This week, Margaret Thatcher died on the anniversary of my sisters death. This along with a visit to the Lichtenstein exhibition at Tate modern, and questions from MA course leader Jonathan Kearney regarding creativity and ‘aura’ have left me contemplating a lot of issues to do with my practice that I’m aiming to make sense of with this post.
In chronological order – visiting the fantastic retrospective of the great American artist Roy Lichtenstein at the Tate Modern. Lichtenstien’s concepts and attitudes, for instance towards Abstract Expressionism looking at the brushstroke as graphic object rather than as feeling, are still as fresh and vibrant today as they ever were. The visual power in which reproductions of his iconic work have intoxicated me, is something I’m only beginning to understand now after reading the 1936 essay by Walter Benjamin essay, ‘The Work of Art in the Age of Mechanical Reproduction. However it was one sentence in the show catalogue that really stuck with me. In reference to his 1962 piece ‘Portable Radio’, Lichtenstein said ‘the painting itself could be thought of as an object’. Although Lichtenstein was likely referring to viewing the piece as a practical object, I started to think of how my practice which is almost entirely digital, does not actually exist in a physical reality. The laborious process in which my images are captured, then stacked digitally is very labour intensive – so requires a physical process to be seen, however when it sits not viewed and redundant, inside a memory card, it could be argued that my work does not actually exist al all at that point in time. In the instance of these pieces of work, most of the process is mental and though it certainly involves many physical acts, that does not necessarily qualify the work to be a physical object. This argument is one we as digital artists have to deal with even before knowing if our work has the aesthetic values to qualify it as an artwork.
With the passing this week of Margaret Thatcher, came the inevitable tide of pro and anti Thatcher arguments about her legacy. Enough has been written this week about her, much more will be written until Wednesday 17th April when she is put to rest, so I don’t really have anything to add to that. My own response was more muted than I’d expected, more muted in fact than I’d actually been hoping for – which has been a revelation for my creativity.
At the of time of her leaving office on 22 November 1990, I was only 9 years old. However, in my 9 years she had affected my life so much. On the 22 November 1990, one in three children were living in poverty – I was one of these children. At 9 years old I remember hiding behind the sofa from Community Charge (Poll Tax) enforcers/bailiffs who were at the front door every few days. At nine years old, I lived in a town where 10,000 miners had lost their jobs. At nine years old, I lived in a town where mining money had stopped supporting my family and the local community, closing scores of shops and local amenities. At nine years old, I saw a whole population starved of it’s income and it’s skill set thrown on a bonfire. At nine years old, I learned that there was no such word as community, that the word had been deleted from the dictionary and replaced with the term individual.
Now as a 32 year old man, I now have a lifetime of information to support my opinion. Although my opinion on Thatcher is likely to offend as many people as it will resonate with, it’s my opinion. Upon Thatcher’s passing I felt compelled to keep silent, so not to offend people, so not to damage any network connections I might have made. However, creatively; it’s Thatcherism, poverty, austerity, and the viewpoints formed subsequently that have formed the ideas behind my practice and since her passing I have learned that it would not be wrong to express an opinion, so long as it’s not fact based and true to yourself. It’s also important to be passionate and interactive with the world around you, in a world where the X-Factor generation voted a dog the most talented thing in Britain, I want to be as vocal as I can when they have a hand in deciding my future in UK elections. In preparation for tomorrows course meeting, I have been watching Austin Kleon’s talks on ‘Steal Like an Artist’, where he argues that you have to ingest every influence so that you can ‘copy, transform, then combine’ elements of other peoples work to create your own creative practice and the essentially, this is the nature of creativity. I think it’s also the same for all things in life, especially with political opinion formed from family and community influences. Ultimately, these opinions can form a large base of your work.
The last thing I want to do is to give Margaret Thatcher a tribute, however at the same time it’s quite interesting to note that not just the amount, but the quality of creative outpouring in the face of austerity can be at it’s greatest. This is one of the central themes of enquiry in my MA proposal and I now I feel like I have had a kick start towards finding out more about this and myself in the process.