Friday 29 December 2023

End of year memorial: December

At the beginning of Dec I ran a stall at Hopsters Xmas Market which was useful as it taught me what works and what doesn’t in terms of display. I also applied to a couple of other markets and also to some galleries. Getting to Hopsters in Enmore was a trial as my train line wasn’t running and after the bus to Redfern I had to catch another bus to get to Newtown. I arrived early before the Hopsters doors had opened and was the first seller inside. 

One thing I would do differently (and I write about all this on the Esag blog) is carry less stuff. Because signage is key and my signage was terrible, there was anyway no reason to carry so much because most people never got to see it, they didn’t even know the bulk of the paintings were there. If I do another market, for example in The Rocks, I will be better prepared.

Coming up to the end of the year I did a series of all-nighters, staying up late watching Netflix. This allowed me to think outside the box and I rehung the flags, putting two of them upstairs in the studio (see pic below). The new arrangement allowed me to hang other things in the first floor hallway that are more suited to a confined space.

I kept on making art even though I was spending so much time watching TV. The TV jag was a remnant from my youth, I remember sometimes in Vaucluse staying up all night to watch the crap TV on at 2am but making it right through til dawn, and because I had consequently fond memories of this way of spending time it was easy in 2023 to do the same thing but this time with the more entertaining Netflix. I caught a series of great shows and discarded a whole lot of other stuff that didn’t suit me at 3am 4am 5am. At 6am I tended to tune into the ABC News channel.

On 4 December Think Renewables called me briefly to set a day for the installation, and this was organised to be done on 2 January. By the middle of the month I was optimistic the installation would go ahead due to the generally dry weather we’d been having. 

It’s not going to cost me anything at the outset. What happens is that the government pays a subsidy to them on my behalf and then I pay a monthly fee to a money handler named Plenti by putting money in my transaction account, which they debit. The guy who came around to get the sale is named Charlie, a Brit. He described how my quarterly electricity bill could be reduced after installing solar panels. He also said it would be double the cost if I got a battery, so I’m not getting it.

My quarterly electricity bill has gone up 100 percent in the last two years – even though the government said that electricity bills would go DOWN if they were elected – so it’s now worthwhile getting panels put in. 

I applied to a New York art show on about 9 Dec and was accepted so on 11 Dec paid the fee. I was busy around this time applying for space in galleries. The Holy Art show would be in March so I’ll write about it later once it gets closer to the time. On 15 Dec I contacted George Yuan a photographer I know and organised to go out to Ryde to pick him up so that I could get him to make better photos of paintings I wanted to show overseas. I later changed the plan and said I’d pick him up in Redfern, which is closer to my place.

The Holy Art show is one show but I also was accepted to have a poster put up in London on the Underground and for this purpose needed a good quality photo of a different painting. I got accepted by London gallery Boomer Gallery and they’d put up framed prints of works of mine in a show they are holding in January.

On 16 Dec I went to the opening of Tiliqua Tiliqua’s Christmas Small Works show where I had two works. It was a good crowd tho I arrived too early because I noted the wrong time when I saw the mention on social media. Plenty of people turned up and I had some good conversations with other artists including one young man who is also interested in brutalism. I showed him my website where I have a series of posts on brutalist buildings in Sydney but he didn’t get in touch after.

Around this time I updated my Bluethumb page and added a page with an outfit called Arte Laguna which is based in Venice. Bluethumb charges nothing for listings but takes a cut of sales, Arte Laguna charges for listing but … doesn’t take a cut of sales? I’m not sure but in any case it felt good to know that I had my work out there especially as I’d had such bad experiences getting help updating my name domain in previous years. I also set up an Etsy page.

I had a hilarious tragic experience on 18 Dec because I had to get bank statements so that my accountant could do my tax return for me. I’d shut the account in question in Sep ’22 but he needed to know transactions prior to that point in time. I offered to send him the statement for the bank account to which the proceeds were sent but he said “No” that wouldn’t be enough.

I knew that my online banking interface had no information in it so I took advantage of the fact that I was going out to drop by at the bank branch locally. I waited on a seat for 40 minutes then the woman who’d come to help me made a fuss about authorising me to even receive said statements. My mobile app didn’t work when she pinged it from the computer on her desk in the customer service area so I grabbed my trusty driver’s licence and waved it around long enough for her to snatch it out of the air. She scanned it in the keyboard, making a very nice swishing sound, then did not reject me, on account of which circumstance I was relieved. She finally did some tapping and typing mousing etcetera after which (and it took a good two to three minutes with me waiting literally with baited breath for her to say “No”; I’d already been refused by my accountant why not her as well, I thought to myself as I sat there trembling) she asked me straight-faced if I wanted the last statement – the one that would say merely “Account closed” – and I almost swallowed my tongue I was so dumbfounded, then managed to restrain myself enough to say “No”. In the end she printed out two pieces of paper with the requisite information. When I got home I emailed them to Woinarski, the accountants, feeling as though I’d just broken into Fort Knox.

On the same day I applied to another gallery for 2024 making Dec the busiest month for admin work since I’d started painting. I shouldn’t be down on Hopsters Market but it was so funny standing there watching people at Kath Harding’s stall across the aisle turn, look at my mess, and immediately turn back to look at her superbly presented works. I took important idea away from it, especially one tip: BE OBVIOUS. Signage is key, and in big letters so people don’t have to squint. 

The gallery I applied to on 18 Dec is Tiliqua where I was in the Small Works show they’d been mentioned to me by DRAW Space in Newtown, an outfit who’d refused my approach three days earlier. DRAW Space is artist-run but they seem more cliquey than welcoming of new talent, more like Articulate Project Space in Leichhardt, with whom I’d also been in touch. Commercial galleries can get a bad rap but at least they don’t have this closed-off feel about them sure they might reject you but at least you don’t feel like you’re taking a liberty by emailing. 

With all this admin work creative practice took a back seat, so it was a good time I think to take stock. I took stock at the end of the previous year and put making art on pause for weeks. It looks like it’s becoming a tradition because as I write my creative output has entered a hiatus. Instead I’m promoting what I’ve already made. I even sat down with an agent and though he didn’t say anything about my work specifically – he said it was good when prompted at Tiliqua Small Works opening – during a conversation with a mutual friend I was able to “feel” how my work had impacted him. I added this “feeling” to my other recent interactions and let it settle. I’ll let these intimations stew in company for a while, then maybe ask our mutual friend to solicit some more explicit feedback from this charming New Yorker with his poetry friends.

On 18 Dec I got good news having again been accepted to do a solo show at Tiliqua. I spoke with Basia about it and she kept on referring to the framing, I wanted to talk about the art but I guess I brought it upon myself when I answered “More framing gah” in response to her first clarion of congratulation. It costs money to exhibit, and this is especially difficult for emerging artists like me who might not sell as readily as prominent artists.

I’d actually been at the framers there on the same day as news came through because one of the items I’d reserved for son Vivian hadn’t survived being placed on the floor upside down. In fact one panel slipped off the hinge. As it was destined to jostle around in shipping I asked the framer to work out a way to make sure it arrived in Yokohama intact.

The Enmore show would be 30 Jan to 5 Feb so I didn’t have oodles of time to get everything ready, but I wasn’t really pinched either. In any event I didn’t need to get much framed for this show because Tiliqua has metal walls so a lot of what you hang can be hung with magnets. I wanted to do another stickering program as well, so made a mental note to make a design for the sticker. My friend Paul who did the bulk of the previous stickering was still out of town but would be back by the beginning of the year so I could ask him for help.

I got a shock early in the morning on 19 Dec when a WhatsApp message came from Arte Laguna prompting me to apply for prizes. I’d paid the fee after all. Unfortunately what I had not done was read the fine print. I answered the message saying that I didn’t want residencies, without being aware that more than residencies was on offer. I went to the relevant web page and quickly sketched out two applications for monetary prizes for projects that could be completed with the assistance of companies. It took 15 minutes and I sent a quick “Thank you” to Sara who’d sent me the text resuscitating my chances. I thought it would be wonderful to be paid for making the kind of art I like doing, at least an amount of money equal to the amount I had been spending. Early on 21 Dec Sara sent me another SMS and I went to the website and started a chat with an operative about my application, being now sure it was done properly. The hidden person told me that “Yes” it was all good so I rested easy once more.
I made a design on MS-Word for a sticker for the Tiliqua show using the same template as the one used for the show in November. I wanted to change the colours but also keep some elements of the design so that if people saw the sticker they might react positively on the back of the success of the Laerk Space show. Well, it was successful for me in any case, especially since I had capitalised on it to make winning pitches to The Holy Art in London, Gallery 59 in Goulburn, Tiliqua Tiliqua in Enmore, and Boomer Gallery in London. 

Small steps. I told Annie from Laerk about this and she asked for me to send the details in an email. At the time of writing this chronicle I hadn’t done that. I was so busy. I had to look after a friend’s Airbnb, I had been brought onboard as an admin for a Facebook group, and I was trying to organise a creative meetup for Eastern Suburbs Art Group. This last item was proving especially hard as I am a man and most of the people who want to make art are women. The idea of going to an unknown man’s house – convenient for me because then we didn’t have to worry about space, tables, parking etcetera – seemed like a major hurdle for the people who might benefit from the idea of doing art. I’d found someone with a group of acquaintances but she was busy over Christmas and wanted to meet before asking her friends to come to a meetup, even making an appointment for coffee was complicated.

As for me I was staying up all night doing admin work. On the night of 19 Dec I was emailing at 3am with Boomer Gallery who accepted two of my paintings for their ‘Dreams and Nightmares’ show. The next night at 2am I was again in conversation with their rep on the subject of framing, I decided to send digital images which they would then print and frame.  On the night of 21 Dec I was again in communication with Boomer re the transmission of images for the show (see below).

Social animals VIII, 2023.

Social animals III, 2023.

Wind chimes, 2023.

On the night of 20 Dec I found out I had been accepted by Artistcloseup magazine to feature, again with an associated upfront cost to me. I paid and then decided that the next day when Henry came over as well as getting photos of artworks (already shown) I’d ask him to get a photo portrait I could use for the magazine and the blog, which he did.

They’re gorgeous, he’s so talented. The man is a genius, managing to take a whole series of portrait photos each of which looks different. It’s incredible how much knowledge went into making the photos. 

Including the portrait photos the whole exercise only took about an hour. I picked Henry up from Redfern Station and dropped him back off there so he could get home. He sent me the photos via zip file from his computer.

I completed the Artistcloseup application this evening after getting home from a poetry reading. It took less time than I thought it would but then again I thought I did a poor job. They ask you to choose one of two templates with questions. You then answer the questions and submit the answers along with photos and links to portfolio shots. The final question is a section where you can write notes for the editors and I filled this out almost apologising for my efforts. I looked forward to getting back the first draft.

I also signed a second contract on this day for the solar power installation because they decided that they couldn’t do the job for the cost initially proposed. It was a difference of about $50 a week so I didn’t make a fuss about it. I thought if I did then the project would be unnecessarily delayed though I didn’t much like being asked to pay more money.

On 22 Dec I went out to Tiliqua to talk about the solo show and found out I wouldn’t have to get lots of paintings framed as they have some walls with metal backing. This allows you to use tape and magnets to hang unframed works, you attach little bits of tape to the tops of each panel and then when it’s dry apply a magnet to hold the panel in place.

I also discussed the World Pride show they’re having in Feb, which I’ll be in as well, happy about this news I hadn’t known before this day. When I got home I prepared more material for them, including photos of marriage equality rallies I’d been at in Sydney leading up to the 2017plebiscite. Later I dropped off boxes full of groceries to friends as I had too much following my trip to Ingleburn. In the afternoon of 23 Dec I went to the framers as a painting they’d rehinged was ready to pick up. I wished them a happy Xmas and brought ‘CAPitalism’ home, planning to send it to my son as it has an automotive theme. In the evening I did laundry.

I was still staying up late but not all night like before, I went to bed on 24 Dec at about 3am and got up at 9am the same day. I had an appointment to meet another friend in the city to drop off cucumbers – I had more than I could possibly eat – and saw someone reply to a comment of mine implying that I should lean into Christmas. The ghosts of the dead are with us, she sort of said, I don’t remember exactly what she said, oh here it is, she said, “we can feel the presence of those we’ve lost, reminding us that love transcends time and space” there was even an emoji in there. I took it on-board and promised myself to increase my follower count on X by one over the “festive” season, at least then I’d have something to show for myself.

When I was in the city I also stopped off at Central Station to check the ticket situation for my trip to Goulburn and found there’s a train on 4 Jan leaving at 7.15am with the trip taking about 2.5 hours. I was less optimistic about the weather for the solar install however as it rained heavily on Xmas Eve so I didn’t buy a train ticket.

Christmas Day I felt like an atom bomb had gone off in my soul. People were sending wishes and I didn’t know what to think. One guy I know put up a poem he’d written and it was so nice but I just didn’t accept its premise, the world was so riven by conflict and it was impossible to see a way to resolve everything. I was the little boy who put things away in the kitchen while mum was cooking when they were still needed, I had an inveterate need to tidy up, to put things in their places. I waited for the feeling to arrive, the one everyone needs on Christmas Day, I waited and waited unwashed my teeth uncleaned my belly empty. At least I had a cup of instant coffee I’d started drinking the instant left over from 2022 when a friend had organised a film shoot at my place, I didn’t want to spend money on fresh-ground coffee until January when I had more money in my cheque account. I was a wreck, but maybe this is what Christmas is about, a time not of plenty but of scarcity, when circumstances bring home the reality of life.

I thought of how Christmas reminds us of family. We might have lost family. We might be separated from them. But at this time of year we remember those times when it was together, the shared moments, the rubbing up against someone familiar. Like Mary and Joseph in the barn, a family together in a strange place, surrounded by unfamiliar things. They say that religion was once made up of a family, the head of the family, the wife, the son, the daughter, all being with each other in their own ways, the old animosities flaring up the silences the quiet remonstrances the messages sent without words I think of my daughter and her son their relationship she dotes on him he relies on her for everything even for comfort when he gets scared like when he saw my face and started crying. Family means something even hatred can give comfort when the alternative is just absence of feeling, I remember the cluttered kitchen bench where the telephone sat at home in Vaucluse where mum did her shop books, what kinds of things were on that bench behind the telephone recipe books, bits of wrapping paper maybe, receipts perhaps who knows all that junk.

These are the memories.

This is reality.

Now. Until the end.

I contemplate watching Netflix to distract myself something French Brazilian American people walking through rooms to meetings purposeful driven they have a reason to walk through those rooms I wander downstairs to get another cup of coffee I just happen to be in this room because this is where the kettle is the jar of instant the milk in the fridge. I make a cup of coffee and drag myself without purpose upstairs to my desk and write about sitting in front of the TV like a zombie because 2023 was the year I gave up reading I enjoy watching a political thriller from France especially because the French didn’t like it on Christmas Day I talk to no one entirely alone by myself sustaining myself on fragments of meaning little pieces of a puzzle I’m trying to solve what does it mean to be human how should I live where why celebrate what exactly in this world of punishment constant bombing shells whistling out of the air missiles whoosh what’s the point of religion if it can’t save us from this punishment we remember past punishment and yet repeat it love the crime scene shots in police procedurals the cop cars driving up beacons flashing the tape the pathologist coming over to the body talks with the inspector some sense finally after all the violence when will it ever stop.

On Boxing Day I got to see a photo of myself by artist agent David Hochberg (below) that he’d taken at my place before Xmas. It had been around the time of the Tiliqua Small Works Show as I’d first met David there.

In his Facebook caption he said it was a “recent” work but in fact – and I mentioned this at the time the photo was taken – the screenprint above my head was made in 1981. Not recent at all, very ancient indeed, dating to the time when I was still young and gorgeous. Never mind I do like the way my shirt agrees with the print. I still had to go to Tiliqua to pick up the artworks that hadn’t been sold, but first on 27 Dec I was going out to Bondi Junction to meet Suzanna Kertesz about a creative day we were thinking to organise.

I mentioned the visit to Simon Kahn who called me on Boxing Day at my suggestion, I desperately wanted to tell him everything that’d happened in the past few weeks because since he’s not on any social media I feel entirely cut off from him and he was the reason I got into painting in the first place. He was at work when he called but kindly listened while I listed events, then I asked him about his January show. The gallery had mucked up the tile for promotion, spelling his name wrong on the JPG, but he said they wouldn’t fix the problem until a week before the show on 10 Jan. If you’re in Sydney at that time the opening is at 5pm at Level 1, 115 Regent St Chippendale, a nice central location. One day only for the show so that’s the day you have to be there if you want to see Simon’s wonderful things. I felt sort of relieved once I’d spoken with Simon as I’d wanted to do so for a while and I’d been promoting my work for most of the month. I had done some painting in Dec but not much, most of my time had been spent on social media watching for leads and then responding to them. Should I have communicated with Simon more and if I had would he also have applied to some of the same things I applied for? I couldn’t know.

With so much happening in the first half of 2024 I thought on Boxing Day that maybe I should take a rest with all the promotion and start painting again, but once you get into the groove it’s hard to change. Doing things online becomes sort of enjoyable even with all the daft buggers out there spoiling things for reasonable people. The thing about painting is that even though it’s fun to do you do it alone, whereas with promotion you’ve always coming into contact with different people in one way or another.

I met with Suzanna Kertesz on 27 Dec in Bondi Junction (and got a haircut while I waited for her to arrive). We discussed a creative meetup with her group and made plans for 14 Jan in Newtown. In the evening Tony a friend contacted me and said he’d come over on NY Eve to have something to eat. On the same day I got a rejection from an art gallery I’d made an approach to. I’d had a sort of relationship with them 15 years ago as I’d bought art there, but my approach this time didn’t go well. At this stage in the year I was feeling a bit saturated with all the thinking about 2024 even though one approach wasn’t successful I did have two solo shows lined up, so the sensation of failure that troubled me with my old contact was offset by a sense of purpose. In fact I was having thoughts about making art with a different intention, my plan being that this time I’d have specific exhibiting opportunities in mind, whereas before I’d just been in pursuit of my ideal when I was making art. In the beginning art was something I did when I was alone. Now it had become something that I did with the cooperation of others.

Which method of creation is better is a matter for observation and discussion at a later date, with any luck I’ll address this issue in next year’s memorial. With any luck.

One thing was certain, even if I wasn’t successful every time I approached a gallery or applied for a prize it still felt right. Painting and writing poetry are what I was born to do, and nobody’s opinion of my work was going to change that. If I sold everything put on show or if I sold but one painting each time I opened up my practice to the public, it made little difference. 

I learned something else about myself in these final days of the year, that I am sort of addicted to text, and respond very positively to sustained and long narrative strategies by other writers. I was scrolling through Instagram at one point early in the morning on 28 Dec and I came across an ad for a marketing service that uses “Reels” on the platform, and it struck me that I find nothing less appealing than a movie or video with clips of text over it as subtitles, it’s far too slow I get impatient and want to know what’s to come next, I certainly do not want to watch another damn movie fr Chrissakes. This is just me, I’m entirely different from 95 percent of people who use Tik Tok in preference to Facebook, give me a long textual post to read any day of the week, you can keep your stupid movies thanks very much if I want movies I’ve got Netflix.

Happy New Year. To celebrate I want to reveal a project outline that will accompany me in 2024, it’s a series of paintings of dead family members. I want to exhibit the portraits alongside the photos mum got blown up and framed so that she could hang them on her apartment’s walls. I can also include sonnets I have written about some people who are now dead. I will call the show ‘Baker’s Dozen’, a term that was common when I was young, it belongs to the era of the Depression which is my mother’s era, she was born in 1929 the year of the Crash. 

And here’s something else to make a baker’s dozen (there are 13 blogposts in this annual review): the chart showing in graphical form the pageviews on ‘Happy Antipodean’ for 2019 to 2023. In case you’re wondering Annie from Laerk Space hadn’t got back to me by the afternoon of 28 Dec, but I messaged her in the evening.

As far as you’re concerned, if you’ve read this far, if you’ve read one or more of these End-of-year Memorial posts I sincerely thank you but hope that you’d go so far as to leave a remark, a “Like” or just Something that will tell me that you’ve been here and seen this. And I hope that 2024 is remarkable for you. Not just good. The Best.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Thank you and wishing you the best for 2024