During the open studio tour yesterday someone from Albania asked me about the symbolism in my paintings, pointing at a variety of objects and figures and questioning me in some detail about what they meant. At first I found this experience rather strange, as I seldom get the chance to really talk about my work with people who get engaged in it (perhaps that’s why writing this blog has become something of an obsession, as it offers an opportunity to explain). Artists make things, place them in a gallery and seldom engage their audience in person, unless they choose to seek them out. In this instance explaining the paintings to the Albanian lady reminded me of the journey of the last six years, remembering each work as a milestone of personal discovery and occasional revelation. It struck me that some things that seem obvious to me are really not at all clear to people who “weren’t there at the time”.
The “Reluctant Death of Modernism” caused some lengthy discussion with this Albanian visitor about pregnancy and expectation which was quite unexpected. She saw only the exoteric expression of a woman who didn’t seem altogether happy with her pregnancy. I’ve always thought the symbolism of this piece was quite self-evident compared to the more arcane qualities of some of the other works. The pregnant model stands in a desert landscape (actually Death Valley, near the dunes) next to a crushed Campbell’s soup can and some bones. Clearly it has a lot to do with post-modernism and modernism and the end of the twentieth century. She’s pregnant because the art world is expecting a new age. I don’t suppose that this new age will happen overnight, but it seems self evident that post-modernism is running out of steam.
The idea of a nascent new age of romantic idealism in art appeals to me.
The landscape of dreams and fantastic imagined worlds with a mystical appeal together with the satisfaction of good craftsmanship and a narrative combine to take me away from the unpleasantness of our contemporary world. Imagination and idealism are the antidotes to post-modern skepticism and negativity.