Sunday, April 29, 2007

Today Is A Bad Day

Sometimes, the thought of having to spend a day painting makes me sick.This morning, I woke up after eight hours of undisturbed sleep and felt exhausted. I had a throbbing headache and I was nauseous enough to want to vomit. I curled up under the covers. I ignored the nagging voice reminding me that there was really nothing wrong, that the only thing afflicting me was fear.
This is unrelated to how well or badly my work is going. Yesterday, I was happy. I almost finished the first in a new series of watercolours I am already referring to as Kelly, The Second Time in just a few hours. Today, I am not short of ideas for several more. So what is it that's bearing down on me so hard? I'm getting some expert help to try to figure that out. In the meantime, I just have to ride out bad days like this and not let too many of them interfere with my productivity. Maintaining that, regardless of how I'm feeling, is the only effective antidote.
It's easier said than done.

Friday, April 27, 2007

Cell Phone Sex Tourist


Flushed Away

I began painting again today.
I have at least eighteen months of commissions to complete, all planned to a tight schedule that was thrown into disarray when I fell ill for a couple of months. However, I promised myself that before I got back to them, I would continue the series of
diaristic, erotic watercolours I showed at Art Melbourne.
My imagination constantly sucks in colours, textures, sensations, sounds, phrases, and movements in random, snapshot-like freeze-frames, whether I want it to or not. If I go too long without painting for me – me alone, not for a collector or an exhibition – it all eventually decays and congeals to become a fetid mental sludge. Making new work flushes it out, enabling me to think and feel better.

Thursday, April 26, 2007

Pieces Of My Heart (And Mind)

I was tired even before Art Melbourne, last week. I held up OK while I was there but since I got home, on Monday, I've been catching up on my sleep. Even when I've been awake, I haven't strayed far from my daybed. Wrapped in a duvet, with my laptop resting on my legs. I've answered a score of emails and updated my website.
This afternoon, I looked through a box of some of the small drawings and paintings that I make each day for my boyfriend. I give them to him in batches as tokens from my heart, love letters written in my most expressive language. They've become a record of the evolution of my work. I get anxious and overly self-conscious when I paint for a show or commission and yet I always feel at ease and free when I make something for him. I can explore – and, even better, play – with various media without pressure. Looking over the results, I recognised the seeds of so much of my recent work – scrawled quickly, confidently, on scraps of paper and canvas a year and more ago.

Sunday, April 22, 2007

Closure

My weekend at Art Melbourne wouldn't have been complete without one last blow-up. A drone from Hothouse Media, the company handling the event's public relations, accused Metro 5 Gallery's director of having orchestrated "a successful publicity stunt". I already felt a little raw. I'd had my fill of snide, ill-informed and resentful remarks, sleazy sexual propositions, and weird email and blog rantings (accusing me of everything from fraud and prostitution – and not just in the creative sense – to bad art), so I phoned her to vent my spleen. I let loose with a week of pent-up vitriol that lasted several minutes before I realised I was just wasting my breath. "Oh, just fuck off!" I yelled. Then I hung up. Childish, sure, but it made me feel better.
Back at the hotel, there were more weasely emails from strangers. One accused me of ripping off Tracy Emin's My Bed. Whoever this was clearly hadn't seen my work,
Sex Tourist, nor did they have much of a grasp of art history – after all, Emin's 1998 installation was itself derived from more than one of Robert Rauschenberg's early works, including a 1955 piece, Bed. In Sex Tourist, the bed is just one element in the replication of a motel room which provides the context for a narrative retold in paintings (at Art Melbourne, a short series titled Kelly, The First Time, Nos. 1 to 5), writings, photography and (in a larger version) video. It was also implied I wasn't being as honest as Emin in my writings – which only confirmed my first impression of this twisted, barely literate spew: whoever typed it didn't actually know how to read at all.
I am heading to the airport now. I want to go home and paint and not talk to anyone but my boyfriend for several weeks.
(Photo above: My friends, Eugene and Ee-Lynn, and me, as temporary elements of Sex Tourist.)

Saturday, April 21, 2007

Depressurising

This afternoon, two of my favourite collectors, Ee-lynn and Eugene, visited me at Art Melbourne. They had flown from Adelaide that morning just to experience the buzz surrounding Sex Tourist at first hand. E'n'E (as I call them) have bought many of my key paintings in both enamel and watercolour, as well as a few of my study photographs. They have also commissioned several new works. Intelligent, thoughtful viewers, they study each new work closely and ask smart questions about what might be going on it.
Today, however, they surrounded me with a much-needed sense of fun. Among other things, they insisted I lie with them on the lube-spattered Sex Tourist bed, in a kind of clothed menage á trois, as they took turns capturing the moment with the Polaroid camera. They reminded me that I still had a real life elsewhere – not here, on display, in a crowded, curtained-off white cubicle, far from home
The good feeling didn't last. The day ended with a couple of dismal episodes, again thanks to Metro Gallery. I asked the director if he had any catalogues for the event. He offered me one but I wanted three – after all, they're selling for ten bucks at Art Mebourne.
Then he told me that all his copies were back at the gallery in Armadale. Later, I found out there was an evening cocktail party for exhibitors and artists. No-one from the gallery had thought to invite me. I took a few of my own collectors out to dinner instead.

Friday, April 20, 2007

Metro Blues

I spent the afternoon posing for photographs and doing a succession of interviews, in person and by phone, with TV, radio, and newspaper journalists. In between, I freshened up the cause of all the commotion, adding a couple of 'used' condoms with semen concocted of icing sugar (I couldn't find the corn starch an acquaintance of mine, a well-known American pornstar, recommended). I also went back and forth between the exhibition centre and my hotel to update this blog, answer an unceasing stream of emails (including more enquiries from the press), and grab a little food and rest.
I am so disappointed by Metro 5 Gallery. Apart from some last minute logistical assistance before the event, the management and staff have been very little help at all. They love the press attention and the scores of people queuing to get into my space – almost as much as they love to pretend that it was all due to their efforts. And yet the gallery didn't even bother to come up with an email invitation or a press release to promote my involvement in the event. On the other hand, I sent out an electronic newsletter to 5,000 of my own subscribers. The gallery gave me so little information about the event itself that it was only this morning that I found out, by accident, that tonight, not last night, was the official public opening.
When the censorship shit hit the fan, it was my own studio that responded with a press release to the major media offering my perspective of what happened and liaisoned with the press on my behalf. It distributed the artwork to them to view. The gallery did nothing. Its staff couldn't even get me a cup of coffee or a glass of water as I stood around talking to the press (with a warmth I really didn't feel) about their unstinting support for my work and me. They did refer to me, whenever they got the chance, as "one of the many artists they represent" (actually, I am not).
At the end of this very long but, in many ways, successful day, neither the gallery's owner nor the director thanked me – for my art or for my energetic public relations. Neither of them offered to buy me dinner. Instead, drained, dull with tiredness, I ate with the director and the gallery staff at a nearby Italian restaurant and picked up my own tab. Nobody offered to find me a cab, let alone drive me back to my hotel.
What the hell was I expecting? I am just another of their fucking artists.

Bed and Circuses

The circus surrounding the censorship of my Art Melbourne space continued today. Renault removed my artwork from their cars, as they said they would, and cancelled my appearance on the Today show. The Sun Herald newspaper sent a photographer to do a portrait of me standing in front of the white sheet on which, yesterday, I had scrawled 'CENSORED' in red lipstick, and Ashley Crawford, the respected art critic of The Age newspaper, asked his editor there if he could write about the incident. Even a news team from the national TV and radio broadcaster, ABC, interviewed me on the subject of artistic freedom.
Visitors continue to crowd the tiny, three metre by two metre space. The oddest thing: a few have begun adding their own objects to the Sex Tourist installation or using the cheap, old Polaroid camera that's part of it to create their own photographs, which they either leave on the unkempt bed or take away with them. I'm not sure what to make of this other than to appreciate the interaction – it enhances the artwork, making it somehow more alive than a mere painting in a frame. That said, the relationship between this replication of a cheap motel room, littered with the soiled evidence of recent fucking, and the story within the voyeuristic watercolours on the walls makes all the works I'm showing here more unsettling and meaningful.

Thursday, April 19, 2007

Postscript

The director of Metro 5 Gallery and I spent the afternoon arguing with the organisers of Art Melbourne, who wanted my pictures rearranged so that the more graphic depictions of intercourse would be invisible to the visiting throngs. We refused. After all, the images form a narrative that'd be disrupted if they were re-hung out of order. The exhibition centre's management threatened to curtain our space. Now the local press has taken an interest: after all, sex and censorship sells newspapers, especially on a slow weekend when Britney and Lindsay are keeping their knickers on and Madonna isn't adopting another kid. Forget about school massacres and wars and starving refugees.
Further update:
As the event opened at five p.m., the exhibition centre's management had a white sheet thrown across the entrance to our space. I scrawled 'CENSORED' across it in red lipstick, which incited even more curiosity than the paintings themselves might have provoked if they'd remained visible. Before long, the space was overflowing with viewers.
Renault, outraged that its brand has been associated with art that isn't safe or sanitized (has its executives ever even looked at a contemporary art magazine?), is going to strip all my vinyl artwork from its cars at the entrance. However, my name and images were still on them when the crowds turned up for the opening – the PR value of that alone was worth the time and money I invested!
Andrea Candiani, Metro 5's Italian-born director, is beside himself with happiness. The fuss has turned what is, when all is said and done, a modest little show of works on paper into un vero scandalo artistico!

Wednesday, April 18, 2007

It's Show Time!

Life is on the wire. The rest is just waiting.
– Karl Wallender, high-wire artiste (1905 – 1978)
At the last minute, I decided to fly rather than drive to Melbourne. I wrapped my framed paintings in plastic bubble paper and packed them in a sturdy cardboard box to be checked in as luggage. Then I collected all the objects I might need for the 'low-fi' version of Sex Tourist – including my 'signature' pink panties, half a dozen Polaroids, a stained singlet, soiled panty liner, strap-on dildo and bulbous anal probe – and threw them into an already over-filled leather handbag. God knows what airport security will think if I'm asked to present the bag for inspection.
Collectors interested in my new watercolours – now titled Kelly, The First Time, Nos. 1 to 5 – were calling me even before I headed to the airport. This bodes well for the show and the rest of the series, which I'll continue when I return home. First, though, I have to get through today, starting with a very long, tedious hanging and set-up punctuated by frantic sorties to local supermarkets and department stores to find 'consumables' such as corn starch (an ingredient of the fake semen L.A. porn' film-makers sometimes use for close-ups of the so-called 'money shot'), cigarettes, water-based lube, and cheap lipstick for the installation. I'll try to get an hour or two of rest before bathing and getting dressed for the formal opening of Art Melbourne, this evening, but I suspect it will be close to midnight before I crawl into bed again.
I have to be up very early tomorrow morning. I am appearing briefly on Today, Channel Nine's national early morning TV show, sometime between seven and nine a.m. In readiness for the 'video-op', a small fleet of Renault cars are parked in a semi-circle at the entrance to the event. Each has my stencil-like self-portrait in silver or hot pink vinyl on its hood and beneath it, my surname in large, upper case letters.
"The other artists here will hate you," my gallerist whispered to me as I stood looking at them. I just shrugged. Fuck 'em, I thought. What else is new?

Words And Pictures

For too long,
I kept my sexuality
to myself,
like some dark secret.

Still, curiosity oozed from my skin,

its scent an exotic pheromone.
I struggled to keep it at bay,

too afraid to surrender to it.
The last thing I expected

when I fell in love with him

was to find freedom.
Now I can explore the limits
of this
once hidden territory.
– my 'artist's statement', scrawled in crayon and paint on a white wall, for Sex Tourist, at Art Melbourne '07. (It opens tomorrow night.)
When I finished the watercolours for my mini-show,
which form a kind of abbreviated, manga-style narrative about an episode which I shared with my boyfriend, a year or so ago, I thought they should be placed in some sort of intellectual context. So I struggled to write the usual, circumlocutious, jargon-ladened text strewn with half-assed references to the writings of Foucault, Baudrillard and Bataille. A few hours later, I realised it was a wasted effort.
Just look at the pictures. With my own, immoderate words scrawled across them in colour pencil, they need no explanation at all.

Tuesday, April 17, 2007

Down To The Wire (Again)

I was up until four a.m. last night finishing the last of half a dozen watercolours for Art Melbourne '07. I now have to take them to be photographed and after that, to be framed. And there's still a lot more to do in the next 48 hours if I'm to be ready for this bloody event!
I have decided to drive down to Melbourne with the paintings. There isn't time to air-freight them. The hanging is on Thursday, the same day I also have to turn up for a photo shoot for Renault: they want me to pretend to apply my vinyl artwork to their cars for a newspaper photograph (I have already had a signwriter do the real work for me). I also have to assemble the various elements of a redacted version of my Sex Tourist installation which will provide a sort of context for the diaristic paintings. The work has already gained some prurient interest from Australia's leading news magazine, The Bulletin, which mentions it in their preview of the event today – Art Melbourne's PR person has rung in a panic to ask, "There isn't any full-frontal nudity is there? I mean, this is meant to be family-oriented!" Full-frontal is the least of it, I told her. I could barely stifle a wicked snicker.
I'll be staying in the city until Saturday. I'm having dinner with three of my favorite collectors and lunch with a well-known art critic. I'm appearing on a breakfast-time TV show on Friday – I did a phone interview with RRR, a local radio station, yesterday – as well as meeting with a couple of other journalists. I am going to my favorite beads retailer to buy some supplies.
Still, I haven't even left yet and I can't wait to come home.

Saturday, April 14, 2007

Since When Did Popular Mean Good?

As I wrote a couple of days ago, I was asked to create a couple of images to be applied to half a dozen Renault cars to promote the French car company's involvement with Art Melbourne '07. There was too little time to paint or stencil them on the cars, so I have decided to use adhesive vinyl, laser-cut precisely by a local signwriting company. This also gives me an opportunity to offer them as a low-priced, unlimited edition – email my studio for further details.
I have yet to get over my disinclination to be involved in the event, despite the welcome, energising flurry of preparations for it. This jaded disinterest wasn't helped by finding out that the Renault New Generation Art component has been turned into a cheap, populist beauty contest. I can just imagine one of Art Melbourne's PR drones or a jittery geek at their web services company coming up with the idea: "Hey, wouldn't it be cool if the general public could cast a vote for their favorite artist? We could get the sponsor to offer, like, a prize. Artists like prizes, especially if it's money. It'll increase the web traffic and maybe get us a few more lines of press!"
Vote for me, vote for me! Ugh.

Thursday, April 12, 2007

Tears At Bedtime

Last night, in a fit of impatience and anger, I pulled out of Metro 5 Gallery's contingent for Renault New Generation Art at Art Melbourne '07. This morning, following an emotional, tear-filled (on both sides) discussion with Metro 5's Italian director, Andrea Candiani, I was back in it.
What was that all about? Don't even fucking ask.
I have spent nearly all day on the phone, working through a long list of logistical problems that range from finding the right bedroom furniture for the mini-installation based on my ongoing mixed-media work, Sex Tourist, to liaising with Renault Australia about creating a couple of simple stencil artworks to put on five Renault cars that will be used to promote the company's involvement with Art Melbourne. Renault wants me to apply the stencils to one of the cars in front of a live audience at the event on Friday, next week, while the morning TV show, Today, captures a little of it on tape. Early this evening, I had to meet with my framer to finalise how he might mount six large watercolours in shallow boxes made from custom-painted white timber mouldings.
Despite a residue of depression and weariness, I can't help but get into the frenetic pace of this last week of preparations for the Melbourne event. It's good to be busy again.

Tuesday, April 10, 2007

Revelation

Sometimes, a stray connection, an errant misfire in the psyche, causes you to stumble across a half-forgotten experience and in an instant, it transforms itself into an idea. A few days afterwards, you have come up with not just one or two pictures but a series of works, each intricately connected to the other. Within these works is a narrative – abstract, not always coherent – and it's the barb on the hook of what becomes, for a time, an irresistible preoccupation, an obsession. You live within this story and try to interpret it for yourself as you paint. You don't even wonder what anyone else will see in it – you're not even too sure what you see in it yourself. Each line and brush-stroke is a clue to something that remains frustratingly indistinct.
With my most recent few works, I know how and where the narrative began but I have no idea where it ends. It could be said that there are various ends, one of them tragic and yet still unresolved. All I can do is keep painting. Despite the intensely sexual subject matter, I am looking
not for a climax but for a sense of closure.

Sunday, April 08, 2007

Porn Again

I'm sorry not to have been more disciplined about updating this blog during the past couple of weeks. It's just another thing I've let slip during my two-week break from, well, everything.
I went back to painting this weekend. I finished three watercolours in two days for my mini-show with Metro 5 Gallery at Art Melbourne '07. It felt a little like walking a tightrope without a net, very different from the slow, painstaking process required by my large enamel work. Each brush stoke was loose, almost careless, and so fast, there was a visceral edginess about the action. I suspect the finished images teeter on the edge of being pastiches of Brett Whitely's porn'-ish drawings from the '70s but right now, I don't care. They're inspired by an intense, twisted narrative of lust, indulgence and self-destruction that insinuated itself into my 'real' life unexpectedly, not so long ago. The graphic depiction of sex in candy-like colours is the only way I've been able to make any sense of it.

Wednesday, April 04, 2007

I Want All This, Right Now

I have spent the last few days deep in thought about my life to date as an artist. I can't help feeling that I lost my bearings somewhere, several years ago, and I have been struggling with a growing dissatisfaction that now verges on disillusionment.
I want to create art that has some sort of quotidian meaning, art that is part of the everyday. I want to get back to the traditional artisan satisfaction of making things – functional things – just for the sake of it. I want to make different things, in different ways, and not necessarily anything that might be thought of as art but rather as an artefact. I want to photograph and document the process, recording the people and places and materials that are 'assembled' within the artefact. I don't even want to sell these things. Instead, I want to collect them and have the time to figure out what they mean to me and how they are connected with each other. Later, I might exhibit them. Or I might just give them away.
Finally, I want to make much larger works, not so much installations as imaginative environments, with which people can physically connect – stepping inside or climbing on them, looking, touching, feeling, listening. I want to make art that is part of a larger world: art with which people interact on a daily basis, art that collides with their lives or becomes a waypoint in their various, disparate emotional and intellectual journeys.
(As I was thinking about all this, I painted the lurid image above. I think I'll dedicate it to the well-known curator who recently expressed the view that curators and gallerists were what the art world was really about, as if the works themselves – forget about the artists! – were somehow merely incidental.)

Monday, April 02, 2007

Show And Tell

Last night, I wanted to draw something. I had no particular ambition, so I didn't push it. It was just good to feel a couple of simple thoughts flow through my hand to the paper.
It struck me how much words mean to me. I read a lot but despite the influence of advertising and mass media on my early work, I used words in only one large, enamel piece – three letters: POW! It wasn't until I began using watercolours, ink and pencil on paper that words became elemental to my compositions. Drawn from my own and others' writings, they connected the psychological, sexual and spiritual turbulence within each image more specifically to my personal experience, forming an abstract narrative that somehow amplified the graphic depictions of sex, violence and ritual.

Sunday, April 01, 2007

Learning A Lightness Of Being

After several days of rest – which I still can't help but think of as indolence – I was ready for a little physical exertion. Yesterday, I had my first Pilates lesson, and what I imagined would be somewhat arcane and mechanical turned out to be a lot of fun. This morning, after a brisk walk along the beach, I submitted to a hot rocks massage. Usually, I don't like the idea of a complete stranger kneading my muscles – I'm uncomfortable enough just talking to strangers on the phone – but afterwards, my whole body felt relieved of its wire-sprung tensions.
I am not yet ready to paint. I am still learning to daydream with no purpose. This feels like enough for the moment.