Using your own original ideas.
I have been sorting out my considerable collection of cards and postcards bought at art galleries. I will often buy one or two of these when I go to a big gallery, not necessarily from whatever exhibition I have just been to. I have a whole box full of them and like to have a few up on my bedroom shelf and on various pinboards and every now and then I change them out. But finding particular ones was proving tricky because they were in a big mess.
When I look at the art on the cards I am so struck by the images, they are like the library collection of all my favourites; the artworks that inspire me.
Above: I probably have more than this many art postcards, but unfortunately this is not my lounge room and I can’t remember whose it is.
So I started sorting them into separate piles of cards and postcards, then thought: there’s no point to that, it won’t help me find them quickly. There are lots of way I could categorize them. Ancient, really old [say pre 1850] , regular old 1850-1935ish, modern, post modern , fairly recent and now? Abstract or realism? Or should it be by medium? Paint, sculpture, printmaking, video, installations. This is certainly an easy way to organise them because I’m probably not going to forget what medium was used.
Some of the really old images seem so modern the could have been created yesterday! And some of the ones that are not so old, 1980’s-1990’s seem very out of date. Maybe they will also look cool in 200 years time.
The black cat, c1934, colour woodcut by Ishikawa Toraji [1875-1964]
Beauty looking back, c1928, ink, colour and gilt on a paper scroll by Kainosho Tadaoto [1894-1978]
Woman in a bath, 1964, oil, charcoal, tempera and collage by Brett Whiteley [1939-1992]
Above: the 3 images seem somehow so modern, but the most recent image, by Whiteley is nearly fifty years old and the other two were done around 80 years ago.
It made me start thinking about what mediums we [the collective we of artists everywhere] are using at the moment. And what mediums are fashionable.
There is no doubt that various mediums come in and out of fashion. A few years ago everyone was making a film, after that it was video art and now everyone is writing an erotic e-novel.
The thing about choosing a medium because its fashionable is; if you are not on the front of the wave you will be lost in the crowd, and you aren’t going to be at the front of that wave if you aren’t making that work authentically [ sorry for this overused word]. By this I mean following your own journey of what you make and why. You will be following someone else’s path.
I’m not saying that no one ever made anything good by being inspired by how another artist was working. Maybe they made an even better artwork. It’s not actually a competition.
If you are madly inspired by anything, including a medium then you should harness that energy and make a bit of art , or if you have the urge to try out a new medium then definitely go for it. But if it doesn’t suit your work then it just won’t gel.
In 2000 artist Simryn Gill created the work Roadkill. It is an installation of lots of found objects [objects that have been run over on the road, cans, bits of paper, bottle tops etc ] mounted on toy wheels. To me it was like a pilgrimage of the fallen, both playful and dignified. It doesn’t capture well in photographs unfortunately. Now this is a pretty nutty medium, but as an artwork it’s telling a whole story. It worked really well but I don’t think it means that everybody should rush out and start making art from bits of old shit they found on the road.
Above: Roadkill, 2000, by Simryn Gill
So think about what medium will really do what you need it to do and will enhance your idea. If you want help thinking about ways to pick the right medium for your art then please go to the Making Art website section Choosing the right medium.
Will video art seem really daggy in a few years time and everyone will take up egg tempura painting?