A well-respected bicycle shop owner once said to me: “The best bike is YOUR bike’ and I think this fits with my idea about an artist’s practice. It chimes with something an artist also said: “Of course I believe I am the best artist in the world, otherwise, what would be the point, how would I carry on.”
This may sound offensively arrogant but I really believe it to be true. Strangely enough this statement actually ‘levels the playing field’ of art (and that’s a BIG field) because if we accept that all of us, deep down (or in some cases ‘shallow up’) truly believe our own work and its story, its past and its future, is of importance then we really believe it is of the utmost importance, – a matter of life and death in fact – and this applies whether you are the proverbial ‘Sunday Painter’ or the highly educated and sophisticated artist who starts a gallery in a trendy and booming part of the city and ironically titles it “The Sunday Painter.”
On the other hand it is equally to true to me to say “I believe I am the worst artist in the world.” The point is that “best” and “worst” do not matter, art is not sports day, Crufts dog show, nor a city-bankers bonus league, it is a way, a way of life, your way, of your life.
I certainly believe, at times, both myself and my work to be important, but I don’t judge my self, my enquiries or my way of life to be more or less important than anyone else’s. I am, deep own, a holistic relativist and a horizontalist who finds all forms of hierarchy, dominance, and divisiveness abhorrent, a criminal stain on humanity’s potential. I arrived at these positions, as I arrived at everything valuable in my life today, by pursuing art.
The long story of my work feels quite heroic, insistent and consistent. It has taken slow but nevertheless great strides, through several decades, sincerely exploring and developing a genuine enquiry into the nature and possibilities of art, mostly through the media of photography, writing and some video works.
Progress and breakthroughs continue to thrill me. The production of a new image, the acquisition of a new ability, and the occasional sense of mysterious encouragement or endorsement makes the financial peril, the powerlessness, the outsiderliness, the alienation and marginalisation I have always experienced as an outcome of my uncompromising commitment to art all worthwhile.
Websites are a great boon to my horizontalist, non-hierarchical view of life, allowing us each to show the story of our works to all, providing time and space in which to contextualise and explain what we believe to be the value of our work. Websites are, again, a great leveller where every form or art and artist can rub shoulders and compare notes.
Thus the internet challenges the elitism that has dominated and been associated with art – at least in a certain, local culture – for several hundred years.
In this WORK section of my site I show a series of pieces and shows that have been significant milestones in my gradual development. It is by no means exhaustive of my large archive which cries out for the appropriate quality time needed to form and present its contents. Much remains unrepresented as I have been making art in various ways for 30 years without avidly pursuing opportunities to consolidate projects through exhibiting and publishing, and usually distracted by the significant task of, what the less wealthy English person calls: ‘keeping the wolves from the door.’
The main line of enquiry I pursue started-out with mechanically reproduced images (photography and photo-printmaking) sidestepping traditional craft-based practices of drawing, painting and sculpture. Photography led me to consider all art and thought in a temporal light, and that, in turn led me to study theories of temporality to PhD level. A few years ago I was exploring time, temporality and history in my photographs but this also led me into making abstract and distressed images. Recently I have turned back to focus on light, and an anti-semiotic search for a more affective image to which it is more difficult and less necessary to append words.
Around 2003 I started exhibiting about once a year, finally finding a genuine, personal reason (after many years of not finding one) to exhibit, and I now gain a lot from that process. For me, an exhibition should always be a laboratory and never merely an opportunity to parade an accomplishment. It is invariably a gruelling test of the value and currency of images and ideas. I use the event and space and camaraderie of a show as a test bench to squeeze out and further the latent potential of my current thoughts and processes and thereby move it all on a significant step.
Finally, I believe that photography has made and continues to make a radical departure from established notions of evaluating art – i.e. from c the Renaissance to Modernism. I believe it makes no sense to evaluate photographs formally, semiotically or in terms of narrative or criticality. I believe that they should be considered as facts and that evaluating them in terms of art awards them a transcendent representational role that is falsely, incongruously and inappropriately inherited from art and thus diminishes and denies their truer purpose as what I call ‘augurs of immanence’ providing a kind of innocent continuity with experience that is non- and post-representational.
Almost everyone makes or has made a photograph and every photograph is as valuable as every human being truly is. It makes no sense therefore to describe someone else’s photographs as e.g. ‘excellent’, ‘beautiful’, ‘interesting’ or for that matter ‘hackneyed’ etc. To do so is to completely overlook the real democratising and liberating potential of photography’s disruption of the elitist and divisive art tradition and to anachronistically perpetuate the use of ‘hackneyed’ judgements drawn from art’s traditions, partly to empower the judge / critic / speaker / viewer by means of an ultimately slippery, fickle, mendacious and self-serving system of judgement, which is really little more than an exercise of power which maintains an established and unacceptable cultural hierarchy.
My photographs are, rather, ‘Matters of Fact’ (the name of the work I made for the 2007 show ‘So-Called Life’), not held-up to be judged and celebrated, deemed winners and losers like dogs at a dog show, but evidence of a certain human experience, a passage through a certain life and a certain world. In considering photographs thus I think we award them their truer, idiosyncratic and ultimate value as a (still) new and special kind of image that liberates both us and itself from judgement, and in so-doing establishes a parallel alternative to ‘art.’