Questions and Answers

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..

About Dion

Australian artist and observer of things.. all kinds of things. I like a wide variety of art, from the weird and wonderful to the bold and beautiful.. and everything in between.


  1. Anonymous says:

    So true are your words. Perhaps artists need to return to functional creation to capture the larger audience. What I mean is that we need to have a modern arts and crafts revival that produces functional art, Art that the consumer can use in their daily lives. Art that is a reaction to the corporate mass production of everything, art or craft that is unique, special that the patron can use daily. Mass media, advertising has created brands for the masses. Cheap functional items have become the standard for the consumer. Conceptual art of the 70s took the leap forward and from there the creation of cyber media has replaced the painting on the wall. Now it is the painting on the I-Phone. Some how we as artists need to create art that people desire to live with art that serves a need of the average person on the street to rebuild the audience. Most people will go into a corporate box store and pay the same money for a reproduction, a print or what have you reproduced a million times, as they would pay for an original piece of art. And the consumer could care less about the any of the idea or value the we in the art trade are concerned about. They want a familiar and if you will, a validated image approved by Wal-Mart or in the case of cyber reality Apple, Google or fill in the blank. Where does that leave us the individual artist? We as you say try to shock our way back into the audiences we hope to attract. For the collectors its about investment and making money. Now that the collector can’t double their investment in a couple of pumped up auctions they don’t buy. If we as artist are not in that market then we just don’t sell. Thanks Antiques Road Show.

  2. Sorry anonymous, but dont put down non artists, they are much more intelligent and insightful than the children who inhabit the “art scene”. They lost interest in it because it is meaningless games and self absorbed marketing, not art anymore. People DO react to true art. They just got sick of waiting to see any that is relevant to humanity. We got real lives, kids, bills, jobs, work, faith, life, death, birth, you know we are lving life. We all express ouselves everyday in everything we do. To make that your goal, is again, childish.

    and Dionysus, you had me worried for awhile. conceptualism? NOOOOO!
    That is just small minded witticisms. Everything starts as a concept, if you want to be literal about it, but to make that your goal is just retarded, literally. And you must combine those two forms of art, for they are not sepearate. A Prime role of art is to resolve supposed opposites. visaully, no words or literary nonsense, but poetically and musically. Have both substance and style, most is now fashionable surface, and hollow.

    Art is its own language, you create your own, that reflects ALL of life. It must be active on the wall, and if it offends, thats not the purpose, nor should one care if it does. Most simply cant handle the truth, but that especially applies to artistes. us
    Question,yes, but each work must reflect life, truth, and be of humanity, nature and god. Or it is false, a lie, and of the indivual. And so, trash. follow the apth each question takes you on, adn find balance, and passion, and even sometimes expressive anger when appropriate. There is much to be angry about, but also much to be thankful for. Balance.

    art collegia delenda est

  3. I enjoyed reading that Dion :) My work is developing much better since I quit bothering myself with the business side of art.

    In response to this comment by anon: “Some how we as artists need to create art that people desire to live with art that serves a need of the average person on the street to rebuild the audience.”

    I don’t create for an audience or don’t feel a duty to create art that people desire. I create art to express how I feel. I will leave the creating art for the people to the likes of Kincaide et al.

  4. I enjoyed reading this. There are bits I agree witha and bits that I don’t, it’s always interesting to read what people think about making/showing art etc.

    Making your art work without your audience in mind is the best way to be creative as it lifts your restrictions. You can leave the marketing until after it’s done (and even then just make it up- ‘yep that was exactly how I planned it to turn out’)!

    I think making art for an audience will always be an unsatisfactory experience, like having a microwave meal instead of a proper dinner, it may be what most people are eating but it always leaves you a bit hungry.

    Art ‘that has something to say’ can also be beautiful. Art that has said something in the past and been deemed unacceptable/or ugly has often become acceptable to the general public and deemed aesthetically pleasing after time passes. Turner, Monet etc shocked people when they painted, now you get queues round the block to see their work. Duchamp still shocks people.

    Making work that shows some freedom of expression is often what makes it seem offensive to people- we shy away from less palatable aspects of life in our day to day lives but some art can confront you with it. Ideas shock people too- many people don’t have ideas!

    Art isn’t in isolation so all forms of visual culture influence it and are influenced by it. I don’t see painting/video/dance/graphics etc as pigeon holes they all bisect each other.

    On another note if you do go to Europe definitely go to the Van Gough Museum in Amsterdam, just went and it was really good. Anish Kapoor in London was good too.

    I won’t write any more, as a rule of thumb I like my posts to be shorter than Donald’s!

  5. Thanks all – thought provoking stuff! I agree that removing yourself from concerns about selling your work is the quickest way to progress it (within your own sense of art/aesthetics, I mean). And I, too, think both provocative, message-making art and that which uplifts the spirit or soul through its beauty, are equally valid and worth pursuing.The best work combines both. My own art is an interior expression of exterior stimulus – filtered through the process of painting, scraping and layering, and I aim at something worth on-going contemplation by the viewer. To steal a moment of someone’s time in this day and age is reward in itself. I have removed my work from exhibition, but am currently exhibiting (self funded) the result. I am very happy with it, but am now worried about it all returning to my studio unsold – I don’t have the space to produce more work! Also, I would like to afford some new canvases, paint etc. So, in the end, as pure as we want to be about our work, we need to sell it to continue or it’s just an expensive hobby! I am hoping that the authenticity in my work wins out, and speaks to people – I believe that “art” does really speak to most people, even if they don’t know why/how- and I have also done everything I can think of to sell it. The two (selling and being authentic) are both necessary and honourable. I don’t want to be working a bar to paint, but I will.

  6. lives! There is more than one way to be creative, and my lovely wife, the Queen, has her first promotional issue out. Lining up advertisers, in negotiations with a publisher, right now. There will be more articles, got plenty lined up, and these are shortened versions. For ambitious young women to find balance of mind, body and soul(sound familiar?) as we conquer the universe! Well, They, though if you check the credits I am the only male, how cool is that?!

    I will send you the first two of my columns Dionysus. I am really kinda nice, who woulda thought? Unless you are a swishy fashion designer, they are gonna get it. And as my wife is a fantastic graphic designer, many of her works cross over into creative art, it si going to be VERY different than the usual PC womens rag crap. Very direct, and to the point. Live life, its all you got, and show appreciation. And you will find contentment, and a lil fun along the way. May look for articles from the lovely women of artnewsblog along the way, and maybe you can join me in feminine heaven Dionysys, that is your thing, right? It certainly is mine.

    Check the wife looking crazy with two hands to the face in the Impact article, she is the hardest hitter, and best fighter, after the woman who runs it, Lisa. An African Amazon, she is 5’10, her doctor sister Dr Pasha 6′. Pretty cute herself.

    So if any of you beautiful women have articles, send them. Be loving, proud, physical and knowledgable. Athena is the goddess model, though Aldeana is the Queen.

    Gotta work the audience at the Covergirl Culture movie tomorrow, as the wife runs over to UCLA for another group. A Kings work is never done.

    But breaking open the bubbly, saving the good stuff for the real deal hopefully in the spring, will be a quarterly magazine, a keeper, not a throughaway rag. Look out Oprah, not makeup here, all the real deal.

    Time to party, I am outta here!

  7. all the best with the mag to you and your wife Donald :) Very exciting.

  8. Thank you! i know you are into getting art out into real life, if you have anything you want to write, contact my wife, Aldeana Frazell, but dont be too slick like the rags out there. Dont be afraid to rattle a few chains. Dont be new agish, she deals with thsoe folks on her job already, or too PC.

    Dont be Opraish, and if you look, you will see there will never be photos of people on the cover. Because it is about the woman who is reading it, and connecting her to others. Not trying to be something you are not, but accepting yourself, so luv yourself, in a good way. Not vainly and selfishly, for when you do, you can go out into the world and work with it. Improve it with others, fulfilling a role in life. Finding Purpose. We agree on most things, just use different ways to get there. I ruffle feathers, she soothes them. Good cop bad cop I guess.

    Check it out.

  9. This goes for our fellow English speakers in the old world, cousins to the north, and wild ones in the South Pacific. India, Africa, and elsewhere too, like the Caribbean.

    That means you Helly and Gabrielle. Hope to move onto Spanish someday, we do live in La Ciudad de Los Angeles. Most who see it are happy to see something that truly relates to their lives, and gives useful information, not sales pitches for products and service, though we do give links to those we write about for FREE!

    Check out Cover Girl Culture, a movie seeking release with interested parties, about the vanity and abuse of the fashion industry, by an ex-Elite model who we work with. Birds of a feather, and we are falcons. The fastest, adn prettiest, of birds of prey. Attack!



    Co produced by Ally Sheedy, and Mariel Hemingwy gives a testimonial. All girls and young women should see it.

    Fashion and art should never mix, they are yin and yang, both necessary, but corrupted when mixed. Your psychotropic Action Girl painter should see it.

    ACDE, death to marketing!

  11. I ruffle feathers in a different way Donald ;) but yes on the same track on many issues.

  12. It is interesting… I never really thought about the divide between esthetic art and stick poking… It makes sense.

    I feel that one of the biggest challenges esthetic art faces is the decline of visual literacy. For the most part the public and artists for that matter are illiterate to the visual elements of line, light, color and spaces… Even basic human values of power, softness, fluidity, etc… have been put to the way side for more flash or prurient story. I see less and less the informed and educated art buyer or museum. What is written on the card next to the art is more important to the art itself.

    I paint what makes me curious, what challenges me. I try to translate what I see into paint. Sometimes it is what people want… sometimes not.

    I will leave the clever and the shocking to those who have sharper sticks.

  13. These issues about art and marketing, art and social commentary, choosing between art that has something to say and art that just looks good on the wall etc etc. They keep recurring. I find it interesting that there is a need to differentiate.

    As an artist, I see no reason why it can not be both. Whatever piece of art an artist produces is a reflection of their perspective at that time. Whether it is a Morandi still life or a Hirst Skull. It is all relevant and will have its place in history.

    Re marketing to an audience, we all need to eat. I for one see nothing romantic or desirable about creating art for love and then starving to death. I will do whatever is necessary to get my work sold. That does not mean that I produce for an audience, no I definitely produce what matters to me, and I tend to focus on issues which are important to me. Life informs what I produce. If I get it out to enough people and it is good art, it will touch someone and they will buy it. Art matters.

    As for shock artists needing more hugs growing up, I think there is a lot more going on than that. To me it seems that Hirst has been reflecting the times in his work as well as fulfilling a need to express the things that HE is interested in. Like death and the crazy way that investors have been buying art until recently, artificially inflating the prices of certain works to astonishing levels. To me, the “For the love of God” piece was the ultimate expression of the peak of the art investment boom. “For the love of God” was an apt title for the time and its meaning would have been all the more stark against the backdrop of the exhibition at the time. His more recent work is reflecting the back to basics attitude that the market is now seeing, back to painting, on his own with no army of factory assistants. He is reflecting the spirit of the times.

    For me art reflects life. Everything about it, the good and the bad. However you want to categorize it, it is all relevant and it all reflects life from some artists perspective. Art matters.

  14. Whooo Hoo! Gonna be a doctor daddy, eldest just got accepted into med school. Gotta party. Though he has to go back to Gitmo Monday.

    as far as making money and art, of course we all want to, its whther we adjust what we do for money only, or pursue truth and attempt to convince others of the errors of their ways. Worked for Monet eventually, but had great poverty til then, and got rich in his old age. Good things come to those who wait, sometimes. Cezanne just made his dealer rich. But he got to work, and thats what counts. Unfortunately dying at the height of his powers, leaving his Great Bathers unfished but still incredible.

    Picasso always knew how to work a crowd, and since he was in with dealesrs, got paid ten times what Braque got for the same quality of work, Braque actualy inventing cubism, defintely Cezannian and Synthetic, about the same with Picasso on analytical. But Braque was content to simply work, and had no problem with it.

  15. This may sound bad to many people but I very much paint to sell my work. I need to make a living.

    I worked at art galleries in my younger days and later got into marketing.

    To me they are all very much tied together.

    Of course I paint my vision. That is what I’m selling.

  16. Chris that does not sound bad to me. It sounds like the perfect combination.

    I don’t know why so many artists see it as bad. There is nothing wrong in wanting a good life for yourself and your family. If you can achieve that by doing the thing you love most, that makes you one of the luckiest people alive.

    I studied biology to degree level and spent 6 years working in sales in the pharmaceutical industry. I ran a recruitment company for a short time also. All of this means that I understand sales, marketing and business and I apply that to making my art.

  17. I don’t see it is as bad either Chris, it is what feels right to you and your needs. I think it’s when others decide what is right or wrong for everyone else that it becomes the usual tired pompous rhetoric and diatribe.

  18. There are many forms of art for different purposes. Decorative art, Fine art to appease the rich, applied arts for practical use, graphic design as my wife dos, which often overflows into creative art. Which is that which lasts, and that which is necessary for that beyond putting a roast on the table. (most of us creative types are definitely carnivores, got a lamb shank marinating for a party tonight))

    creative art is that which we put in museums, and galleries always want to claim they are doing. Claiming there is no definition to art allows the academeis to sell their degrees with an attitude, one they have never worked to earn. Creative art is that which entwines all three phases of man, about us as a whole, understanding nature and striving to know god.

    this is also necessary, but buried under the avalance of marketed selfishness we have today. It is not about the individual, it is about US. Self expression is for children, there should be places for that, but thats all we have, along with fine art, decoration and therapeutic rantings. And games, lots of games, like the YBAs and such, which have lots of therapy issues involved as well.Immature. Where do us intelligent, responsible adults go?

    Until we acept that not all arts are the same or even have the same value, then we will get this marketed swill. Find what works for you, fine. But dont claim to be the best or striving for the same purpose when you are producing pop music, and Miles Davis is standing right there. Dont be absurd. Though that is the movement of the moment, as Damian Hirst.

    art colleges must be destroyed

  19. Donald, I havent given up on modernism and I’ll always find the artwork more interesting than the idea, but that doesnt mean I can’t play with ideas. It can be a lot of fun thinking about the silly things you can come up

    I hope the magazine goes well too Donald. It looks good. Let me know if an article touches on something arty and I’ll link to it.

    Corrine, I like that attitude. Especially now, I couldnt care less about the audience. If Im happy, all is well. It’s very selfish, but oh well.. lol.

    Helly, that comment was a post unto itself.. lol. I think Donald has more to say though ;-)

    Gabrielle, I’m finding the same problem; too much art, not enough room, but I’ll try and make more room as I don’t like letting things go. I dont know if I’m a hoarder or just an avid collector of my own

    Chris, sounds good to me. Doing something you love and getting paid for it. The money side of art fascinates me as much as the no money side of art.

  20. Great Read


  21. I enjoyed reading your comments about the shock value of art and how society responds to art. I’ve recently been thinking about it a lot because I’ve had several galleries turn down my work because it’s “too challenging” for viewers/art buyers. It’s beautiful, but not kitschy, challenging, but not quite shocking. Interesting that galleries don’t want to show it – I suppose that museums exist to show art that people won’t buy because it’s too disturbing…

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