Tag Archives: artist

Separating art from the artist

Should we draw a line between what people make and who they are the rest of the time? Is it possible to do so?

Firstly, to separate art from artist you have to not have been affected by whatever they did, or are doing. The person who can separate may well be experiencing privileges not available to others and is therefore under some obligation to proceed thoughtfully.

Is the creativity being used as a platform? Does it get this person access to victims? Is it giving them an opportunity to spread hate or cause harm? Is their economic value to their industry resulting in people pretending not to see the harm caused? Where this is true, the decision to consider the art as separate from the artist is the choice to be complicit in the harm they cause.

Where the artist is dead and can no longer hurt anyone directly, it might be less problematic to separate art and artist. However, the notion of whether that harm continues may be less visible to people with more privilege. If we continue to celebrate people who were harmful, and we do so by saying that the art is more important than the harm, what message does that send to the people and the wider communities they harmed? What does it tell future artists about what is acceptable?

Is it truly possible to separate someone’s behaviour from their art? If you’ve experienced the kind of nastiness they pedalled, that art is going to be tainted for you even if the specific content isn’t always visible. If I know someone was abusive, I can’t un-know that to view their art objectively even if I want to.

I don’t accept that ‘greatness’ in any field should give anyone a free pass on being a shitty human. I think for every shitty human who has managed to also be a ‘great’ creator there are many less visible people who are kinder and who do better work. Capitalism favours ruthlessness, self importance, and people who like having power over other people. Gentler people can be disadvantaged by the way the big business side of creative industries work. I’d rather seek out the less famous folk than support the ones whose creative platform has more to do with their pushiness than with their ability.

There are massive issues around who is allowed to be ‘great’ and shitty at the same time. The further you are from being a white, middle class, straight, cis guy, the less room you will be allowed to be considered great while being shitty. What’s indulged in this demographic isn’t allowed for everyone. While some are allowed to get away with almost anything, others are punished for not playing nicely and not doing what they are told – not playing nicely includes of course calling out the shit of the great white men. The more profit you make for other people, the more likely you are to be considered great and to be shielded from the consequences of your actions.

I can’t separate art from whatever I know about the artist. I can’t separate any aspect of human endeavour from whatever else a person is doing. If it’s something you find it useful or interesting to do – that’s fair enough, but please be alert to who gets harmed when we excuse certain kinds of behaviour on the grounds of certain kinds of output.

Funeral Urns

Here’s something a bit different for you: Funeral urns.

DSC_0303I met artist Varda Zisman through Stroud’s Death Cafe’s, and then during the Clocking Off Festival I became aware of her work around urns.


For those who have loved ones cremated, the keeping of ashes can be a tricky thing – what do you keep them in? I think these pieces are a perfect answer – something beautiful, personal, life affirming, something that can convey stories and feelings and hold the remains in a good sort of space.








You can find out more about Varda’s work here www.vardazisman.com













All images in this blog post copyright Varda Zisman and re-used with her permission.

Hope, skill and beauty

I’ve known Loretta Hope since she was a child and have had the privilege of watching from afar as she’s crafted the life of her choosing. Loretta is an artist, using her body in a range of ways to bring beauty and a sense of amazement to those who see her in action.

All too often, images we’re offered as depictions of feminine beauty are fragile. We’re encouraged to be emaciated, not fit. Loretta personifies strength and grace, and that combination of physical prowess and elfin looks makes her a much better sort of representation of the feminine than those strange, photo-shopped giraffe women who seem to be taking over visual media.

Watching her hang upside-down from silks and ropes is just one of those things that reliably brightens my day.

On Twitter she’s @LorettaHope

Her facebook fan page is here – https://www.facebook.com/lorettahopecouk?fref=ts

Escaping the Money-Versus-Creativity Trap

Guest blog by Matt Faulkner



I’m a children’s book illustrator and author and from time to time it is my pleasure to visit schools and share my work with children.  Recently I’ve noticed that kids are questioning the fact that I share the business aspect of what I do during my presentations. Now, I’m fairly sure that this is not some sort of trend in the awareness of children concerning money. It’s probably just me and the sensitivity I’ve developed over the past 30 years of my being an illustrator/author.
And yet, yesterday it happened again.
A 5th grader asked-
“When all is said and done, what’s more important to you- getting money or being creativity.”
I’ll tell you what I said to him in a moment.
But first I want you to know that I have a purpose in presenting the issue of artists and writers acquiring income when talking to kids. It’s my belief that there is a real disconnect in our culture regarding those who choose a creative vocation and many of those who choose something else. I know I’m not saying anything radical here. It’s just that I’m tired of this disconnect and wish to do something about it.
For many reasons, we as a society seem to insist that our creatives remain “pure” and not concern ourselves with worries of money. If a creative should discuss money, we tend to lump her/him into a slimy category of all those others who give up their their virtue for gold- such as drug dealers and lobbyists. The crazy part of this is that, if we, as creatives, actually buy into this societal “money-versus-creativity” trap (e.g. starving artist is good, thriving artist is false) why is it that we don’t demand that our culture support us? I mean, somebody’s got to foot the bill for all the wonderfulness we bring into the world, right? For instance, we could demand that society give all creatives tax abatements, free housing, free chocolate, free lunch meats even. If things were managed this way then creatives could be über-creative (maybe) and yet never have to sully our pristine selves with dirty dollars.  Still a  crappy situation but at least we’d get free chocolate and lunch meats. So, until we accept that being creative is as natural a vocation as any other, requiring hard work, sensibility, discipline and, dare I say it, a desire to pay the rent on time, then we shouldn’t complain when we get paid a pittance and find ourselves stuffed into a cramped box.
And that’s why I talk about how I make money to kids. Because it’s good for them to know that working as an artist is a job like any other. A great job, but still a job.
Gaijin Cover small
So, my answer to the 5th grader?
The 3rd graders up front didn’t like my response.
“That’s not an answer!” they hollered.
I smiled and did another drawing for them, then gave the sketch to one of the kids. I also smiled and thanked the school librarian when I was handed my honorarium check.
As I re-read what I’ve written above I think my answer to the youngster could appear trite. Here’s the thing though- I had just given an hour long presentation which I believe clearly showed my motivation; in short- I love to draw, paint and create. And just so you know, the message- do what you love and the money will follow- is a big element of my talks. I think the kids very much get these points. Yet, as I’ve pointed out, I also let them know that I like money. I tell tham that I believe money to be a tool and that I don’t feel that being creative and making money are exclusive efforts. So, with that said, I don’t know what that young man’s motivation was in asking the question. But I do find it interesting that this question is even asked, whether in a situation like this by a child or at any time by anyone. Why do we even question the motivation of a creator who wishes to make an income? Is it a bad thing when anyone makes a living or even gains wealth by doing what they love to do? Or is it just artists who are bad when they make a living off of their work? Lastly, is it a bad thing that we are instilling this prejudice in our children?
And btw, my private helicopter ran out of Perrier on the way home. Boy, was that ever frustrating.
Thanks for taking the time to read my thoughts on the subject.
Matt Faulkner

Art, religion, druidry

Recently in Tewkesbury abbey I saw an exhibition by Christian artist and priest Iain McKillop. It was incredibly vivid, sensual, physical depictions of Jesus, focusing on his last days. As a consequence it was also heartrending and brutal in terms of subject matter. There were a lot of paintings – Gethsemane, last supper, cross bearing, depictions of crucifixion. There were also images inspired by religious crisis. It was incredible art work, and at the same time, almost unbearable to look at.

Coming to it as a non-Christian, as someone outside the story, I was simply shocked by the intensity of pain. The abbey contains plenty of older, more traditional art. Usually, the crucifixion is portrayed in a very clean, peaceful way. Beautiful colours, peaceful faces. Often Jesus looks like he’s taking a little nap, not dying by one of the most tortuous punishments ever devised. Those older paintings must have informed a lot of perceptions of what the death meant. Jesus dying is usually a gentle, soulful affair. To see it offered up, so bloody, extreme and agonised, is a bit of a shock.

As a druid, I’m very open to art, beauty and expressions of soul. I also seek to be aware of reality in all its complex shades, the pain as well as the pleasure. And still I am stumped by what I’ve seen. Trying to imagine the journey of the artist into creating this kind of work. What does it mean to live with such brutal images? To work on them, unrelentingly? And more importantly, what does the depicted pain and suffering mean?

I believe that everything has the scope to bring meaning and religious experience into our lives. It’s not what you do, it’s how you do it. Pain is no exception. Except that kind of extremis makes it nigh on impossible to think. There comes a point when both physical and emotional pain start to blot you out, so that nothing seems real, nothing is truly experienced beyond it. Is that a religious experience?

It’s easy to turn away from that which horrifies. Especially in art. It’s easiest to close down senses, refuse to engage and go somewhere safer. I stood those paintings for as long as I could bear, and I’ve meditated on them since, and I know I do not understand. All I can offer here is a profound sense of confusion. What does it mean, to offer such suffering as spirituality? For me, pain has taken me away from my spiritual self, not deeper into it. In the aftermath of pain, I have learned compassion and tolerance, and no doubt other things too, but that requires a time after, a peace, a space to regroup and move on. There are things here I feel a need to understand, but I have no idea what to ask, or whom. (Suggestions most welcome).

Tewkesbury abbey also features modern stained glass windows by Thomas Denny. He has windows at Gloucester too. They are beautiful, vivid, detailed and use colour in the most amazing ways. The more you look, the more you see. Light coming through the glass fills the chapel with warmth and every shift of light affects the image. Standing in front of Denny’s work, I see an expression of pantheism, God shining through in all things. It’s not emotionally uncomplicated or free from shadows, but is rich, moving, challenging and inspiring all at once.

I stand before those windows and I see something that fills me with wonder and a sense of the numinous. Just encountering Denny’s art is a religious experience for me. It fills me, nourishes my soul and sends me out into the world wakeful and hopeful. My Druid self loves what he does, and the different sources of our inspiration don’t seem to matter at all. This kind of Christianity, I understand.