A statue of Saucy Pow at Tate Modern, really, well...not really. Culture verses the understanding of it
Can a local artist be satisfied when they show abroad and the writing on them is not substantial? I had the opportunity to read some writing on a promising local artist recently, and I was very excited and happy about the fact that the person had succeeded in taking their vision further. They have worked a very long time, and have kept their focus for several years. They have shown abroad before, so I was expecting a really good bit of Art writing on the person’s work.
To my surprise, I found instead a confection. A puff piece of particular delicacy. The person sounded more like a curiosity than the actual hard working Artist that they are. The references given were to another person long since dead, and no reflection on fellow contemporary artists working in that oeuvre were mentioned. I was left quite cold.
One of the most difficult things to reconcile with writing on an artist, Is that most artists who are more than just Sunday painters, want proper critique. They want to know that their work is moving someone in some way. They want to know that they are making connections with their audiences as well as their peers. When someone writes a piece and gives no other information than what the catalogue provides, or no more than perfunctory information it frustrates the reader who loves art and wants to know more about it. It really does a dis-service on all levels, because it provides no further dialogue on that person. It puts the work in no category and moreso, it provides no room for growth, for the Artist or the subject matter. It assists in continuing certain work along a stalled path because there is no friction to feed off of.
So for those artists who get angry with critiques, actually, the anger allows for some sort of abstract awareness of a position or positions that lead somewhere. Exactly where remains to be seen, but it encourages a history of sorts for the two players. Yet, when there is full agreement of what is written, it also implores the artist to proceed apace. For the work is never for an audience of one.
If the foreign writer has very little to connect the work of a West Indian artist, can you imagine the difficulty in finding the local research to give an interview or review ! To find good information, you have to know some older artists who live and work in the island. But also, you have to know what is fact and what is simply conjecture. You would have to know the history of the place, and a close history at that, as the writing would be less about innovations in art, and more about dates, times and influences.
To me this is an urgent situation. There are very capable people who can do this, but I believe that there is no financial value in it for them, so they decline. Perhaps memoirs may be written in the future and from that, a history can be culled.