Art was something I used to score “A” grades for at school along with sports. I didn’t really have to try, for me it was just fun, A-level Art I scored 94%.
Teachers used stay I was good at it so this encouraged me to do more art. With these grades and a painting selected for a prestigious open art exhibition at eighteen years old I earned a place at the renowned Central Saint Martins School of Art & Design in London. It was from here that I started to doubt art, my ability and its necessity. Why should anybody be interested in my paintings? Is art self indulgent? How will I be able to pay my rent painting? My studies of art history at school were full of stories about exciting artists, rebels, and the misunderstood. Art college was stark reality. Art projects mostly involved finding objects in rubbish skips and calling them art. One of my fellows used to cut open animals from the butchers, smear himself with blood and entrails, and yes he called this art. My dreams and certainty of being a famous artist came shattering down. I was lost and full of doubt, I stopped painting. Painting died and all dreams of being an artist died with it.
I left Central Saint Martins jaded and started another degree, Furniture Design and Manufacturing. My thoughts were that I could still follow a creative process but gain a skill set to earn enough money to eat.
After university I followed a bunch of other jobs, businesses and careers. On occasion I would pick up a paint brush but the work smelled of doubt, it looked like what I thought people would like to see. It lacked everything that my younger arrogant artistic self thought of as good art. It was lame, lacked confidence and I only showed a few pieces at a low key hotel exhibition or to family and private collectors.
Looking back now I realise to be an artist you need conviction. You need to rid your mind of any doubt, any concern that your work will be well received or hated. An artist needs to sever any connection to a preconceived ego and yet be completely egotistical. You need to not give a monkeys and to paint for painting’s sake. A painter needs to live a painting in his mind, to love the experimentation, the discovery and the physicality of brush stroke, mark making or spraying. The vast majority of art out there is terrible but this should never discourage anyone from creating art, you should just do and not care. Art should not have a reason and I am happy it is virtually impossible to make a career from painting. Painting should not be a career path. If you make a living from selling your art it is a bonus but painting is a bonus in its own process of creation. Painting is the reward not the selling. The only reason I want to sell my paintings is to finance the time and materials to paint more and to further my ideas. Is a lot of bad art for sale? Yes. Are there a lot of galleries selling vert bad art? Yes.
Is art important? To me “painting” is important, for the interest and meditation in the action of painting. Is it vital to culture and to the greater sea of humanity? I really don’t care and I leave that to the academics (who don’t paint) to argue that one out for their pleasure of arguing that one out.
The art world expects artists to write an artist’s statement, applying for stipends, grants or open calls to exhibit. I love to read artist’s statements especially if I am struggling to sleep at night. Some of them are just absolute crazy gibberish made up because this is what is expected of what an artist should be saying. Very few artists are absolutely honest and write, “I paint because I love to paint”. If a painter has a long nonsensical artist’s statement it is because they are filled with self-doubt and insecurity. A painting cannot be put into words, otherwise we would be writers and not painters. You could argue that an artist’s statement helps the viewer understand the work. I say you are either not painting well enough, you need to find better viewers of your work and you are wasting your creation caring about the wrong thing. There is no wrong or right in painting, just a reaction and I don’t believe as a painter I should be concerned about that reaction. My concern is the action not the reaction.
Painting was re-born. It was my realisation of this assumption that gave me the courage to paint for paintings sake and let the process dictate the results. I stopped caring about how my art was going to be received and fell in love again with the process.
Durães-West is a contemporary artist and painter living and working in Portugal. He paints large-scale abstract works at his new studio in the Alentejo. His work has attracted several collectors with exhibitions in Lisbon, the Algarve, UK and the Middle East. www.duraeswest.com