Artist's Statement

Hated school,elected head-boy. I screwed-up almost every exam I ever took. I almost left University, and I was almost kicked out of that institution too, I was almost a rebel without a course ! However, I ran-out of roles to play as a fledgling actor at University and ended up with a Political Studies degree where I learnt how to pick-up on platitudes and rudimentary deception. I went to work in the US with Sane/freeze and Greenpeace and then in Barcelona, where the only language I learnt was the language of other TEFL teachers. I also travelled outside the arc of Art circles because I kept running into people like me but who were better carrying-off the mystique of a poet/warrior  than I was. I moved to London  penniless and and knackered, but at least I shook-off the fog. But knackered was a good place to start for self-transformation with the life-blood of colour.

 

The state of the medium of Painting.-(watch-out for the polemics)

Professionally, I first exhibited at Jacob Kramer Art college in Leeds in 1986, but I didn't really commit myself to the medium of Painting until 1988. At the time that was not a good idea. Painting had the hand-brake on by too many people talking-up formalist limitations of contemporary Painting,relegating it, concealing it and annexing it from public discussion. In a world of relativism, false prophesy and out-right fake news, the medium of Painting has also been a victim of cynical manipulation of the 19th and 20th century 'Art Market', all too ready to big-up prices of Paintings on the proviso of 'no competition from work done today' Prices in the Auction market of Fine Art remain artificially high whilst stock-prices around the world have suffered. But I am not a 'conspiracy junky', and will not play that self same game of Conceptual Artist's 'subverting a meteoric rise to mediocrity and then mocking it to make their marks or 'dollars'. Indeed, CA may have a 'formalist passport' ,('unlike Painters') it doesn't mean that gadgetry and tech isn't a Dickensian 'Veneering'character, a regressive rubber-stamping paltry varnish, albeit digitally re-mastered, re-packaged by gimmick. Perhaps we should 'uncover the shallow graves'under which Painting labours and resuscitate Painter's that have been thrown in a ditch, bruised and hungry. Perhaps Painting is the cultural  litmus test of Art much like the free press is to democracy? Perhaps we should ignore this 'hiatus in Art' and not fan the flames of an example of how 'modernism could be contained and imprisoned' and not given its due as a '160 year and counting' bone fide 'School of Art that continues to open-up the enlightenment of it own form of '19th century Renaissance' ? Surely a cultural umbrella that connects hand painting of 100,000 years ago to today converts Painting to the DNA of human expression from the tip of 'Michelangelo's finger' to the human fingerprint of the human brushstroke. This is the blue-ribbon event beyond memory to extending to beyond our Universe. This is discipline and technique in which a life time of experience hopes to forget all he/she has learnt to reject . Surely painting as a Victorian sedentary backwater of polite responsibility' where you only speak if you were spoken to, is a bit polemical.! Indeed, haven't Painter's updated formalism whilst practitioners of Paint have multiplied and have inspired to do so by(paradoxically) technology, the very'nemesis of Painting? Now I understand why mobile phones, tablets and lap-tops' are at all helpful to humanity !! Horses for courses!!!? From Oil to Spray Paint to Acrylic to........

 

Self transformation

 

Painting was never old hat, it just needed to update Form. How? Perhaps this could explain it : A 2D canvas doesn't have to have to be seen as a restriction or a impediment, but could be seen as a monumental challenge to fit all the Universe of creativity into it! It could be seen firstly as a portal window to a new universe, secondly a pictorial freedom opening up the expanding change, thirdly packed new insights free for  laissez-faire Art forging new relationships, or lastly, it could be a black hole, an abyss sucking-in formalism's destructive paralysis. But to me the very fact that every Painter has to embrace these dilemmas and face-down this conflict ends the Paint 'stuck in the past brigade'. It makes'Abstract to the Representational boundaries in Painting false or even speculative !!! Now Art has to reset, re engage and re-wire but firstly drop the paradigm'of the status quo in Art not by reaction but by positive response.

If Painting is the permafrost of Art, we need to protect its significance and not just restore it to full health. We need to protect its opposites of Abstraction and Representational, the two poles of contemporary Painting that inform and educate new image making and not expose it to neglect. 

Redeem and roam free of formulas or formats, and no longer let passivity pin you down again to 'surface liquid dumped on a flat piece of 'laundry cloth'! Painting wasn't empty it was just too difficult and too plentiful. Artist' just chickened-out of Painting and chose a safer medium without the need to confront.For me getting stuck-in to Painting is only limited by my imperfections and failed man-management of my own mortality. But that is the point isn't it? Human imperfection is the hand to the brush to the paint to the surface where nothing can rival that fingertip, fingerprint and human lines that are never straight but are as unique as the human eye. We are humbled by our individuality and have advanced in much the same way as evolution in general has  - by mistake and by random inaccuracies or by happy accident. Perhaps we didn't intend or set-out to Paint, but we end-up contributing. Perhaps the Berlin Wall is testament to the story of  Paint (spray Paint) that helped culturally to bring down the Soviet system rather than image make ( not universally popular) in subways in New York which broke away from any gallery space. I'd like to be inspired not by urban breakdown but by the fact that the Soviets fought with minefields, electric fences snipers and barbed wire, but the West fought with Paint!!!! But how ironic that the wall 'collapsed' for trophy hunters to extort gullible tourists rather than re-erected in a public space.?!!  But perhaps that might be for my next exhibition?

© 2019 Stephen Hornsby-Smith

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