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‘You cant make it in the art world until you are forty’.

June 20, 2011 Feature No Comments

marla ‘You cant make it in the art world until you are forty’.
Image:Marla Olmstead

I was asked to write a little something in response to a statement posed to me from Mark Westall whilst drinking cocktails (which gave me a very sore throat) on the night of The Catlin Art Prize 2011.

The statement was this:
‘You cant make it in the art world until you are forty’.

This wasn’t an antagonistic statement, it was more of a point of discussion, based on the fact my work had been thrust into the context of the ‘art prize’.
Considering my age of twenty – two, it was actually quite hard to contemplate future success or indeed what I deemed as success and how I measure that against what I have achieved thus far. . I have been thinking about this for about two weeks now, continuously trying to focus my energy away from confronting the issue of how I would potentially gauge this idea of time versus success.

All I know how to do is make my own work, and that process will always come first,
before any outside influences or recognition I may receive. True success for me exists when I am on my own in the studio and is in contrast to Mark’s comment ‘making it’ which I understand is his euphemism for success, which clearly implies public and critical recognition. I think my definition of success is entirely insular and self –referential almost in an extreme type of introversion. Take ‘Fabric Softeners’, the work that won the Catlin Art Prize. I felt this work reached its success the minute it became a ‘work’ in the studio and made the transition from studio experiment, into an art work I was happy to show to a viewer. That success is achieved by the act of brining a artwork to fruition, irrespective of audience recognition/critical analysis.

Since winning the Catlin Art Prize I have been propelled into an arena that with
which I am totally unfamiliar with; press, interviews and the media in general. I
haven’t yet considered my success as an individual as that has always been measured in relation to success of the work. Needless to say, after significant recognition of the work, not just that featured in the Catlin Art Prize, but also my degree show, has urged me to appreciate the wider audience, physically in front of the work, as well as a newspaper reader having only ever seen the work represented in media. To what extent – if at all – is the notion of ‘success’ dependent upon critical praise or analysis and peer review? The creation of art for its own reward is far more appealing and I believe this can be termed a ‘success’. In the studio I make no reference to contemporary nature of art in which validation or success is often deemed or given by commercial endorsement as much as by critical praise.

The promotion of ‘emerging artists’ seems to be a strong element in the art scene at the moment, specifically within London. Since graduating I have been involved in a number of shows promoting the emergence of these artists and there work. The idea of investing in the ‘new’ is a continuous cycle that I seem to have become caught up in, along with fellow peers from London, and occasionally around the UK.

Russell Hill
www.russellhillonline.com
You can see Russell’s work at Bow Arts from June 25th in Connection Point

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