Sunday, October 27, 2013

First Skype meeting with Lee Wagstaff

'Apostles' by Lee Wagstaff
Lee Wagstaff and I met at Central St. Martins over 20 years ago. It is great to have him as a mentor and to discuss my work (and the art world in general) with him.

Wagstaff discussed setting up his gallery 6 years ago in the Neukolln area, and how in the beginning he’d experimented with using the rented space for an art collective and a commercial gallery. It now exhibits artists’ work, includes a printer’s studio, has been represented at art fairs, and is successful because of the attention and support its professional art project has inspired. Wagstaff went into detail about his dealings with the various artists he represents and stressed the importance of artists communicating eloquently about their work, in the form of artist statements etc… The gallery is now on pause for a few years, while Wagstaff starts his Phd at the RCA in London to explore a new (more technological) direction of his work.

Artist Statements

In order to avoid “abrasive” artspeak and jargon, Wagstaff suggested that it might be best to actually describe what the work is “without any kind of poetic licence”. It might be just a description of what is happening, the subject matter, technique or materials.
"Statements will change as you change as an artist".
"Statements are tricky because they're written down, it’s almost like a contract, it’s the nearest thing that you have to a manifesto and that’s why it can be problematic".
“What I like about your statement is that it does describe you and what you’re interested in and I think that that’s a really useful thing to have. Many statements use a lot of buzzwords and end up sounding exactly the same, which is what artists hate most”.
“There’s a difference between what you say in a conversation and what you write down. It might be an idea to record yourself speaking about the work – the gap between the thought process and speaking is much shorter when you speak - so it can be much more honest”.


“As long as there is an integrity to your exploration, and it’s backed up by knowledge, people will respect it whether it’s a view that is in or out of fashion”.
Wagstaff is working in the area of theology that is not always met with approval in the contemporary context. “I think a lot of the imagery that I used has put people off in the past but has also attracted others and an interest in the topic. I think you just have to stand your ground”.
“Feminism is problematic for a lot of female artists who may be frightened to use such terms, because it puts people off”, but Wagstaff believes that the more such terms and ideas are discussed, the more relaxed attitudes would become towards them.
“You’re telling your story, which is an interesting story for a lot of people who are not from your background and I don’t think you should worry about that because it’s your story. The art has to speak for itself, and background facts serve as an invitation”.

Crazy Cat Lady

"Men don’t need to defend anything that they do... the art world is not a democracy and it’s not fair and you have pockets of political correctness but in general if you even look at successful artists of colour, quite often their work is about that issue and people do get categorized. 

Crazy Cat Lady from the Simpsons

“If the quality of the work or the ideas are engaging, then that can often overcome quite a lot of prejudices in art. I believe in form over content - if something is made in a beautiful way or a passionate way. There’s a difference between an invitation to converse and preaching at someone. When you’re being preached at, it’s never interesting, but when things are described in a passionate and poetic way, it’s much more of an invitation”.

“One of the artist’s responsibilities is to disrupt culture. It is good to jar people sometimes and jar yourself... It’s part of the reason why I’m going to study again because every artist should believe in what they do. Art is kind of like spirituality or religion because most serious artists are committed to it and some people see spirituality as an irrational impulse to practice.”

Art Show

“You seem to know what you’re doing and seem to have formed the presentation and the ideas so it’s about refining it and playing with it. The whole point is to enjoy it… now is not the time to question yourself – it’s more afterwards because that is how you evolve as an artist. Have a list and just work through it because you are at that stage now.”

Artist talk

"Practice! Instead of just giving cold facts use phrases like “this is what I’m thinking about” or “this is the area that I’m exploring”. When you’re practising try to anticipate questions and if you can’t answer one just be honest about it. The hardest thing is to be concise and to express your ideas in a few sentences". 

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