Nitram Charcoal on Roma Paper, 2013
It has taken me a while to put up this recent drawing on my website. To start, I am deeply grateful and very humbled for having been awarded the Best Figure Drawing in the Florence Academy of Art Sweden for this year. Having only been in the school for 2 trimesters (6 months), I felt unready, as compared to my peers who have been there longer, worked much harder than I have, and draw more beautifully. With the risk of sounding conceited, I even felt a tinge of guilt and probably ended up behaving real awkwardly during the ceremony because I didn't quite know what to think, except a pathetic sort of polite scrambling away. After much processing, now, it serves to kick me in the ass to buck up and keep improving. Thank you. I am ready to own up to it. Thank you, for this experience as well.
It is hard to own up to one's creations, sometimes.
Especially after weeks and weeks of obsessing at the little flakes of charcoal, pushing them round and round, working against nature of gravity, friction, and porous paper, I see every bit of error, cover ups, make overs, scratches, and accidents that have happened in the process of working on a drawing. I see the path I have walked, right down to every pebble I have tripped over, embarrassed for, and tried to hide. I groan each time I see them, and like every obsessive-compulsive person, I see them even if I don't want to.
Luckily, I have a bad memory.
Unlike most illustrious drawers, I'm hardly attached to my work- emotionally or intellectually. When I'm drawing, I draw. It is within these moments that I am quiet, I am mediating. It would be a stretch to say that I am happy while I'm drawing, or frustrated, or lost. It feels like this moment- I'm sitting in a comfortable chair, staring out of the window to the swaying leaves, cool breeze caressing my hair, and my mind is quiet.
Perhaps my awkwardness comes from a certain expectation that one who calls himself an artist is supposed to be an emotional being, who tears up his work on a bad day, and weeps out of love for his creation on other days; and for me to come close to this artistry, I should behave this way too.
But I don't, I never have.
A prolonged quietness, that is drawing for me; a rhythmic silence like a chilly breeze floating in through the window.
I had a few friends who have asked why I did not sign my work. I see the value in that, most artists do it, and yet, I am absolutely uncomfortable with it.
Borrowing the phrase from Taiwanese Sculptor Ju Ming, whose sentiment I share, my works are like my "daughters". For Ju Ming, finding buyers for his work, is like finding potential suitors for his daughters; he hopes for the best match possible, yet some "daughters" he doesn't want to "marry off", and instead, keep by his side. I expand this further: there is no need for me to brand my children with my name. The features are there, the artist's hand is apparent, they tell the story; the works have a name, a history, and a life to lead onwards for themselves; there is the integrity, love, and discipline the artist imparts to each piece of work. And then, the works have their own life to lead.
Like daughter do. And sons. And they should.
You can argue that it is for future generations to know whose hand made the work, it is for the archivers who need labels. Okay, I'll sign on the back of the drawing for their sake, scribble my name somewhere like the child from preschool who signs his splatter of paint with pride.
I am but a vehicle in the process of creation. Just something between an inspiration/an idea/a way of seeing, and the physical world. These works of mine don't come with a signature, I never planned for a layout that included them. Forced at knife-point, I wouldn't even know where to place my name, or how to write it, or in which language. But I recognise my handiwork, and in time, with a lot more work produced and a whole lot more improvements, I hope it will become unavoidably apparent that it could not have been someone else's. Or let them be forgotten because I wasn't good enough, in the Darwinian sense.
Yes, I know I am being difficult, and I'm being totally obnoxious.
Please grant me a whole life of creating more and better works than this.