Martin Kinnear on the unexpected perils of creating an artistic project
The trouble with Art - and I suppose writers, playwrights or composers get this also - is that to do it justice one has to inhabit the project. Method acting might be nearer the mark, you know where actors inhabit and take on the character of their characters.
I've been on a pretty bumpy trip down memory lane since 2020 ,visiting the places where I came from (now some of most divided and socially impoverished places in the UK), and revisiting my close brush with mortality to examine how I felt about the very real dangers of the recent pandemic. All of this in the cause of creating work which is thoughtful, authentic and honest - I know method actors do it but as I well know after nearly dying in 2004, this life thing really isn't a rehearsal.
All of which to say, my latest project for The Bowes Museum was a huge success for everybody but me. All of the re inhabiting of those dark industrial valleys which allowed me to paint them directly and with honesty left me with a hangover of urban deprivation and social angst.
When Jane saw me fulminating about social justice and getting wound up about inequality every time we were overtaken by a posh car, she very wisely prescribed a bit of a holiday from painting so I could literally get a grip and put things in perspective.
Until very recently my work has been for want of a better term 'positive' , as a stroke survivor I'm incredibly thankful to be alive and absolutely determined to love and live every minute of it.
Inequality exists of course, and yes I absolutely care about social justice but ultimately the point of life is to live happily and to the full; and while my life has been far from trouble free I do love it, and I love painting everything that strikes me as significant, worthwhile and beautiful.
There is, quite frankly enough ugliness in the world, and if Matisse had a point about paintings only being required to be beautiful, it is an insight that has not been wasted on me since my illness in 2004. For decades my work has been about seeing the beauty in everyday things, about taking lessons from life on optimism, positivity and moving away from regret. To paraphrase Ghandi,holding on to angst is like grasping a hot coal with the intent of throwing it at someone else; you are the one who gets burned.
So fast forward for two weeks of holiday and I'm a new man, my palette is brighter, my paintings lighter and if my subjects reflect a lack of angst in my life and the fact I'm generally happy then long many that last.
All of this positivity took an even more positive turn this week as I received a note that my work has once again been accepted for the bicentennial 2022, Paris Salon of the Societie Nationale des Beaux Arts!
I adore the Salon, having won a medaille in my inaugural one and always had a great time exhibiting there - it a one week immersion in great art (not mine - Paris is full of great galleries), great food and reunions with artistic friends. If all of this sounds self indulgent and frivolous, I guess it is - but that's my point and the point of this blog.
Take it from me - I've tried nearly dying in 2004 and life really is good - but only if you let yourself live it.