Choose Art

by Blandine Martin

Personally, when asked what Art means to me especially in a Global Indian context, I must confess as a practicing contemporary artist, I do struggle on how to answer the question in a way that would give justice to my truth.  Art to me is not just a hobby, but an everyday necessity and this statement could not ring any truer during this covid time.

This entity that we call art is in fact not separate from any other commitments in my life, let it be work or family life. Art is weaved in my everyday routine. I make it, exhibit it, read about it, study it, teach it, appreciate it and so on.  It is a tapestry that owns my very essence of being.

I totally accept not everyone needs or wants that kind of dedication to be able to enjoy the benefits of an afternoon cruising at the Tate but for me, it is how I have chosen to live my life and continuously grateful for it. It adds an extra dimension to who I am, and what I feel that I am becoming.

But I also have a heavy heart in writing this.  I am sadly aware of how the art world has alienated some of its own public with its technical sombre arty language alongside its silent white walls. The truth I feel is that most galleries do not actually mean to repel us and so would welcome our bewildered questions about its content.  However, the tone in which art has now become means a true evolution is needed to make art accessible to all, as it has always meant to be. With the widespread use of social media platforms, in particular Instagram with its visual element, Artists are starting to gain much more control and ownership over their work with a tailored audience in the process.  With this revolve of online galleries for the masses – albeit often without context – most brick-and-mortar establishments might have to rethink their strategies to survive and become meaningful watering holes again for art lovers and in turn artists might have to rethink the “gallery space “and its greater importance.

As with everything, the common ground for appreciation of any subject starts in education. I am lucky enough to work across a variety of schools teaching art but unfortunately, I have experienced first-hand the negative effects of a bad introduction paired with a rigid curriculum on student’s imagination.  In addition, I have met countless parents thinking art was not a “real” subject but more of a hobby. “You can’t make a living out of art!”, I am often told by economically concerned parents! And to be honest it is hard to justify an economic ROI.  It is hard to earn a direct living for most and in fact, most of us have second jobs to sustain our families and practice. Materials including studios are not cheap, but what it may lack in instant economic rewards it makes up for in creative thinking and personal expression.

I think this misaligned thought that often our community have, overspills in expectations from artists. Since it is seen as a “gift” in most people’s eyes, most expect it to be free…but like a surgeon who has worked diligently, we also deserve the same appreciation.  I have seen students choosing art thinking they will have an easy ride but to later be struggling with the demands of the subject. The truth is, when art is stripped bare to its source, it will demand discipline.

Blandine Martin pieces of art

If someone were to ask for my humble advice, I would say to accept that in contemporary art “not getting it” is part of the journey, so keep an open mind, let go of your preconceptions of what art is and furthermore accept that Art does not have to be pretty, it just has to be made.  It is a very subtle process which will open the door to a different kind of energy, so have trust in the journey. Ideas will come but be ready to let them go too.  Your intuition will call you out when you are cheating but your intentions will be the key ingredients that will make the difference. It is about self-discovery and making the world around you more bearable. Self-awareness with the ability to “think outside the box” are great skills to transfer to any chosen career, let it be business or family life.  Creativity will give you the head space to escape for a while and this procedure alone will improve your mental health, no doubt.

In the last 20 years, my art practice has been influenced by diverse and personal experiences along with what interests me culturally.  Consequently, being a mother of two teenagers has had an impact on making art.  My children are also of Indian and French heritage with very British accents. They have embraced both cultures with love and only recently questioned their identity. The conversations are interesting. We keep it fluid and open as much as we can. What makes us functional human beings is not just DNA or our inherited beliefs, those are just the starters.  It is our responsibility after to build on top of what was given and grow.  All I wish for them is to explore it all, keep what is useful to them and then go beyond it. Identity is fluid, it evolves with years. I ’m not naive to think they won’t encounter some discrimination but hopefully they will be able to deal with the situation appropriately. 

I know why I am making art; it is a basic need which has cemented the foundation of my practice. But I never know what the outcome will be, exactly like life itself. I welcome that not everyone will understand or enjoy my art and my views, but I accept it to be totally normal.  Art has given me a fuller, richer life to which having a second job is a small price to pay.  It is about priorities and what success means to you. 

Choose art.

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