I’m often asked, ‘What are the best bits about being an artist?’
A glance in the mirror after my day in the studio typically reveals a tired face peering out from beneath a spontaneous collage of pencil shavings, scraps of paper, ink splashes, and the results of a flamboyant moment with a 4b manifesting on my skin. Having a productive creative day is what we artistic types live for, and that moment where it all starts falling into place is certainly the best bit, but I have to admit my guilty pleasure in another side to being an artist.
I sporadically emerge from the chrysalis of my studio, (butterfly-like due to the marbling of ink where I accidentally leaned against a palette), to attend the quirky events, inventive private views, glamourous awards ceremonies & secret happenings which are the London art scene.
One such evening of a rather glitzy variety occurred this week – the London Awards for Art and Performance – and I was honoured to be invited to present the Artists award.
The London Awards for Art and Performance are dedicated to “recognising passion and excellence in artists and performers across many art-forms”. Taking place in the major art capital of the world, these awards and associated competitions bring together and celebrate the many artists and performers who work in and visit London. The awards recognise artists at the forefront of their art,
so it is a great opportunity to mingle with mind-bendingly talented people.
As I arrived at the Waldorf Hilton (finally scrubbed clean of the day’s ink stains and pencil marks), the drinks were floating around on circular trays which miraculously appeared the moment your tongue felt a bit dry, and the canapés were equally as well timed and tasty.
The nominated artists were Anthony McCall, Douglas Gordon, and Charming Baker. I was torn between who I felt should win – three very exciting artists who had made it through to the final selection, but one especially had inspired me in my own career.
The first nominee, Anthony McCall, deconstructs film to create something new, reducing the medium to its most basic elements of time and light photons. He calls his paradoxical forms “solid light”, and they exist as three dimensional artworks as the photonic beams bounce off of particles in the air, drawing a lingering form in front of our eyes. He was nominated for his four Vertical Works at Ambika P3 in London.
Nominee two, Charming Baker, creates beautiful and disturbing paintings featuring helicopters, rabbits & pandas – with bullet holes. His shot gun is a tool alongside his paintbrushes and paints. “A 12-bore makes a good old hole and there’s a spatter of pellets, it’s another mark, adding something, a pattern of violent destruction” he says. His intentionally uneasy work brings nostalgia alongside sex and death, and has been championed by Damien Hirst. His intriguing career has not taken a traditional path, his work is promoted with posters, stickers and online videos –like the music industry. He spreads the word using viral techniques such as YouTube and social networking. Working outside the gallery system, he has no problem with galleries, he’d just “rather drink in a pub than a VIP lounge.”
And the winning nominee… Douglas Gordon, a video and installation artist who breaks down the boundaries between video art and portraiture – you may have caught his show at the Gagosian in London early this year. He is well known for slowing down Alfred Hitchcock’s Psycho so it transitioned surreally over 24 hours.
A Previous Turner Prize winner, his work is dark and provocative, his images powerful yet unpretentious. Some of his early pieces appropriate contemporary society’s communication structures, playing with the way our minds automatically try to overlay meaning and make sense of a text. In “Meaning and Location” (1990), a passage from the Gospel of Luke is given with a comma in different places, the meaning of each sentence subtly changed. It is works like this that initially sparked my own obsession with words and the way we read meaning into texts and artworks. It seems fascinating to me that one artwork can be so many things - unique to each viewer according to their own perceptions and experiences in life.
Gordon’s exploration of time, identity, perception, meaning and text has made his work particularly engaging to my own mind over the years. Last summer I saw “List of Names” (1990-present) on the wall of a stairwell in the Scottish National Gallery of Modern Art – it is a list of every person Gordon has ever met and can remember. It is simple but is speaks volumes. Appearing like names on
a war memorial, it was in fact a way of documenting a life, and memorial to all the moments of his past.
In a similar way to the open-endedness of ‘List of names’, the words & narratives which form the basis of my own work are collected through an ongoing ‘Word Collection Project’ which is also ever evolving. (feel free to contribute to it here: http://www.nicolaanthony.co.uk/words.html) These collected sentences are used to structure the work, I start applying them as marks & drawing with them as lines. Pleasingly I managed to get some interesting additions to the collection during the Awards.
But it was Douglas Gordon’s more recent work with film and portraiture which won him the Awards for Art. His film ‘k.364’ features two Israeli musicians of Polish descent, traveling to Poland from Berlin by train. Shown on multiple screens and with layered sound, the film follows the two men through a desolate landscape in a country whose tragic and violent history is barely resolved for
them. Gordon says “Everything is coded, nothing is really explained. That’s why you have to watch it a second time. But the underlying theme is the battle between history and the fleeting beauty of music.” His new work is even more provocative, still with a dark undertone in his unpretentious explorations of the nature of time, memory and moments.
Time at the London Awards for Art and Performance was nearing the end - an evening that went by in a whirl of wine and conversations. Before long I was heading back across Waterloo Bridge towards my studio to catch the last moments of the evening along Southbank. Satisfied to be replacing the chandeliers and bubbles with my big worn desk and the smell of fresh paint, I
scribbled down some thoughts in the sketchbook about light photons, shot guns and the extension of time.
GUEST BLOGGER NICOLA ANTHONY