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An archive blog entry, which means a lot...

Visiting Art Studios in Glasgow.

October 20, 2007:

"Room by room, picture by picture an image was painted in my mind. Some had larger spaces than others, some more organised spaces…others a collage of mess, spreading itself across the floor as if trying to escape the melancholy of its confined space of forced creativity. Still the pictures insisted on invading my consciousness, some for the wrong reasons altogether. Some were more memorable than others. However each space had a common denominator, a denomination I simply do not have; namely the resident artist had the means and social standing to have captured his den. And the time to practice their craft; though admittedly some seemed to use this gift more thoughtfully than others. Time is a gift that once granted can not be recaptured I reminded myself.

And do any of them have a skill that I do not have. No, rather most seemed to be numbed by a lack of vitality to their work; as if in constant conflict between producing work to please their own selves or to please their audience. A delicate balance, one which every artist struggles with – until they find a part of them that reasons that it is better to produce art that they themselves would like to see hanging on their wall…after all, if the art does not sell at least their home will be decorated to their taste.

Yet most seem trapped by the confines of modern taste. And then there were those that upset even my sensibilities. I mean, it is surely self-indulgent to the extreme to paint metal boards in plain colours and even have the audacity to name them, as if trying to attach a hidden meaning to the “paintings”. These were arranged in a uniform line, outside the artist’s space...presumably to lure viewers in. Rather to lure art lovers in to the false acceptance that this represents a worthy effort to produce “art work”. I felt I should maybe confront the young man in question, but then the sympathy and solidarity I feel to people striving to make a living from what they have a love for held me back. In retrospect it should not have…the man had made a mockery of any true effort other artists make in pursuit of their passion.

I moved on, saddened by what I had seen…yet the general malaise inspired in me the realisation that I could produce work that was more interesting and engaging than most of what I had seen. Suddenly, my work had a new found relevance. And to think some of these artists had a studio space, at the expense of new graduates or seasoned “tryers” – those that would really, truly, appreciate the silent hub this provided.

The previous day I had visited the open exhibition at Project Ability – a dedicated studio for those with mental difficulties. Now there was true inspiration and effort, instigated through suffering. Somehow the art was far more creative and displayed far more vigor, as if seemingly not being aware of, or being able to conform, to conventional social thought processes freed the artists, freed their minds to flow imaginatively past the dullness and sameness of Sunday’s art.

And the work that struck me most was not a painting, rather it was an ordinary wall clock attached to a plain white wall. Ordinary, until I noticed of course it was anything but. Replacing the minute timers were bright red pills, the kind which are cylindrical and as shiny as new buttons, as if offering a shining hope to the sufferer. These were given relevance by the minute timer, which was in fact a needle; used to administer hope to the minds of the mentally disturbed. Maybe art could be seen as their medicine, or at least their release…like an antidote released in their bloodstream. A cure from social exclusion. Suddenly they were accepted into a world where only those who can demonstrate formal training are taken seriously, a world where ordinary passers-by somehow feel compelled to ask the artist where they have studied – as if this somehow frames their enjoyment, or not, of an image. “I studied whilst receiving treatment for mental disorder” is probably not a reply often heard. So Project Ability was able to transcend barriers, and seemingly numb the barriers of pain the artists had undoubtedly suffered in their lives." Mo Negm.