"Tell your own story and you will be interesting. Don't get the green disease of envy. Don't be fooled by success and money. Don't let anything come between you and your work."
Louise Bourgeois: Advice to young artists.
This seems to me to be excellent advice to artists of any age and discipline. Louise Bourgeois died at the end of May. She was 98 and still making art. She finished her final pieces the week before her death. I draw tremendous inspiration from her and from artists generally. I admire their clarity of vision, their excitement about what they do, their obsessions and their commitment. Sometimes, I feel that I have more in common with visual artists than with writers in my own field. Louise Bourgeois is one of my heroines. She is best known for her giant spider sculpture, Mamam, exhibited in Tate Modern Turbine Hall in 2000. Her work is visceral, challenging, bold and innovative. All her life, she refused to bow to stereotypes, whether of women, sexuality, or age. She is regarded as an inspiration by much younger artists, like Tracey Emin, and she frequently worked with them. I like the idea of the old and the young working together, feeding off each other.
Her work is challenging. "I really want my work to worry people, to bother people," she said. I think that this should apply to all artists, writers included. The best writers in all fields have always done this, but there has been growing pressure on writers, especially writers for young people, to conform, to be responsible, not to write anything that will upset or disturb. Some writers stand out as refusing to compromise or to accept that they have to write differently because they write for a young readership: Robert Cormier, Alan Garner, Aidan Chambers, Melvin Burgess, Mal Peet have all been prepared to worry and bother. There are no women on list, I wonder why that is?
I'm always ready to learn from other artists. That's why I'm pinning a picture of Louise Bourgeois to my notice board.