“No great genius has ever existed without a touch of madness” – Aristotle.
When’s the last time you heard someone say “I’m so glad that *insert tortured artist here* got clean and is mentally well adjusted. Their work is just so much better now.” A
We glorify suffering in the arts. To some degree, I think we equate it with depth. People who feel heaps of feelings must be so complex and multi-faceted and interesting. We often talk about how artists’ peak periods were fraught with misery and turmoil, and their biographies usually end with them dying or getting their shit together (which, in either case, completes the story). It’s true that studies have shown that creative people have an increased likelihood of suffering from mental illness in their lifetime. But are we helping the matter when we constantly equate ones own genius with ones own suffering? A
As an adolescent, I bought into this “tortured-artist” thing hook, line and sinker. I idolised these people, I admired their art and I thought that their psychological illness only served to enhance their creativity. It made me less prone to addressing my own psych issues – hell, it made me, in a way, kind of proud of them. I must be complex, I must be deep, I must be interesting. A
It took a while to break this illusion. Of course, the last thing an “artist” wants to be is less interesting. However, ones ability to make great art is not synonymous with living a great life. We’re constantly shocked when incredibly wealthy, successful artists, who seem to have achieved every creative and commercial accolade possible, reveal they suffer from depression or take their own lives. It’s almost like we think they’re not entitled to be sad when all the while we’ve been hyping the fact that it’s their sadness that helps makes them great. A
If you’re one who is prone to glamourising the suffering of your idols (or your own suffering), here are a few things to keep in mind; A
1. You live your life way more than you live your art. They’re not the same thing (even though it does sound wonderfully bohemian).
2. Happiness & contentment is not creative suicide. Many artists have flourished with the clarity and balance that comes with getting your shit together.
3. The longer you hold onto the idea of suffering as a beacon of complexity and productivity, the harder it will be to separate from it. There is much more that makes you and others prolific, complex and interesting besides unhappiness.
One of my favourite Americana singer/songwriters, Jason Isbell explores his journey with getting clean, starting a family and maintaining his career and creativity beyond the “tortured artist” concept. Despite walking away from his wild, reckless, outlaw lifestyle, his recent work is beautiful, nuanced and rich in complexity. Which goes to show art can thrive – beyond suffering, beyond misery, beyond madness. A
“I broke a promise to myself – to ride the throttle ’til the wheels came off (&) burn out like a molotov in the night sky. I broke a promise to myself. And made a couple to a brown-eyed girl who rode with me through the mean old world. Never say die.” Molotov, Jason Isbell.
For crisis and suicide prevention support, contact Lifeline’s 24 hour crisis line on 13 11 14. For more information and help with depression contact your doctor or Beyond Blue.
They tell us that perfection is unattainable. An unreasonable benchmark that haunts and hinders creatives like a hovering black cloud with impeccable eyeliner. It seems fair enough to ward people off the idea of striving for perfection. It halts a great deal of projects. Stirs up inner conflicts. Turns people into quitters.
“Have no fear of perfection, you’ll never reach it.” Dali said that . But I often have a problem believing the impossibility of attaining perfection because, quite honestly, I feel confronted by perfection constantly and relentlessly. What drives me towards seeking perfection is the pure evidence that it exists. In John Lennon’s Across The Universe. In Mark Rothko’s 1962 Blue & Grey. In Pinterest photos of naked cakes. In fine lace detail on AP lingerie, antique jewellery, pink peonies and Marilyn Monroe in All About Eve.
Now, creative & aesthetic perfection is objective. I’m sure you could actively find fault in any of the examples I’ve listed above (not to my face though, or I’ll cut you). But I think that they’re perfect. And if they can be perfect, then why can’t I? Or at least why can’t I create something that is?
I think the corruption comes from the creative process itself. The sweat and anguish about selecting just the right colours. Or having the lines just the right length or nailing the texture, or perfectly balancing the composition. It’s all trial and error. And even when we’re finished and are left with something that we’re mildly happy with, it still seems far from perfect, because for the creator, that completed work is still charged with the memories of all those little failures that went into creating it. And nothing feels less perfect than failure. Where as when we look at the work we admire of others, there are no memories of failure. No recollections of struggle, or disappointment, or regret. Just something beautiful. Complete. Perfect.
Perhaps the real challenge lies in the ability to allow oneself to recall those struggles and see perfection in the final work even still. God knows its possible, or should I say, Kanye knows its possible…(same thing really. According to him). Or is the greater task to not aim to see things as perfect and imperfect, but rather just as they are, and as they affect you.
I did a painting of some pink peonies. The flowers were perfect. The painting, far from it. And I guess that’s okay.
So pumped to be a part of the next epic exhibition hosted by The Ladies Network. The night will be made up of a bunch of amazingly talented females showing off their creative wiles. I’ll have a nice little stash of framed originals for anyone who is keen to come check me out. The opening night is Friday 13th November, from 6pm at Ambush Gallery in Central Park. Girl Power.
Not unlike most women, I have a wonderful relationship with my bed. It’s such a wonderful, safe place for me, where I learn, read, exorcise my demons, laugh, sleep, cry and get up to mischief. I wanted to capture some of the fun times me and my bed have and did a small charcoal series chronicling what I get up to “in bed”.
All works are charcoal on thick, textured A3 paper.
DANGEROUS LIASIONS – Pencil and Acrylic Paint on Thick, Pastel Yellow, Textured Paper. Channelling a little inspo from Sarah Michelle Gellar, Cruel Intentions vibes. Available for purchase from bluethumb.com.au
I’ve experienced a lot of Yoko bashing in my time, with people harping on about her being the death of The Beatles, the fall of John Lennon, and other nasty things. I think she’s divine. Her mind moves in such a captivating and inspiring way, and after seeing her exhibition last year at the Museum of Contemporary Art in Sydney and most recently, her show at the Museum of Modern Art in New York, I felt compelled to pledge my allegiance.