I gave up making art and thinking about art twelve years ago but before that I was an artist. I completed a creative arts practice PhD and for nearly two decades I taught in an art school at a university in the Australian outback. 1
The question that haunted me as I was working through all the different ways of making art, exhibiting art, thinking about art, responding to art was: How can I make this meaningful? How do I make work that has an effect? Is it possible to make art affects change, that can change the world (by which I mean ‘people’ - the world is just fine, or it would be if it wasn’t for humans…)? Of course this was an important question for the early modernists, like De Stijl and the suprematists, and much later even the abstract expressionists). For many of these artists their work was a kind of spiritual practice. But the point in time at which I came to making and thinking about art was in the eighties when postmodernism was having its day and the idea that artists and audiences ought to be interested in meaning and change was unfashionable. It was a time to celebrating surface and irony, although ‘celebrate’ might be the wrong word. There was very little joy in it.
The one unescapable fact, and I’ve thought about this ever since I was a child and it continues to haunt me now, is not just that I am going to die but that everyone, everything that lives, is going to die - and that everything that exists is going to cease to exist - and that there will be human and other beings that are left bereft, who will have to grieve and mourn those deaths.
And this is what lead me to give up art, and resign from the university, in 2011.
My old mates back in Wagga will laugh about this and say: ‘This is not the outback!’ but the fact remains that it is very different from a metropolitan centre and four and a half hours drive from Melbourne and five and a half from Sydney is seriously remote in European terms.)↩