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Columns : Art Life - Susan Mackay Last Updated: Feb 6, 2017 - 2:32:04 PM

Art for Guerrillas
By Susan Mackay
Nov 3, 2007 - 5:04:04 PM

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There was a moment in 2002, shortly after the demise of my marriage, when I stood in a book shop in Washington DC enjoying the rarefied air of books, coffee and the gentle rumble of conversation and the city outside. I was poised and ready for a fix of caffeine and paper.   You know the usual island-fever thing, where starved of any form of indulgent consumerism, I was salivating in anticipation of a literary orgy: art books, fiction, philosophy, spirituality, travel etc, etc..


I walked slowly through the store, allowing my eyes to slide over the titles; a book about Argentina, a story of a young woman explorer, contemporary art, ‘Conversations with God’.   All fodder for my rampant mind.


And then… instead of my usual excitement and anticipation to buy and then lose myself in the books, my stomach knotted and I felt as if I was covered in a rash. So immediate was the desire to scream.


What happened?


I was no longer satisfied with a vicarious life. Instead of reading about Argentina I wanted to GO to Argentina. Instead of reading about a heroine- I wanted to BE the heroine in my own life. Instead of reading about other artists I wanted to BE an artist. I wanted the conversation with God, not read someone elses!


Today feels like another moment like that. There is something so cerebral about reading and writing.   SO clinical and somewhat dry, not truly expressing the messy wetness of life, even with a weighty thesaurus or dictionary.


In this column, I want to share my passion for art, but suddenly the words seem so very lacking.    Today’s article was supposed to be an explanation on Abstract Expressionism, a discussion about the 1970’s movement that opened a place of expression beyond figurative, a place where artists could explore internal realms of emotion, and how this movement worked hand in hand with philosophy and psychology.   But the words will not pour onto my computer screen as I am lost in the idea of being in the studio when Jackson Pollock created one of his mammoth canvases:   The noise of the paint as it leaks and splatters onto the canvas:   The thick smell of paint:   The energy of his body as he had to physically exert himself to apply the paint:   This never seen before expression.   Rather than write about his work, I want to be there in his studio at that profound moment in time: The experience of wet paint and an act of creation seeming more meaningful than a dry dissertation about the finished pieces.


While researching this piece I came across a contemporary art movement called ‘Guerrilla Art’.   Linked to ‘Street Art’ these movements explore the energy of creation within a particular place and time, usually within a cityscape.   They reject the static status quo of paint, canvas, art gallery and consumer.  


These movements reflect a desire to push and grow, to have art be an intrinsic and conscious experience for all our lives.


It seems we are so asleep, so smothered by bureaucracy and deadened by the endless treadmill of consumerism. And sadly some parts of the art world seem to have become too enmeshed in these worlds.  


What is art?   It is a valid question, but so must be, ‘what is the role of artists?’

I love to talk about art and explore ideas, I love to work in my studio and develop ideas, but somehow this has become too separatist, too elitist, and too cerebral.   Especially while considering that visceral moment of creation in Pollok’s studio and the current time ‘happenings’ by Guerrilla artists.


Taking art into the street and involving the public directly is the avenue of Public art.   One of my favourite artists, Anish Kapoor, has exploded into the Public Art arena.   A Tate Prize winner, his “1000 names”, 1985  was the first work of his I   encountered.    The sculptures are drenched in pure pigment even the floor beneath the sculpture became part of the whole piece, so heavy with pigment.   By using   pure pigment, the colour is fantastic and Kapoor plays with its antithesis, by cutting sharp holes, that naturally sucked away all colour and light creating an implacable darkness.   I loved these sculptures as they seem so alive and impossible, so unlike art as I had known it in Galleries up to that point.


The latest work I saw of Kapoors was in New York. “Sky Mirror” 2006 is a cleverly concave mirror that encapsulates part of the street as well as the mighty sky above.   I stood alongside everyone else to stop for a moment and gaze at reality - the beautiful juxtaposition of nature and cityscape.


Researching Kapoor online I see he has made some fabulous Public Art sculptures, for example, a large UFO shaped object of polished stainless steel in the center of Chicago called “Cloud Gate”.   Not only does this piece again show us – the pedestrian public, ourselves and the sky reflected and mutated by the shiny surface, by using a form that seems so familiar in our unconscious of an alien mother ship, but Kapoor cleverly references the vastness of infinite galaxies and dark space.   Perhaps in that moment, immobile pedestrian that we are, we might possibly have an epiphany to realise how inconsequential so much of our daily scurrying and fretting is.


Kapoor has succeeded in bringing Art to Life, in both senses of the word. The art work itself is alive, not just because what it holds in its reflection is constantly shifting with people, daylight, seasons, but alive by its form and surface.   It also brings art to the realm of ‘life’- of where people live –day to day, giving them the opportunity to experience something quite extraordinary and amazing that is essentially a reflection of their own self and life.


Kapoor, on an exotically enormous scale brings our attention to the experience of living and life.   His art’s ethos is the cousin of guerrilla art, as he directly involves art into people’s lives similar to the guerrilla artist.


Guerrilla art or at least art that is created in the public realm is not for cities alone, although dealing in a different medium, I am happy to inform you that the Bahamian artist Antonious Roberts is currently dividing his time between here and Nassau.   Roberts has set up shop on Tranquillity shores. His studio? - the beach.   From the devastation of the trees along the shore that still remain as testimony to past hurricanes, Roberts is using the wood with his chainsaw to create sculptures, which will be placed around the building, creating a sculpture garden.


Working on the beach Roberts is allowing us to watch, learn and engage with him as he works. This fluid and natural relationship is synonymous with his work, works from the environment, in the environment.   And by creating his art work in the open and public space of the beach, he is allowing us, the public to witness the beautiful energy of creation.


I am so excited to welcome an artist of such calibre to Freeport and I look forward to witnessing profound moments of inspiration on the beautiful beach at Tranquillity Shores that will satisfy my need to experience and not just read or think about life.


About the author: Born in Edinburgh, Scotland, Susan Moir Mackay is a professional artist with a B.A. (Hons) in Art and Design from Edinburgh College of Art. She is an impassioned advocate of art and has a deep abiding belief that art benefits individuals and communities. Susan has travelled extensively, observing art in all its forms and has invested much of her time to art education projects, as well as developing her own art works and exhibitions.   Susan currently lives in Freeport with her two children, Fiona and Dylan. She can be reached at sozmac@hotmail.com


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