This is a piece I wrote on Tuesday 4th November 2003 during the substantial gaps between visitors on the second day of an exhibition of my work at the Neville Gallery, Llanelli. I had also invited a few others to exhibit some work alongside mine since it is a large hall.
Exhibition Day 2 – Tuesday half ten am.
No one in yet but at least it’s finished. Everything’s up.
Laura Mason’s installation – Anna’s paintings – Ian’s drawings – my 87 varieties. Maybe I’m deluding myself but it all looks amazing to me. Toying with the idea of getting in touch with the media – but I don’t really want personal publicity a la Llanelli Star, obviously I’d like artistic publicity-recognition-acknowledgement whatever, but I’m scared of getting my chops in the local paper – daft aren’t I?
Need to go for a piss etc so shall lock up and leave a note on door.
It’s later, 1/4 to 3-ish. Had a few in, no more than 10 or 15 but a couple of them have spent ages studying and commenting – one bloke thought it was astonishing / amazing and one woman left a note saying ‘Weird and Wonderful’.
Being on the exhibitor’s side of an exhibition has so far turned out to be much as I expected it – mostly boring, some awkward moments, some good reaction, and a lot of nonplussed bemusement from the scarce visitors. One feature stood out yesterday and that was that there are a lot of ‘old boys’ out there, lonely retired old boys who, after a perfunctory inquiry after your work, proceed to jaw on and on about themselves and how they do this or that and how they started painting or model-making or making raspberry wine or chutneys or whatever when they were 69 and how that was 5 years ago (so mentally I have to add up and understand that they’re 74 you know). I find that a lot, when I’m talking to a man, usually an older man, somehow they manage to get it across to me how old they are; it seems to be important to them.
Yesterday – until yesterday, I’d never met a man called Roy who wanted to write his autobiography but didn’t have the necessary writing skills and wouldn’t mind if someone else (i.e. implied Me) would do it for them, but yesterday I met two of them – two men – two Roys – two ‘interesting’ lives, two non-writers – two ‘ghost writers’ wanted. Oh eh! Isn’t life a bog of coagulating soggy chips.
I think I know what my problem is – I’m too intelligent – but not deeply skilled in anything – that means I can turn my hand to anything. I can be a writer (no let’s leave writing out of it). So I can be an artist, or a computer guy, or a teacher, or a businessman, or a painter & decorator, or an electrician, or a gardener, or a filmmaker, but I’m not deeply skilled at any of it ‘cos I get bored too easily.
And then, and then I go and set myself up in something like this where the main feature is boredom. Cracked or what?
Perhaps I’ll bring a CD player in tomorrow with Norah Jones and Nina Simone – what’s the time? Two minutes past three. Only another one and a half hours or so to go then I’m packing up. Wonder if I’ll be too knackered to do stuff tonight.
Could print another list with prices against everything – maybe little cards with details of each exhibit.
I’ll just have another fag and another walk around the exhibits.
A mother with a 2 year old like a ventriloquist’s dummy. She speaks through him, to him; she says – ‘do you like any of them?’ He shakes his head. She turns to me on the way out – ‘He doesn’t like any of them.’ I smile.
Another parent/child duo – a middle-aged man and a daughter in her twenties with obvious learning difficulties. He points at Bright Environment, ‘You can paint things like that,’ he says – she doesn’t respond. On the way out I say ‘Thanks,’ he says ‘That’s OK.’
Old boys – lots of old boys, in and out; some of them lingering, some others – retired GPs? Perhaps this one, barely 5 feet tall with a tidy mac, perhaps he was a fighter pilot, perhaps a mercenary in the Congo, perhaps he’s a Man of God or a murderer. Whatever, at least he’s looking at the paintings carefully and slowly. He’s wearing a poppy!
He told me he had a scholarship to go to the Art School in Llanelly (that’s how Llanelli used to be spelt until they decided to revert to the correct Welsh spelling), must have been sixty years ago, but he had to go out and earn a living – he also told me that if my stuff was in the Tate Modern I’d win all the prizes.
3:36 pm – the day is dragging again – still, just about one hour left and a couple of dozen have been in – probably a couple of hundred have peered through the window.
Will you paint a portrait of anyone? If anyone wanted to buy anything how much would you charge?
So, another couple – middle aged – entered at 15:38 – left at 15:38. They must be watercolour landscape fans.
I’m a writer for fuck’s sake – a writer. But am I the same kind of writer as I am an artist? That would explain why no one will publish my stuff – because – as I already mentioned – it (like me) is too intelligent and not deeply skilled enough. But surely I’m skilled enough as a writer.
Practice makes perfect etc.
(Interjection on Wednesday November 18th 2015 – as I’m typing this into a Word document ready to be copied into the book that this will end up in. The interjection is this – is it possible that an intelligent person could practise a skill – say, like writing, for decades, and write countless words until they have accumulated at least 6 medium cardboard boxes full of their scribbles plus gigabytes of hard drive space, is it possible for that person to be a crap writer – I mean if you practised all the those years and still didn’t get even the tiniest bit of appreciation and recognition for your work – is that the time to just say “Fuck it – I’m a crap writer – give it up, find something you’re good at.” And what if I won’t accept that, because I have to write – I have to write – there is no choice for me – appreciated or not – so then my voice, however much it doesn’t fit with what is regarded as a good voice is, as good as, as important as, as interesting as, as honest as any other voice of any other human being, whether expressed in words or visual art or, god forbid – dance. End of interjection.)
Time for another fag and / or a ramble around the exhibits – get myself an eyeful before home time.
Fluffy haired guy in a check fleece spends about 4 mins, nods at me miserably and heads for the door with a sad, plodding, determination – 15:50.
Now it’s 15:57 – Yippee not much more than half an hour to go. I hope this is the worst day. Might have to go and buy some ibuprofen and have a piss.
Back from Piss, didn’t buy ibuprofen (for sciatica) ‘cos Boots and Superdrug are taking the piss (price wise).
(even though Boots invented the stuff, they cost £1.29 for 16)
Fuck it – wait an hour get some at home.
There’s a father & 2 kids (girls) He’s taken a leaflet at least. Let’s see how it goes 16:13
Now a mother and son – maybe they’re together – probably. Maybe not. Maybe – they’re mingling – Still don’t know.
16:15 still half mingling – talking to each other but a bit formal. A few giggles from the kids.
16:16 Mother & Son leave. Pa & girls still look interested. Big sporty type, p’raps he’s a rich rugby player, more likely a teacher.
16:17 is this a record (apart from the bloke this morning who’s interested in art i.e. making it and who said astounding, astonishing etc
16:18 Still going
Say thank you as they leave 16:19
Nearly time to wrap up
Where’s your studio? Question from earlier – from the little old man who had a scholarship to art school at 16 but never made it due to having to earn a living
Have to have the rest of that fag.
16:24 Back. Start wrapping up
Day 2 addendum
Half past 4
Bit 2 early to go so will stay til 20 to, so by the time I get to the car and drive to the Graig college to pick my wife up from work it should be about 5:25 or even later. If I’m lucky then Rhian will be ready then.
I’ve coined a phrase for my art
16:34 – Fuck it wrap up anyway.