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How to be a successful artist without being successful?

Around February of 2020, sitting in my studio at school, I read a quote from Laurie Parsons: “I feel it essential that I consider the gallery itself, rather than continue to unquestioningly use it as a context. With its physical space and intricate social organization, it is real, and as meaningful, as the artwork, it houses and markets.” She said this after presenting at Laurence-Monk: a re-painted, empty gallery for her solo-show in 1990. At first, I wasn’t sure if I understood why would someone present a re-painted, empty gallery as an artwork. Later when I read more about her, and I learned that Parsons left the art world, I understood this gesture as a precursor for her withdrawal. By each show she slowly started losing the object and form within her practice and step by step started to remove herself from the scene – announcing her belief, that “art must spread into other realms”. Shortly after she became a social worker.

Anyway, before I knew about Parsons I also presented walls at the academy, although I never really painted one. I sometimes built them, prepared them to be painted, filled up holes that were left from previous presentations, cleaned them; made all the groundwork for painting, without the act of painting itself. My subject was often the given space, including its interior and facilities, which I choose to interfere with, by (re)placement or (re)presentation in order to frame and question it. Once I even sent a proposal to the Stedelijk Museum to paint one of their walls with their tools and materials, because when I was there before I saw it was dirty. (The proposal got denied, as the wall was already meant to be re-painted.) Later, during my final years at the academy, I started to examine and question the presence of a studio (or gallery). I was questioning my role within it, and their role in my artistic practice.

However, besides questioning the space itself, I started focusing on my – and my audience’s – acts and gestures performed within. I started to produce works that pointed to processes relating to the structure and institutional make-up of the academy, or perhaps any art-institution. At the academy all I did in my studio was to constantly prepare it: to store my materials there, to build walls, to arrange and paint it; to basically make it look like one. Then after a while, all I mainly enjoyed about my studio, was just having and maintaining, but not using it – only questioning it. I began to approach the studio and the whole academy as an object: a constant, ever-changing work, a place of practice, the potential carrier of all ideas to happen or not-happen. I realised that making art within these spaces became difficult, almost impossible. Then once and for all, after the first lockdown our studios and their practice became a distant idea, a structure of naked partition walls, deserted at school, impossible to access; covered with white paint, a shiny, neat empty surface – a whiteboard.

What is a studio and a studio practice anyway?! Did I ever have one, did I ever really make use of one? What is that I learned within those walls and what is the only thing that could still remain: an idea, a concept, or simply the desire to have and maintain one?

A studio (or gallery) gives space for action, opportunity and if the right gaze falls upon them, they can also be seen as artworks on their own. They are the work that – both physically and theoretically – hold the possibility, the in-between as well as the fulfilled and unfulfilled ideas: the absolute contingency. The studio (or gallery) can then also be seen as the only work. Since through their plain and solid structure, they have the power to assign any work as Art, through this power they can also stand on their own. Majorly these spaces present how art is or should be, traditionally without them there is no other work, without them there is no success, recognition.

As art-spaces are meant to host works of art: whatever they present – whether that’s a painting, a stain, sculpture or a screw-hole, tv-screen or masking tape – will become pieces of art; whether someone notices them or not. Therefore one has to be very conscious and specific about what to bring inside and why. Just as within these spaces, within the making of art, I usually meet so much doubt, question, analysis, evaluation, and the matter of taste, that I find myself incapable of (meaning)making. As an art student, I reached a level, where I could no longer explain or develop meaning with my work. Hence, whenever I felt lost between my search for concepts, pressured by the gaze and questions that might fall on my work, I found relieved joy and pure sense in simply preparing for and maintaining these spaces. All the preparation, all the process, every step one would do before and during painting – a piece or a wall, or making any object – I do as well and I do so over and over. When I painted a wall for an exhibition or presentation – either before or after – I didn’t feel the pressure anymore that might occur from the spectator’s side. That’s when I realised meaning, when I found satisfaction in my artistic practice, which lays in the preparation, in the ongoing process, in the making.


What is then the difference between painting a wall in a studio (or gallery) or at home? Am I a painter, and why do I paint, why do I paint what I paint, why do I paint walls? How and where can I sustain my artistic-practice outside of the academy walls?

It is now January, 2021 and I’ve recently painted 6 walls: one for my diploma, one in the Appel for an upcoming exhibition, one at my friend’s new studio, and another one in my new room. And another 2 in a new print-workshop that is about to open soon. None of these walls were presented to the public, none of them had to be seen as artworks – but could have been. I could be a painter, I am using techniques that almost all painters do. When I paint, I paint because that is part of my process, and I paint for the sake of keeping this practice alive. At the academy I lost all the form and all the image, I left myself with(out) concept. It’s the process that remains and matters, not the result, nor the idea; the wall became the essence, not the painting or other works of art it will carry. I thought it would benefit my practice to have a studio after graduating, however, I don’t have one. Yet, I sustain my practice, I can be an artist, I just received my diploma. But now I do not wish to get into a gallery or many galleries and show and sell my work. I wish to get into a gallery or many galleries and prepare those for their coming exhibitions, break down their previous shows, maintain their spaces and displays, maintain their potential; to be of their sculptor. I paint for the act of painting and I paint walls because they are my canvases for now. I also like ripping the masking tape and to cover everything I wish not to paint. I enjoy filling up and sanding all the deserted holes and marks previous presentations left behind and I definitely like to cover the floor too, so it won’t get stained: this is my installation view. I wish to paint walls, – like Dieter Roth did, in his Solo series, I wish to maintain the same attention, the same passion for each of my work.
Each and every wall I paint is different, each and every floor is distinct. Every material is the same, but their application always differs: in size, quantity, precision and value. It does not truly matter anymore which wall I paint, I do it with the same gesture, same excitement. I don’t have to be anywhere specific, I can produce anywhere. For my work, it is not necessary to be realized as art-work by the public, nowhere it has to be seen less or more as the pure act, but I consider this gesture as my drive and my meaning to create, my practice, the source of my artistic success.

an essay was written for Mister Motley Magazine, on 16 March 2021. Original article.

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