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Cultivating A Space For The Doing

An average Tuesday begets strangely connected threads

May 16, 2023

Tagged: Art   Practice  

Francis Bacon. Painting. 1946 | MoMA

Creative Meditation

Apropos of nothing I found myself circling the painter Francis Bacon today in more ways than one. It started a bit with discovering this piece on him:

What would have happened to Bacon’s career had he been subscribed to nine podcasts? Had he been posting his work to Instagram, and Facebook, and Twitter? Pressure would have leaked from the pressure cooker and the violence of his work would have dissipated. We can debate how much the violence would dissipate, but I’m utterly convinced that it would have to dissipate—other things equal.

I’ve been working slowly in the background on what’s next after Cantata so the notion of sharing process” has been on my mind as a marketing technique. When to start? How to start? Should I show stuff?

But this acted as a pit of a nice pill to swallow, this idea of sort of cultivating your pressure cooker of ideas. In Bacon’s case it was his studio (also some funny parallels here to my own online identity), but as someone that has a full family now and no ability to just hide in darkness for hours, I’m thinking a lot about the ways of making what’s next and how to cultivate that sense of space around me.

I remember some really great photos from Might & Delights studio:




It then seems obvious that the games they make look like this:

Picture of a small village during night

Picture of a bridge surrounded by trees with green leaves

And not like

Netflix’s Gears of War will shoot for The Last of Us’s video game TV adaptation crown | British GQ

The Witcher 3: Wild Hunt is like an open-world, playable Game of Thrones | The Verge

This isn’t meant to be some mediation on interior design, but just sort of musing on both the psychogeography of where the doing is actually done, but that there is also a permeating sense of the creation (some may call this The Vibe) that also needs to be cultivated as it shares the space between your mind and where work is actually done. Cue Bacon again:

Engineer for yourself the smallest possible environment, concentrated as densely as possible with only the highest quality inputs; explicitly re-route all potential distraction-avenues back to one’s chosen craft, such that even when you’re momentarily doing something else you cannot escape the focus of your craft.

It’s almost a bit like making yourself a conduit for the work, and that it can flow free into and out of you. That it can feel safe moving between those spaces. Gentle thoughts will dissipate in loud spaces, just as loud thoughts may vanish in quiet ones. Bacon’s art very much tuned to his studio:

The clothes in Francis Bacon’s paintings are as fascinating as the subjects | British GQ

Studio | Francis Bacon

The morning’s HN browse then put this article on my radar (“Artists must be allowed to make bad work”), which contains some video interviews of Bacon I started watching but then realized I needed to get a lot of work done and would have to postpone. Their own quote though is relevant to the pressure cooker” idea from above:

There is a tendency in our society to be wedded to the new, to be wedded to the excitement of novelty. I think at the present moment that there’s a tendency — which I think we’ve got from America, and which I think is a bad tendency, to measure every artist by his last exhibition. So and so’s no good, look at his last show!” The fact that he had five previous shows, which were very good, doesn’t seem to matter. It gets forgotten too quickly. And somehow the snap judgement on what one has just done, this kind of pressure it puts on is very dangerous, because artists must be allowed to go through bad periods

Again this sense of cultivation but also resiliency, that the practice and doing (thanks Jay!) needs to be more about sustainability and craft instead of practice-as-art.

I remember reading or hearing something recently about someone that was very anti studio-tours from similarly articulated reasons. They sort of feel good in the moment but are a distraction and start to produce weird forces onto the space itself. From the earlier article:

Bring in nothing but the finest inputs, and focus every possible attentional pathway back into the work at hand.

Studio visits are bad inputs. Social media validation is a bad input.

To quote the perpetually-inconvenient adn:

Game Quality is all that matters

From here we take then a final trip to our Bacon rodeo with a recent episode of the 301 Permanently Moved: Embrace Cadence, Find Rhythm. Again, very weird that this whole sort of thought circle happened in the span of a few hours, without me proactively following up on any of it. Just a few different independent browse-seshes that resulted in parallel thoughts.

Now [the artist plants] a garden.

For it is there the work can flourish on home soil. Let their creations grow roots in persistent mediums. Deep soil of blogs and web domains. The artist can plant seeds here and watch them flourish. It is from this garden sheltered from virtual storms that the artist can do the work that transcends popular concern.

Do not let the garden be overrun by weeds, The needs of retweets, likes and follows are unhelpful allies. Resist the siren’s call of engagement from beyond the sea. Pursue authenticity. Know thyself; for in the depths of you, the purest art is born.

The work at first may flourish. Bear generous fruit, enjoyed by both the artist and the audience. But beware, however long or brief the blooming, it will lose its lustre. Guests will leave and once again the artist will find themselves all alone. They must return to work, sowing and pruning, finding fulfilment in the doing.

Do not tolerate visitors seeking to grade and critique, for in ones own garden there is never best in show.

Happy Tuesday everyone!

Published on May 16, 2023.

Tagged: Art   Practice  

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