Updated: Jul 25, 2021
Written August 2016
Picasso has always been one of my inspirations as an artist and certainly recent work is reflective of this. As well as his art he has always had a face in which I would want to meet. Whilst he appears to struggle to physically smile his big brown eyes are lit up and wide-eyed, luring you in like a puppy dog. They are always seeking, always curious but always troubled, but with a sensitivity beyond the struggle that says he would be kind to you and give you his all if he feels safe with you.
Given my current period of lostness in my art I decided to read about art, about artists, about techniques, to fill the void part I have believed is missing by not doing my Fine Art degree. A part I have been questioning and doubting if I need, but can't hurt by doing given my lack of direction right now, hoping for some inspiration. So my first reading has been the biography of Picasso by Patrick O'Brian. I am disciplining myself as I did when I studied my psychology degree at Open University and reading a whole chapter a day. Already at chapter 4 and at the point Picasso has moved to Paris and one of his close friend has killed himself I have come to realise that my inspiration by him as an artist comes because he is very similar to me as a person.
Fundamentally Picasso was an anarchist, anti-academia, anti-bourgeoisie, anti-snobbery. Because he was drawing and painting at a very young age he was placed at various art academias as a young boy. But he rebelled against being taught traditional styles of painting and painting traditional scenes, because throughout his life he saw his work as 'research' not 'art'.
"I never do a painting as a work of art. All of them are researches. I search incessantly and there is a logical sequence in all this research".
This resonates heavily with myself, the ongoing searching and researching as a person, and it is this constant curiosity that never tires that I see in Picasso eyes. Everything is a new experience and offers and informs us of something new about ourselves. We are never a being that remains the same forever, we are always changing and developing...and our art reflects this. Picasso's search for his identity was explicit in his obsession with his signature, exploring the use of family name's and initials. When I was studying art at school I was fought over by the tutors, with on being a traditionalist and the other a modernist. Whilst I craved and allowed to a point the modernist tutor to influence me, the traditional tutor won because she was the tutor I had been assigned to. I opted out of doing a Fine Art degree because whilst I had the traditional skills I felt I lacked personality and identity in my work and I truly believed if Mr Pold had been my tutor maybe this journey would have been very different. Even at 18 yrs old I knew I did not want to become a factory processed academic artist and I needed somebody like Mr Pold to nurture my anarchy within, something I envy in Picasso but also something now I try to emulate in my current work.
Similarly, Picasso always sought inwards for his inspiration, fearing the manipulation of others influences, another reason for barely attending art school classes. It is thought that his early Catalonian life barely shaped or inspired him whilst his internal symbolisms were evident, such as his fascination with the matador bulls and pigeons. O'Brian writes that Picasso needed to be a leader because it kept him somewhat isolated from the influence of others attempts to manipulate him. This I very much see in myself. As a musician I always had to be principle so that another principle couldn't restrict my creativity and so that my section would have to follow my lead and style. I will visit many galleries and exhibitions, but do so on my own to draw from them my own ideas and muses. I will also at times avoid viewing art so as not to feel despondant about or lose focus on my own influence over my art. I create my art in isolation, but when I look at other art I start being critical of what I have not created rather than the individual creation that I have. This then becomes a void place for me of a conflicting need to protect myself from others whilst feeling isolated and lonely. This a theme in my work; that of blank detachment from the world, whilst trying to burst out and engage. But this is also where my best art is created and I believe if I were to fully engage with life and others I would lose this conflict that inspires my work. If I were to find peace with the world I would no longer have the need to paint.
And I come to understand this for both myself and Picasso as being as a result of having certain learning difficulties that disabled us from 'getting' the rules required to 'fit in' with the institutions and academias and also of social engagement. Picasso was described as obtuse but also sensitive, definitely this describes me also. We also both struggled with the 'word'. Maybe not as badly as Picasso but I was assessed by an educational psychologist at uni who identified I find it incredibly hard to gain meaning from the written word whilst highly advanced in being able to describe meaning. To compensate I would draw on my visual imagery mind as a way to make sense of the world. I experience the world by constantly assessing the shapes and formations around me. Seeing words on a poster in the doctors surgery were just formations I assimilated with everything else. They do not offer the meaning intended unless I intentionally kicked my additional process in that told me I had to apply cognition to understand it's meaning. Whilst it is tiresome and hard work to go through more than one process to understand the written word I can still do it, whereas it seemed Picasso struggled much more and so had to learn through experiences of life. What he also had a greater capacity to do was to express what he saw through his art, something I struggle with. This is where my advanced capacity to express meaning verbally blocks my ability to express visually. I absorb the world as imagery but it is made sense of through verbal extraction. However similarly to Picasso we both process and interpret the external world we see heavily through our own internal and creative space, rather than as an explicit external representation. Here it safe, here it is protected from others influences and this place I share with Picasso.
It is here I can see how somebody can become an anarchist in art. When you have certain learning limitations it becomes virtually impossible to see what is needed to do to belong and be accepted. Part of me craves to fit in, for example, by being accepted into the Royal Academy summer exhibition, because somehow this legitimises my place as an artist. However, it is the likes of Picasso that rebelled against these traditions which enabled him full creative licence. Why do I want so much to be accepted when I know I hate restrictions?
And why can't I be included in their gang?
Is it because of my psychological need to feel free to express myself without restrictions? Or is it because my learning difficulties does not enable me to 'see' what is needed. When you are so fixated on your own internal agenda, or when you are limited by neurological difficulties it can become really hard to see outside of it, to see what others are seeing in order to fit in. Whether it's neurological or to do with my fibromyalgia brain fog, I do not the 'brightness' and 'vibrancy' in the old masters paintings. I see dreary, blurred, dullness. I also don't understand a lot of the expressionists and cubists need to deform form and shape. Like Picasso I see in my work a quest to create clarity, crispness whilst also representing conflict, chaos and continual movement. So my portraits are in part real, not deformed, as a balance to conflicting emotions and complexities of humanness This may then be to the sacrifice of the traditional and sophisticated compositions or uses of colour I am expected to implement to be accepted by the Royal Academy but I feel I have no choice. Like Picasso I too am painting to research myself and my world, to make sense of it. And in a head made up of unique learning difficulties these are the only images I can, and Picasso could create.
I am starting to understand why I resonate so much with Picasso. We are very similar people.