A residency is not a placement, nor is it in any way affiliated with a university or tertiary studies. I'm not gaining any credit towards my studies, and I will not be working or interning under any individual or organisation. At the same time, it is not a holiday. So what is it?Read More
I have always regarded myself as being a perfectionist, both in life and within my creative practice. I will never forget a time in which I created an artwork that I truly hated, however at the insistence of my peers, still posted it online. That piece was soon recognised by an organisation called Project Okyo, who then collaborated with me in order to manufacture the artwork onto a series of 250,000 sustainable coffee cups distributed around Australia and New Zealand.
I have sacrificed a lot for my art practice, more so this year than ever. Lately, it has been daunting to think of how much of myself I invest into art, because the risk of failing now carries so much more weight. And that's a terrible word rattling around my head recently: failure.
Today, somebody told me to look inwards, to truly make sense of what failure is, and why the prospect scares me so much. The job market for an artist is dishearteningly unstable, and I have always been someone who craves stability and assurance. The future keeps looming closer and closer, and I continue to weigh up my relative successes (residencies, internships, sold artworks, client work) against my imagined failures (the battle for recognition, the competitive and saturated nature of the art world, the horrible little voice that tells me that my art won't get me anywhere).
It's a difficult boundary to navigate, and I'm sure many artists can relate to this. From the starting line we are already heaped with the added weight of the 'starving artist' stereotype; the social stigma linking creative arts students to unemployment. We're not given much encouragement to begin with, so we try harder than ever to prove everyone wrong. If we can't achieve that - the disappointment is immense.
Over the past few days, I have faced unbelievable challenges that have tested the faith I have in myself to the limit. I am proud to have overcome these situations, and it has made me realise more than ever that our concept of failure and success is totally arbitrary and subjective.
I am not the sum of my my sold artworks or the number of exhibitions I've had per year, or Instagram followers. I am not the sum of any praise or criticism from my peers or clients. I have value simply by virtue of existing. I am here on this earth, breathing, living, moving around the globe. Seeing things, writing things down, creating pictures.
I think it's an important message for all people - but especially artists - to hear. Yes, the future may look bleak sometimes. People may question the feasibility of your goals. But always remember to have an unshakeable faith in yourself. I know what I am capable of, and I know I am more than any sum of parts. I will become more than I know, and more than you ever thought.
I am an immigrant. My sense of self has always been intrinsically tied to the places I inhabit, so I have never felt a solid connection to one particular place. I was born in South Africa, but can only remember my experience there though the lens of a child. I arrived in Australia when I was seven: foreign, new, and desperately teaching myself to say yeah instead of ja. But I wasn't even connected to South Africa, really. My whole family is Greek, and I spoke fluent Greek before I could even speak a word in English. So after migrating, my patriotism fluctuated between a strong connection to my birthland, and a loyalty to the new Australian culture I was trying to assimilate into. Amongst all that I still felt a deep pride for the passion and vibrancy of my Greek culture.
However, after my recent visit to Greece only a few years ago, I felt oddly 'outside' the culture - my accent was that of a slangy Australian, forced to relearn old customs and languages. More importantly, I began to realise that the two countries I had lived in for most of my life came with a dark history of racism, segregaton, and the colonisation of Indigenous communities. I therefore had to reconsider my loyalty to any singular place. Suddenly, I was in limbo - untethered to any singular place, I simply existed.
Growing up, I became more interested in this connection between people and place. By nature, people form groups, whether they are as small as social groups in schools, sports teams, or neighbourhoods; or as large as governing bodies of states. We form groups to make some sense of our surroundings. These are my Australian friends. Those are my Greek cousins. That's a picture of my South African classmates. Each one neatly classified and tucked away. I always seem to emphasise one culture more when I am around people of the like. I do it unconsciously, without really knowing why. Is it an attempt to fit in? Or an attempt to reclaim some sense of community and culture, given that I have three (or none)? It makes me wonder who I really am.
I've been exploring these thoughts recently, particularly in relation to my upcoming residency in Iceland later this year. The basis for my proposal centred on people and place, and how we try to comprehend the unforgiving nature of the environment around us by tethering people to the land. I have coordinates of my birthplace and a compass tattooed on me, a permanent reminder of this concept of people and place. I always remember places most vividly through the interactions of the people that were there.
The vastness of our planet and the grandiosity of nature are overwhelming to the human race. It reminds us that our place on earth is insignificant and temporary. And that may be why we try so hard to attach ourselves to places, because it gives them meaning. Being unattached to a singular place can therefore be a vulnerable and unsteady position. In reality, it actually allows you the freedom to explore boundlessly. Lately I've had this sensation of being adrift. But maybe that just means I have whole oceans open to me.
If it feels like every year gets wilder, more beautiful and more terrible, it's probably because it's true. As we grow, we are more exposed to current affairs and experience constantly changing environmental, global, and political climates. 2016 has been a challenging year for a lot of us, but I also feel that I have become stronger, more independent, and happier than ever before. I covered the Virgin Australia Fashion Festival and allowed my creative practice to expand into fashion, beauty and style. I completed two internships, had my first solo art exhibition, and worked with some amazing clients. Relationships ended, changed, and formed. I learned to fend for myself. I'm entering 2017 with an open and hopeful heart, and I can't wait to see what's in store.
2017 New Year's Resolutons / A Manifesto On Art and Life:
- Respect your creative practice, no matter what it is.
- Keep your workspace clear at all times.
- Always work with music in the background.
- Stay true to your aesthetic.
- Love yourself.
- Project love into the world.
- Eat a good breakfast every day.
- Engage with other creatives from different disciplines.
- Leave your home and studio regularly. Inspiration strikes outdoors.
- Work hard and work often to hone your craft.
- Be receptive to the universe. Learn more about space and astronomy.
- Have many muses and lovers in your lifetime.
- Visit the ballet, the opera, and the theatre.
- Light more candles.
- Explore extremes. Visit a desert and a fjord.
- Move with the tides of the sea and the orbits of the moon.
- Create work that will outlive you.
- Never be idle.
- Read often and learn new philosophies of thought.
- Look at the stars in the night sky.
- Listen to yourself before all others.
- Be boundless, be infinite, and open your heart to any possibilities.