Unnoticed Art

Sometimes art struggles, even very good art. It emerges from the source with pure intent, hopeful that it contains some value, some message or potential to provoke thought that can and will make a difference even as it’s shared as a passive act of promotion. But then it falters, it finds an audience that circles and murmurs, offering praise or disdain with a detached separation, happy to admire or dismiss but still unaffected by the work. If that was always the case then it’s even more tangible now. Take something like The Wire, universally praised, endlessly discussed and held up as a totemic awareness of the state of the communities depicted. Brandished as whip for scouring the guilty conscience and framing the villains of the piece. The real people speak, actors give lectures, the producer meets the President, the whole enterprise becomes a watchword for the injustice of a system which even in itself bows down to take a measure of blame when confronted with the representation of it’s own actions.

But then nothing. The real people speak and nothing, the actors give lectures and nothing, the producer meets the President and nothing, guilt is recognised and even in its clarity continues to be ignored. The issue at the heart of it, the driving force of it, the message of it is marginalised and all that’s left is the circling curiosity of the crowd. We all get to enjoy the purchase of awareness, we all get to know what the problems are and add the understanding to the inventory of our possessions. Another act of ownership made abstract from problems which no one ever admits their share in, at least not enough to do anything about them. It’s defeating and not at all unique. Almost every book, film, show, exhibition or talk which contains any form of unspoken plea for action and change becomes muted into an artefact to be hoarded. A prize for those who mistake interest for concern and awareness for understanding. All the while leaving the same handful, the same struggling few to actually work towards solutions.

That’s understandable in most. After all from such an absolute distance what can be gleaned from artistic enlightenment other than a rarefied sense of awareness? The message exists exactly because the separation makes the truth so incomprehensible and blurred never mind the limitations of waking up every day and facing a world which, even before understanding it, seems already to be defeating our better selves. For others though that explanation can’t exist, any more than whatever value they see in their own indifferent, or at least shallow, understanding. There are those who can act and don’t, those who should be driven and aren’t, those who should beat themselves for their own culpability but instead do nothing but smilingly nod at their guilt. I suppose, if nothing else, the good art creates a hammer to use against them. A reminder that, even though they fail through their own lack of effort, they were warned, they were shown and there is no excuse for what came next. That’s a familiar outcome though, not much more. Anger is already the currency we have, resentment is already the comfort and at least once it’d be good to see those underdog attempts at levelling the field replaced by a positive passion for what can be done and what is allowed to be done. Otherwise the art that attempts to translate loses value and what comes next will be beyond culture, for better or worse.

Art of Flames

He’d gotten as far as piling them up and fetching the matches before the will to set them alight sloped away from him, an exhilarating thought drained in an instant of all value. It would be childish, cowardly even to condemn the sheets to the flames, an act of bitterness not liberation. It would have been an act though, it would have been something which, sat at the scene of his placidity, was all he’d really desired.

The sketches were a life’s work, his life’s work. A personality defined in ink and paint and charcoal, a rigid skeleton for his life to hang off of. That’s what they had been anyway, now they were just a mockery, the jibing graffiti of a dead self, there only to remind him of how far he’d sunk over the years from being that soul wallpapered by it’s own creations to the desolate concrete bunker he’d made of himself now.

When and why the change had come he didn’t know, certainly there’d been no conscious breaking point between the old and the new forms of self he’d lived through. He’d never accepted defeat or abandoned his art, instead he’d just moved through it, broken through to the other side of the miasma of creativity that he’d once believed immense enough to fill the universe, to find himself stood in absolute nothingness. No more ideas, no more creations, no more art, no more anything, just longing gazes behind him as if the past might beckon him back and all would be as it was again.

That was the mood in which, in a frenzy, he’d hurled the stacks of forgotten ideas and projects, finished or still underway, into a heap and resolved himself to condemn all that he’d lost to flames. If it was gone it could be forgotten perhaps, or at the very least the mocking derision of what he had done would be stricken from his sight. The memories and loss might have lingered anyway but for a moment it had seemed like it might help.

He threw the matches to the other side of the room and slumped down. Childish, cowardly. What right had he to strike at that better man who’d created these things? How could he imagine that there was any gain to be made from hacking away at the icon he’d made of his own past? Temper tantrums didn’t make more of the person having them, they simply elevated their target by virtue of comparison. A knowledge that sapped all will from him, even knowing he’d seen the truth did nothing to offer comfort. The pictures had to stay, which meant they had to continue judging him, sneering at the empty vessel out of which all value had been drained.

With the fury of the moment passed he remembered the one option that remained to him, the one that presented no passion or intent but simply was. If they wouldn’t go, he would. After all, he’d already seen the passing of the only part of himself worth living for.

For more from me you can check out my collection No Cure for Shell Shock – available in paperback and digital formats. Or you can try any of my other work here – variously available as ebooks or paperbacks.

Artistic Endeavours

During my time in Nepal (and more on that later, perhaps) I found myself in a writing slump. Not a bad one, I’ve finished a new novel which I’m currently editing to the point of literary perfection, but the sort of lull that comes when you’ve spent a while living in your own world. Coming back to reality is always a slightly off putting experience after that, partially frustrating, sometimes isolating but always a noticeable shift from the steady (and sometimes glorious) immersion of a big project. So in an attempt to hold myself back from habitual drinking and the talking of nonsense with passersby I picked up a pen and paper and drew some stuff. After that (and during it, for that matter) I got on with the habitual drinking and of talking nonsense too and regarding that – a special thanks to Sam’s Bar of Kathmandu (and V, owner/barmaid extraordinaire) for putting up with me occupying a quiet corner for my arting.

Anyway, I’m no artist, I claim no talent and have no skills but I did enjoy taking the time to play with a form that I could give in to without getting caught up in the need to be good at it. It was a nice way to lean back from words but still create something, no matter how minor, that I could look at with at least a little pride. I recommend it, create something or, if you already create stuff as a passion/job/vocation, create something unrelated, enjoy a little freedom with your thoughts.

Now I’m back I’d like to do more drawing (and a couple of these have been done in London) but just as a hobby, a way to claim some space away from more involved work.  For now though here are the fruits of my limited labours…

 

Some Images

Some images trawled from the last year or so of this blog, posted for no reason in particular.