so I could go home and make some of my own. Which is maybe the ultimate fuck you gesture, really.

So anyway, political irritations aside, I did actually wade out of my cynicism for great wads of time, you know, and actually allowed myself to fall into other people's stuff and be transported :) I stood in front of this giant painting by this Pacific Islander (bit of a theme going here) painter called John Pule, and I barely understood what he was saying but of course in another way I totally understood what he was saying and I stood fighting back the tears.

I want to open a "touch, taste, smell" art gallery where you have to roll around in everything you touch. Kind of like a Scienceworks for grownups :) The artists could display there on the proviso that their work might get broken every now and then but what the hell. I know I'd go there :) It's always and forever ironic that a place showcasing the outworkings of the dangerous act of creativity are such safe places. Really, I think gallery guards combined with surveillance cameras combined with glass enclosures combined with extra sensing devices on some pieces will ensure that the Weeping Woman does not once again go on a little trip and the trustees can breathe easy and be unembarrassed. It's just a shame that it makes it so much harder for the rest of us.

But I will be back. There was something about the paranoia and mistrust that fit, somehow, with the spirit of art-making. I just don't think that is their intention. Neither do I think it is their intention to convey to the public, everyday people like the ones who painted the stuff that's on the walls, amazing though it is, that this is somehow above them. But then, most people feel that way anyway. It's the culture we live in. But the fact remains, we are all artists. The Creator made us that way.


  1. I feel that way too, as if Im not quite intelligent or cultured enough to be there, but thinking "why not!!" and wanting to lean next to a painting until the guard gets twitchy. It makes me feel rebellious.
    I remember going to the gallery with Alexander when he was about 4We passed a display with solid red balls stuck into a wall..well of course Alexander wanted to touch one of the bright red balls and feel it's shiny surface. I thought the gallery staff were going to arrest him on the spot, they were aghast! (and of course I felt like such a naughty and bad Mother!) I know there things are there to protect the pieces but it does leave you feeling unworthy of even passing by.

  2. That buildings design is based on Noah's Ark, apparently.:)

  3. i love the stained glass ceiling in the long hall, especially when there's nobody else in there and you can lie on the seat or the floor and just look up at it all

    if you open that 'touch taste smell' gallery, i'd be the first one in the door

    sounds like FUN

  4. Andi - Alex and Cam can "touch taste smell" as much as they like in my gallery ;)

    Monk - Haha, yeah. An empty one - no animals allowed :)

    Kel - I blathered to the woman in the hall saying, "That roof makes me want to spin around and be an idiot" and then she smiled at me but she was probably thinking I was one :) It's nice, ain't it

  5. hi sue...i meandered over from kent's blog. very much enjoyed the post! have you ever read "the artist's way" by julia cameron?

  6. Hi there Stacy :) Yes, I have gone through The Artist's Way and loved it. In fact, at the moment I am in the middle of Walking in this World, which is part two of TAW. It's great stuff, isn't it?


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