THE LIGHTER SIDE OF ART
Before I started thinking seriously about making art my main occupation, I hadn’t considered the meaning of my artwork beyond what it was: colours, brushstrokes, paint on paper, escape. Yes, it felt deeply personal to me; that was my time, my hand and a little of my heart there in front of me. But I never examined too closely what I wanted it to represent.
When you put your artwork out into the World, people rightly ask, ‘but what does it mean?’ So at the start of my journey as an artist, I worried as much about how I would describe my art in any real depth, as I did about judgement of the work itself. It kept coming back to, what did I want my artwork to say?
Writing artist statements helped, but was also pretty gloomy. It allowed me to untangle the messy ideas I had about my art. It forced me to pay attention to what I was saying, (because of course I already was saying something). But it also showed me the statements my art were making were not earth shattering. They weren’t politically challenging; they weren’t highlighting major injustices or even expressing great personal conflict. They were the antithesis of all those things.
My work, in its many different phases and forms is light and joyous. I kept asking, ‘how will I be taken seriously as an artist if I don’t embed a serious message into my paintings?’ So I worried.
In the meantime, I continued to paint, the only way I knew how. My work has evolved many times in the three years I have been painting regularly. One thing has remained consistent though, and that is the light and the unashamed happiness. When I have a bad day, stressed about money or feeling desperate about the state of politics or the climate, I shut it out and paint with hope. I push back everything and focus on simple line drawings of simple things. On bright colours and messy brush strokes. This is for me, it is what I need; but it is also for you.
There is sometimes a misconception that for art to be important it must reflect what is broken about the World. It is true, we need art that is challenging. We need art that smacks us in the face and makes us pay attention. We need art that makes us feel itchy with discomfort. That work is vitally important.
But we also need art that reminds us all is not lost; we’re not done yet. We need art that reminds us we have the space and capacity for simple joys. For play. For rest in the things that delight us. There is still a great deal to be thankful for in our World. And while there still is, there will be artists making art because it is fun, because they get energy from how the clay feels in their hands or the paint spreads onto the canvas. This art reflects hope and light and happiness and that kind of art is vital too.
I make art because it feels bloody good. And there is hope.