Exploring: On being an artist, Michael Craig Martin

This year I am launching a new strand of blog posts, entitled 'Exploring'. They will be a very mixed bag, noting new discoveries in any and all fields of interest. I love finding interesting new things/places/ideas/people etc and look forward to sharing them with you.

I kick off with Michael Craig Martin's memoir/life lessons which was reccomended to me last autumn.

I found it a really interesting read, both as an overview of an artist I was not that familiar with and particularly for his insights into the practice of making art and maintaining a career as a working artist.

Two points stuck out strongly for me.

Chapter 4 "On being vulnerable to the world" called attention to a phenomena that I was vaguely aware of: that I seemed to notice & be impacted upon by the world around more than other people seem to be. This has been both positive and negative for me so his notion of vulnerability resonated.

"There is nothing that happens in an artist's life - whether good or bad, no matter how dramatically important or apparently trivial - that cannot be turned to effective use in their art. Any crummy part time job, any minor incident, any childhood memory. Other people can read a book for pleasure or enlightenment. An artist may read a book and it can alter the whole course of their life's work. Artists are unusually vulnerable to the worl this way. And they, in turn, use their work to seduce others into valuing what they value."

Chapter 59 lays out what he sees as the three stages of 20th century art, a series of phases radicalising the possible style, medium and then content of an art work. His career spanned the latter two and he argues persuasively of the need to be engaged with the 'burning question' of the day.

At that time, the nature of that 'burning question' was perhaps obvious. Thinking about how to engage now however it is not clear to me what the question of today - for art or for ceramics - actually is! Perhaps that is the engagement that is now needed?! How to engage and make work in a contemporary way when any style, material or content is already possible...