I'm not upset
This is the follow-up post to say that I have calmed down. I’m not upset…It’s just that sometimes I find it difficult to justify being an artist to myself (luckily no one else is asking) when I’m not doing well. I feel like I’m not doing well when I get a series of nos that obscure the fact that there were ever any yeses.
I got a lot of response to my rant about rejection. Several artists contacted me to say that they experience similar feelings. I’m sorry about this, but honestly it is also good to hear that artists I respect are struggling too, even when it looks to me like they are successful.
The issues that resonated most with other artists are the need to show success (because admitting failure might generate further rejection) and the curse of Instagram. The two issues are, of course, related. Because artists (and I am mostly talking about fellow painters) are so immersed in visual content, Instagram can be a powerful tool that they feel bound to use to stay relevant. On the other hand when you look at an Instagram feed and it is full of exhibition opening nights and auction prices and, above all, amazing images made by other artists, it can feel a bit like leafing through Vogue magazine in a pair of cheap pyjamas.
This week in Dublin the annual exhibition of the RHA will be opening. This is an open submission exhibition and it is the biggest show in town. I have had work accepted to this exhibition many times and I have always sold my work from “the annual”, but this year I didn’t get in.
I suppose there’s no harm in realising that acceptance is not a static thing - that there will always be shifting subjectivity around rating art - separating the ritz from the shits. You have to learn not to take it personally, and you have to project the fact that you are cool with it (maybe you have bigger fish to fry). But I also don’t mind engaging in a bit of what Jerry Saltz calls “radical vulnerability” and admitting that I do really care! I’m a tiny bit heartbroken not to be going to the opening night this weekend - it’s a bit embarrassing, but it’s also completely OK!