I was asked a few questions by a student journalist at City University London recently..
1) First of all can you tell me a little bit about your work? What themes do you explore in your art and why? What do you strive to achieve through it?
I basically just paint what I want, how I want. I have no social or moral message to give. I stopped selling paintings 18 months or more ago, with no intention to start selling again until I can no longer fit in my house, which has brought about a change in how I see painting. I’m now thinking more about conceptual art and looking at ideas more than thinking about who would buy a work.
2) Recently the Tate Modern was forced to remove Richard Prince’s piece ‘Spiritual America’ from its Pop Life: Art in a Material World exhibition due to a public protest. What is your opinion on the matter? Do you think the piece was justly removed?
I don’t know. We live in a sick world, so we have to draw the line somewhere with images of young people. Having said that, I wish we lived in a world that could see the images as innocent and beautiful. So, as much as I hate censorship, I’m not really sure how I feel about cases like this. The Australian photographer Bill Henson has dealt with similar issues.
3) Do you think art institutions should have the freedom to display boundary-pushing art that may offend certain members of the public? Why?
I think it’s their job to push the boundaries. People that are easily offended shouldn’t visit galleries. They should stay home in their safe, comfortable home and drink tea quietly. Art is either going to look good hanging on your wall or is trying to tell you something. Both forms are equally valid for me.
4) What do you think pushes an artist to create pieces that can cause possible public backlash? Is this a reaction to modern reality or just a means of getting publicity?
It’s both. Most artists by nature are outsiders and like poking sticks at insiders, it amuses them to no end. You could also say it is a sign of the times we live in where you are nothing unless you are the biggest, loudest or most annoying. Many shock artists probably just needed more hugs growing up. Damien Hirst has made a career out of it. His career has been so filled with “shock” that when he paints a relatively normal looking exhibition (like his current one) it is looked at as shocking.
5) What do you think is the social role of art?
I believe there are two kinds of art: an art that should hang well on the wall and an art that has something to say. The latter should use any means possible to speak its message.
6) What do you think are the major changes in the public’s attitude towards art? Do you think our modern society is quick at judging and finding offence in everything?
I don’t know. I don’t think art is really that important to the general public. Nobody really takes much notice of art unless an artist is doing something outrageous. Being an artist or being involved in the art industry tricks you into thinking that art is everything and everyone must appreciate it as it’s so important to you, but the average guy on the street couldn’t care less about art.
Artists like the fact that society is quick to judge and easily offended. Many rely on these facts and play to them.
7) Do you think that by challenging conventional views art can truly make a change in the public‘s perception?
No, I don’t think art has the fire power to affect change in any meaningful way. It will always touch the minority that actually takes notice of art, but art won’t change society unless you include movies, the internet, and music. Things like painting, sculpture, installations, prints, and video art will never change much of society.
8) It seems that contemporary art is increasingly aimed to disturb and art which is made purely for aesthetic pleasure seems idealistic and secondary (beauty is often considered kitsch). What do you think caused this? Why qualities like disruptiveness and the shock value became marks of success?
It’s the media age. It takes something loud, colourful and shocking to get our attention. A Giorgio Morandi still life would bore most people to death these days. Most people have forgotten how to sit still for any length of time. Silent stillness forces you to look at yourself and that scares most people.
9) In the Satanic Verses, Salman Rushdie wrote “What is freedom of expression? Without the freedom to offend, it ceases to exist”. Do you think freedom of expression truly exists in our modern society?
Of course it doesn’t exist. We’re silly little immature beings that wouldn’t know what freedom of expression was if it punched us in the face. It’s nothing that a few hundred thousand years of evolution won’t fix though. Let’s just hope the earth will put up with us long enough to see us grow up..