Friday, 11 June 2010

Advice to ALL Artists...











"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.

10 comments:

John Dougherty said...

Interesting, Celia; but I was struck by this: 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?

How did you come by this list? Surely there are women who could be on it - Anne Cassidy, perhaps? Tabitha Suzuma? Susan Price? Ann Turnbull? You?

Damian Harvey said...

Good to read you post Celia - and all good advice.

vh said...

This is a great post and very inspirational.I was interested by your list and John's comment. Has any woman ever got a similar reputation to the list you gave I wonder? Joanna Kenrick, Jenny Downham, Jenny Valentine could all be added to John's list too in my opinion.

Daria Hlazatova said...

thank you for a great post!

Stroppy Author said...

Thank you, Celia - a lovely tribute to Louise and so well written. I agree - it's important to stand up for the type of art you believe in, to push boundaries and drag people out of their comfort zone.

Katherine Roberts said...

Good one, Celia. It is so very important to plough your own furrow and not jump on to bandwagons.

I am also interested where the list of male authors comes from? Obviously these authors have built a reputation for challenging books - Melvin Burgess' "Bloodtide" is one that sticks in my mind - but there are plenty of challenging books by female authors being published, too... as well as (I suspect) lots that remain unpublished. Is it a cultural thing, do you think?

Celia Rees said...

The list is my list. They seem to me to be writers who geuinely push boundaries. I don't mean subject or 'issues', although Melvin B is there because he's prepared to go so very much further than any one else and was the first to do so. The women John and vh suggest are fine writers but I don't know if they push boundaries of form, like Cormier or Chambers, or are as prepared to go as far as Burgess.

Miriam Halahmy said...

I love the quote at the beginning and totally agree with it. Thanks for the post and I like your author list and John's also.

adele said...

Love Louise B and this post is excellent!

Dianne Hofmeyr said...

Sorry I missed this on the day Celia. Its a great post. I've always admired Louise B's work and the photographs I've seen of her in her studio as an old lady not leaving the dirty work to her minions but working alongside to shape and cast her sculptures say it all. The Tate couldn't have had a better installation to open the Turbine Hall space with than that spider. Another artist who pushes boundaries in the same way is Paula Rego. Hers are real stories without text. I once was researching a book on Printmaking I was writing and asked her for a quote that would help students. She said: 'Just keep drawing. And keep a few secrets for yourself. Don't show everything to everybody... particularly the teachers. Keep it secret.' maybe it applies to writing as well???