Tuesday, March 15, 2011


Driven by the mist and then by the sun, I came to work this morning to show a student round the music studios. He realised that he'd already been here, however, so instead we sat and talked about art and music and what it means to be an artist and musician, and whether or not is is better to be an amateur or a professional.
I told him of my relief at abandoning the Art World when I was at art college.
I had been doing well (but I didn't tell him this); I had had an etching in the Stowell's Trophy Exhibition at the Royal Academy, which I'd sold, and I sold a print or two at the Thumb Gallery in Soho, and did an illustration for The Observer Magazine. I was making and selling comics that featured other peoples artwork as well as my own.
The problem was that I found it impossible to put a value on the time and commitment that I spent on work. I made an embroidered butcher's shop with a sinister eyeless butcher that one of my lecturers wanted to buy from me. I think he thought that it would be cheap, but it took me months to make and he was furious when I quoted a price that reflected the time I'd spent. I ended up just giving it to McMum and McDad and it now hangs on McMum's kitchen wall, where the sinister butcher oversees cooking activities with a malicious expression on his face.
So when punk came along, it wasn't dear to my heart the way that making prints and drawings had been (although it became so later). It was so physical, so uncerebral, all about doing, and expressing how you felt straight away rather than storing it up an processing it. It was such a liberation to instantly empty out reactions and feelings, to make a noise before your self-critical monitoring system kicked in and said 'You are a quiet girl from a tiny village in the north-east, shut up!'
Everyone was noisier than each other and it was fantastic being part of a glorious rabble, uncensored and united by difference and non-conformity. Sometimes it was frightening, but now I realise what an essential experience it was to a whole generation of misfits.

So I sat in my charity-shop mackintosh with writing on the back of my hand as usual, and gravely advised a young man about his future. I know that many young people are wondering what the point is of Higher Education; whatever happens in our sector, I do know that the people I work with as lecturers are committed and energetic, and willing to share their knowledge and experience to enable students to get the best out of their lives and enrich the lives of people they come into contact with by sharing ideas and by being imaginative. I believe that the imagination is what will save society in the long run!

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Of all workers who are exploited artists and craft workers are high on the list, as they never make a reasonable amount compared to the hours they work.