Stay In Lane? Get in Lane! – The Kling and Klang of decision-making.

Kling & Klang (2009)

It’s a commonly repeated fact that decision-making is one of the most stressful tasks required of business managers, and the same thing applies to art. Back in 2000/2001 I had a lot of experimental audio tracks on the the go, but nothing “finished”, and I was very frustrated about it. Finishing a piece of work, especially if you consider it to be “experimental”, is very difficult. How can you tell if it’s finished?

My own strategy (eventually) was to adopt a much more ruthless decision-making process, coupled with the idea that any piece of work is simply a version which may be updated later on. This helped me to “finish” things and move on.

Rather than trying to fill an entire CD, the first Hard Shoulder collection was just two tracks and the process of creating a package and publishing it enabled me to overcome a huge psychological barrier. That CD was “Chaos” and the two tracks are online here.

On the second Hard Shoulder CD “Take That And Shove It” (2000),  I really struggled with the track “Cathedral” and it was never finished, but I decided to give up on it for the time being so that I could complete the CD and move on. It’s not a great track and I might never work on it any more, but at least I’m not losing any sleep over it.

Hard Shoulder – “Stay In Lane” (2000)

The next CD was “Stay In Lane” and I have often wondered if I should have named it “Get In Lane” instead, as that would be more assertive rather than passive.

Too late.

Of the CDs made at that time this is, by far, my favourite. I think it is conceptually and aesthetically coherent, but I still wonder about that title. All the tracks are on SoundCloud and there is a catalogue entry for it here.

Decide, Commit, Act is my motto. The active and the passive are mutually vital and opposing agents, but in creative activities, indecision is a killer, and I believe it is better to fight today and run away, so that you can live to fight, update, revise, improve, adapt, re-use, re-purpose, recycle and create another version another day.

Minimalism, and lots of it.

Q. What is the sound of one artist banging his head against a brick wall?
A. Fish and chips.

I’ve made a lot of minimalist images in my time. Lots and lots and lots of them. The video below shows some of the prints, but there are a lot more on disk, never printed. A lot of this minimalism is what you might call “process art” where an artist develops a reliable technique and applies it over and over again with variations, and some artists use this sort of technique to knock out the same old shit forever and ever and ever.  Don’t get me wrong, I have nothing against process art, but it can only take you so far. It took me many years to realise that, and now I see most of this work as merely texture that needs working into something else.

Anyway, I don’t think of myself as a one-trick pony. I’m a whole field of ponies, with a few juggling zebras and Zen manitees thrown in.

I spent many hours in the 1990s and early 2000s printing these images out, but for what? I guess I thought I might be able to sell them, but I never had the nerve to actually try. It’s interesting to be looking back at this work now and remember how confused I was about it.

At some time in the 1990s I made a very conscious decision not to make “precious” objects, but if you want to sell your work, how do you give it some value? Also, it’s all very well printing these things, but if no-one ever sees it, how are you going to sell it?

Well, here are about 800 of  those images. Please get in touch if you wat to buy one.

Otherwise, stand by for some new generative works and collages using these images as source material.

Richard Bolam: Renaissance Pleb

Sketchbook pages, 2005

Although I don’t consider myself to be a figurative or representational artist, I do consider drawing to be a fundamentally important skill. Not necessarily the technical draughtsmanship of it, but the executed discipline of observation. Arguably, artists are trained observers, and if you don’t draw (not can’t draw) then you are not an artist (discuss). In my opinion, all artists should keep a notebook / sketchbook. However, technical mastery of the medium is not the same as the engagement with the practice of observation.

In 1980 I went on a family holiday to Norway, and I was introduced to one of their national treasures, Gustav Vigeland (1869 – 1943). I have never heard him mentioned by anyone since, but in Norway his work is everywhere, including the amazing and monumental Frogner Park in Oslo.

Below is a scan of a couple of pages from a book I bought in Norway, and some background detail of Vigeland’s creative process, specifically related to his statue of the Norwegian poet, Henrik Vergeland.

Spread from “Gustav Vigeland – The Sculptor And His Works”, 1965 Ragna Stang

Although I haven’t done it strictly, I copied Vigeland’s practice of dating all his drawings, and I have found it particularly helpful in retrospect. Even though I never wanted to emulate his medium or style, I found him and his work inspiring. He often depicted his subjects accompanied by “genii”, the spirits of ideas or inspiration.

I discovered art randomly, bit by bit, and have had a very patchy art education. However, I have lived through radically changing times, and various revolutions, such as cheap travel, remainder bookshops and, of course, the internet, have allowed me to be socially and artistically  mobile in a way not experienced by previous generations. Also, the very recent affordability of technology has allowed me to achieve things that were either not possible, or at least not financially feasible, only a few years previously.

When I was a child, I had no access to cameras and no prospect of being able to make movies, now I have several computers and more cameras than I can use. I have the resources to make a digital film in Full HD every day if I wanted to, but the ideas cannot be ordered so easily on Amazon.

My own genii are popular culture, classical art and chaos. I actually work quite randomly, despite the fact that my work often appears to be very ordered. That order is merely an editing of “happy accidents” and is heavily influenced by existing traditions in art.

Below is a video I shot and edited in one day, although it took four attempts over two weeks. It was made possible by cheap technology, dogged observation, sheer will and blind luck.