I was telling an acquaintance about Martin's adventure at the Royal Academy of Art and how fascinated I was to discover and grasp Tracey Emin's artistic message. She said, yes Tracey Emin certainly can do it, but she is so full of herself! When I asked what she meant she just referred to the interviews. I stared blankly for a while, as I tried to contemplate whether I agreed or not. I then thought, that kind of self-assertion surely is a package deal when you're an artist. It kind of goes with the territory. In other words, she wouldn't do what she is doing unless she was quite self-absorbed, and vice versa. This is what most people expect of artists so they shouldn't complain about it! Since it is bad, bad, bad to be self-centred, artists are intrinsically doomed! Yet this is also how art gets really intense.
Then of course I went onto wondering what people think of me. Well, my conclusion is that I'm a similar case, though obviously I don't know what others may be thinking. In a sense the pursuit of art is a form of self-asssertion, some would call it ego-tripping. Who is to tell where the line is? I used to have trouble saying I'm an artist. I have had to work hard on that. Unless I was quite self-absorbed and fascinated with what is going on inside, I wouldn't have the motivation or understanding of the self that helps me create what I create. I have to say though that one gets very sick and tired of oneself as well. I think that goes with the territory too.
There is also the case of having to assert yourself in order to be noticed as an artist. It goes against the grain of many creatives. No doubt Tracey Emin has been so successful because she has been rather pushy and entrepreneurial, as well as being in the right place at the right time. In a sense I could say that I wish I was able to be a bit more like that. I do find it hard to market myself and manage the stress of self-disclosure. Perhaps it's a fallacy, an illusion I have fallen for because the art market seems so competitive here in the UK, at this time in history. After all, in the olden days I didn't do that much in order to attract buyers. They just appeared, wanting exactly what I had created, each one finding a piece that represented themselves in some way. I also recognize, however, that the situation has changed and my art is not for the same kind of people. How things will evolve only remains to be seen.
Meanwhile, I try not to worry too much about what people in general think of me and Martin. Dunno... we are artists, after all. Our selves is what we have to give to the world. To me it seems that the only measure of someone's artistic merits is, apart from technical ability and gift, their desire to make a difference in the world. What sort of ego a person has is less relevant in this context.
I finally scanned a series of photographs that one of my oldest friends Jannika Nylander took for a photoproject in art college in Helsinki in 1987. I love the little book she made for me. Most of all I adore the surrealism that paradoxically, in all this theatricality and "outside of ordinary life" atmosphere, really feels like me (the clothes were also all mine). I think most of us (women) like to have reminders of what we used to look like. I find it strange that women have portraits of themselves around the house here in the UK but I guess it's really the same thing. Anyhow, when I see this series I think how wonderful to step out of the ordinary and boring self and play a little! After all, a true artist should be able to use themselves in all sorts of ways, and in fact what may look like self-absorption may just be an ability to step outside of oneself and use oneself as art material. Once a long time ago, Jannika commented,, that I was so theatrical. I really was just myself. Life is a stage and all the men and women merely players.
Photos: Jannika Nylander, copyright 1987