Recently my brother referred to my site as "doing Art", and it got me thinking about the way to approach what I do. The verb 'doing', to me, conjures up associations of effort - almost suggesting labour, as if the 'Art' has to be confronted and forced into submission. Yet it's also a process word - active and ongoing, hinting at no end in sight.
The title of this post brings back many of the Marxist works I read as a student (and still attempt from time to time) - concerned with the idea that the physical labour of the artefact was more quantifiable in terms of social and economic value. In many ways I can appreciate this, that is to say I'd certainly like to make money from what I paint and draw; something that requires me producing an end product - or artefact, or better yet a commodity. In doing this I need to decide on many things once the composition and painting is done. I must frame and present each work - considering each piece in a wider, and possibly alien context, and the desires of the potential viewer. Then I need (not least because the web-site won't let me arrange the price for each piece with those who want it) to consider specific prices.
Now here's where I begin to struggle, as I have no real frame of reference. For a gallery I need to consider their commission, but the base price? Is this simply hours worked plus materials? If so what is my hourly rate - do I include thinking and sketches (if any) as time on the final piece? Do I include life experience that impacted on the final painting - 'cos arguably that's my whole life and even at below minimum wage it'll cost ya!
But I cannot reduce the value of what I do - and the expression of my experience, to the market place; aesthetics doesn't work that way. The idea of cultural value has gainned grip over the last twenty years - my old uni tombs would wink and mouth 'ideology', then grin, just ever-so smugly, at the thought. So the value I place upon the work is mitigated by the value I feel in having it valued. I like food and appreciate shelter; and these facts should enter into my considerations, rather than me just giving paintings away in the street whilst gushing: "They like me, they really like me!" (Something not as far from the realms of possibilty as I would like!)
Thus it is the value of my work comes to be negotiated between individual desires, social impulses and economic needs. Art exisits in this twilight realm poised precariously in the grip of expression, labour and context - expressing both the individuals appreciation of the world, but also their relationship to the world - occassionally bruising from an over-zealous twitch. In which case my paintings not only reflect my understanding and response to the world around me, but also demonstrate the impact of the world, in all its variations, on me.
I look up and see my books nod sagely and agree:
"Totality. The system is both about and within you," they say. I concur, but it doesn't stop me looking again.