This is an article written by Brisbane Artist David Hinchliffe on his recent exhibition at Red Hill Gallery Brisbane. Featured in MyTown Magazine – “Making Sausages” in the Art World.
They say that any lover of sausages should never see how they’re made. Perhaps the same could be said for lovers of art not seeing behind the curtain of the art business.
When people walk into the beautiful environment of a gallery like Red Hill Gallery on Musgrave Road and see an exhibition such as my recent solo show with 60 paintings, their impression of how such an exhibition comes together and the reality can be quite different, I don’t mean making art is necessarily as visceral or stomach-churning as the sausage business although some of the more unusual contemporary artists working in media like blood, meat and even taxidermy certainly would come close to that sausage-making experience.
Behind the scenes in the art world is generally a lot more boring and tedious than the general art lover might expect. Our 20th century image of the artist is of a free spirited artist wandering the landscape with a canvas under his or her arm absorbed solely in the act of painting.
The reality is that many of us can end up spending a large part of our time preparing for a major exhibition sitting before our computers filling out inventories, ordering materials, paint, brushes, canvases, framing, liaising with transport providers etc. When I returned to painting full-time after a 25 year career in politics, I told anyone who’d listen that I simply wanted to spend my time in the studio painting. “I just want to paint” was my mantra. That seemed to me to be pretty much the beginning and end of it.
I hadn’t counted on the paperwork and the time spent away from the easel. There are of course those few artists who have made it to such exalted heights where they are able to employ personal assistants who get supplies, prepare the canvases, fill out the paperwork and catalogue the inventory. That’s probably .01% of the professional art community.
My exhibition at Red Hill is the largest of my career. Despite shows in New York, London, Hong Kong and Singapore, it’s always the highlight of my year to show in my hometown. Some of the paintings have been almost 2 years in the making. Others have been the result of a much more spontaneous and less exhausting process. As I paint cities around the world, I often have to paint in circumstances less than ideal.
Painting outdoors “en pleine air” as they say is an ideal which is often impractical. Anyone who thinks you can take a large canvas into the streets of New York and just start painting clearly has never attempted that. Artists not only have to contend with the vagaries of the weather (rain, snow and wind) but also the city’s permit system and of course New Yorkers themselves and a million tourists who love to stop and talk…and ask lots of distracting questions.
Much of my work on my most recent visit to New York was done in a sub-basement (a basement below a basement) in Soho. (My usual studio in Harlem wasn’t available.) I could hear the rats running through ventilation pipes. The paintings I produced during that time have ended up gracing walls of penthouses in the Upper East Side and Greenwich Village. I didn’t bother telling their owners about the humble origins of their newly acquired artworks.
So, next time you find yourself in the inspiring and invigorating environs of a gallery like Red Hill, spare a thought for the poor sausage-making artist.