Art Fair Affair

We-hell, it’s been a while. Told you all this wordy stuff usually goes on in my head only. As things go an event that shakes us awake can reset things and provide new motivation and view points….and what better way to get back into A Reluctant Artist than my visit to the art fair Arco in Madrid last week!

So here’s how that went:

The week before I got a call from my cousin who has lived in Madrid for ages asking if i wanted to come over and be her plus one to Arco. One look out the window at the blustery rainy sham that was February in Edinburgh and I was in. The tickets were courtesy of Knight Frank, who even organised a private tour, champagne and some delightful photo op set ups in their booth!

The whole trip was so spontaneous I didn’t even read up anything about the fair.

Later I did and found out that it has a very interesting concept to keep things fresh every year. There are galleries and artists from all over the world. What is special about Arco is its focus on European and Latin American galleries. Each gallery – and in turn the work and artists they propose to feature – are carefully vetted, need to “score” certain points in a variety of criteria before being accepted. Each gallery also may only exhibit 2 years in a row. Obviously I have never been at the mercy of this system but it seems pretty sound and certainly keeps things unique and varied each year. Being a fair it reminded me in layout and everything very much of trade fairs I have attended and visited and couldn’t help wondering if a system like this would be beneficial there as well. Trade fairs have gotten a bit boring these days as there’s a lot of the same companies at all of them and every year….

As said before I went in completely “blind”, without preconceptions just quietly hoping it wouldn’t be too formal or full of weird pointless installations.

What I had not expected was the fun-filled sensory overload of exciting art that it turned out to be. Seriously I was like a kid in a candy store….around every corner there was another piece that drew me in and blew my mind. Everything from the hilarious, to the thought provoking, to the slightly weird stuff and creepy stuff. The overall atmosphere was casual enough to just walk right up and check things out without being hovered over by gallery people.

I tried to keep track of galleries and artists names but soon last track a bit and didn’t mind…..a bit sorry I can’t tag people in these pics now whoops!

Part of the greatest joy for me is art being allowed to do it’s thing without someone relentlessly trying to interpret a certain meaning or depth into it. By definition it is visual art, so let’s try and keep the prose out of it.

As an artist (albeit reluctant one) myself, I have always cringed at the gallery sales pitches of art…a lot of times flailing about wild theories or what the artist tried to express how. Obviously sometimes the artist is even complicit in this BS.

I do not doubt for a second that every piece means something quite specific and often profound to the creator. Something I discussed with a friend recently was “talent needs trauma” and while I don’t necessarily subscribe to this all the way; I’m sure that a lot of talent/skill was born out of trauma (tough times, shit going down…whatever you prefer to call it), or at least came to be a ways of dealing with it via the creation of something else.

That was certainly the case for myself, I always used painting as a way of dealing with all things and dark places. When I was much younger it manifested a lot more literally and my work was a lot more disturbing and darker. Over time I realised that this approach just created a mental and visual loop as it were, rather than processing and overcoming things, processing then returning to the starting point. Mind you as a teenager the whole tortured artist vibe seemed a bit cool as well.

And of course the weirder the stuff you paint, the more people want to know what it’s all about. I’d never tell because all these things were deeply private. From there stems my distaste for artists statements and all that. I found the sheer concept of them as vulgar and distasteful as tabloid headlines and celebrity gossip magazines. Why can’t we leave things their little hidden magic? A painting is not a science paper making outrageous claims where you would expect such transparency, sources and proof to follow…

These days I create only what brings me joy to look at. Without a fixed medium, style or concept. Because just as you are what you eat, you become what you look at.

…and with that I’ll get back to doing what I do best!

Stare At Art Not Walls
Stare at art, not walls

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