Wednesday, December 1, 2010

Why Don't You Have An Exhibition?

Portrait of a Refugee

To those well wishers who persist in doling out this suggestion to me, I would like to thank you but I would also like to clarify that my job as an artist is to draw and paint. If an exhibition happens it is incidental - a by product of my generated work, [like the joy of getting this teensy image of my work on a CNN site ]. 
I don’t exist as an artist to exhibit my work. I exist to draw. 

I would also like you who give me this suggestion to consider this:

Would you ask a doctor (any doctor), “Why don’t you perform a brain surgery?”
Would you ask a lawyer, “Why don’t you do a cross examination?”
Would you ask a software engineer, “Why don’t you go work in Infosys?”
You wouldn't would you? These questions would show up the fact that you know nothing about the profession that you are advising the professional about with your well meaning suggestion. Well, it is the same when you suggest to an artist.

Somehow when it comes to artists, everyone knows exactly what it means to be a painter. Anyone can do it. And anyone can offer advice on how to be one. Just whip up a dozen paintings and have an exhibition! Once a month if possible! Of course you know somebody who does that and you too would do it if you just had the time to do more of those pencil shadings and watercolours that you used to be so good at in Art class.

Recently a neighbour dropped by and noticed some of my paintings hanging on my wall.
Who did this?
I did
You? But this is professional! I thought you painted as a recreation. Did you copy it from a magazine or book or something? 
Did you photocopy and trace it from a greeting card?
You did it entirely yourself?
My! Why don’t you have an exhibition?
Ah hah! I knew you'd say that !
I don’t understand the connection between appreciating  my work (albeit with those strange questions about them) and ‘having an exhibition’. If you like some paintings it seems logical to ask if one could see more of them or perhaps inquire where they are sold. But to almost immediately ‘mentor’ me and tell me how I should run my professional life...

And of course if I did have an exhibition, the immediate and predictable question asked would be,
“So how many paintings did you sell?”
Now why would you want to know?


ArtPropelled said...

I think it was the best way your neighbour knew how to tell you that you are THAT good!

pRiyA said...

You are right Robyn. I am just very very tired of the repeated suggestion though.

Perfect Witch said...

Don't know if having an exhibition is a ratification of quality, so I can imagine why you think it annoying.
However, I must tell you how much I adore your art.

pRiyA said...

Thank you :)

Sanctified Spaces said...

My ..u seem really cheesed off..!

pRiyA said...

Do I? Then I must be really fed up!

mahendra singh said...

Tell people that you are not an exhibitionist!

My favorite-most-loathed comment is when people ask me if I drew that by hand.

pRiyA said...

Thank you Mr. Singh! I wanted a snappy comeback and you have given me one.

ps: So it happens in Montreal too :D

sabine calkins said...

priya, the way i see it, exhibitions are about sharing your work with people who potentially enjoy it and don't get to see it if it is left in your studio. also, some people may actually want to own it and hang it in their house.
nothing wrong with either of those options.
the tone of your post makes me think you have unresolved issues with those options or with galleries (i can understand). the choice is yours, and once you have figured it out for real you can be less catty about it.

my husband is an artist and he shows.
it's not easy getting to that point - and placing art in a gallery never says much about the quality of the art.

however, IMO, you should have thanked your neighbor for giving you such a wonderful compliment - s/he evidently thought it was good.


Owen said...

Dear Priya, when I saw the title, the first thought that crossed my mind was, "Oh boy, that's great, she's going to have an exhibition!" But then I started reading...

Ok, I won't ask or say anything about exhibitions, other than :

- I'm glad to hear you are not an exhibitionist

- Perhaps if you'll be staying at home a bit instead of out doing exhibitions, you have time to listen to "Pictures at an Exhibition"


But anyway, you are already doing an exhibition right here... and we love it that way...

Junuka said...

:)u have such a nice work!

but i think the post is more about annoying advisers who in general like to mentor out of 'curiosity'.
the list of such curious qs is long-why not exibit, why not apply abroad, why not get married, why not put on weight or lose it ,dont u want kids, dont u want money? etc ..psst...

but we can keep away the soul and art from these insecure remarks only becoz its more precious!

sorry do i sound like an adviser:P? :) i mean only empathy. i love your drawings.

pRiyA said...

Dear Owen, I haven't listened to Pictures at an Exhibition in a very long time. Mussorgsky isn't it? I think I'll do so this afternoon when I begin my work again :)

I am glad you love my virtual exhibition. Always heartening to hear that!

pRiyA said...

Junuka: What you have written in your comment is exactly what I've meant in my post. And yes, I get asked all those other questions that you've mentioned too...:D
Thank you for empathizing with me.

Owen said...

Yes, Mussorgsky, though actually, I was thinking of the Emerson, Lake, & Palmer translation of Pictures at an Exhibition...

Karine said...

I love you because you are able to write things I think, but never have the courage to say or write "out loud."

I admire you.

Alexandra Hedberg said...

Yes, so very true: everyone think they can give an artist advice. Anyone could do an artist's job if they just wanted to, right? The artist should be greatful for the offer to hang her paintings in the neighbour's apartment when the broker is trying to sell it. Or for the advice; why don't you try to contact a hot shot gallery in New York? Yeah, sure you just send them an email. No one else is trying to get their attention. Though other artists won't say those things.

What has really pissed me off is actually illustrators telling me I should get into illustratioon when I' m a professional artist making a living as one... When I haven't asked for an opinion!

pRiyA said...

Alexandra: So it happens in Sweden too. And it pisses off artists apart from me too! Reassuring to know that actually.

Zaina Anwar said...

Thanks for this post, Priya. I completely share your sentiments as an artist. Believe me, I've been hearing this exact question for years now. Now, I don't even bother responding.

pRiyA said...

Best way to go Zaina :)

mahesh krishnan said...

all valid views Priya! however, Indians are not going to change any time soon.. we need to learn from the west ( whites to be specific) instead of getting upset, do use yr sense of humor to give a witty answer !Once i was standing next to a white lady tourist in a line and out of courtesy said hello..and she let herself go saying: don't u dare ask me which country i am from..i am sick of answering this question :)

Anonymous said...

Priya, I came to know about your blog from my SIL Sudha Iyer...She really admires creative people and I have really laughed out loud at couple of your posts....some are really hillarious...I liked your work and was wondering it must be really hard to manage such a dark stuff like charcoal and your paintings show that you tame your charcoal :-)....I am at IT professional and an hobby artist...I wanted to comment on this post because i just wanted to add one point to these "why dont you put an exhibiton" mentors :-D....when you really put an exhibition, the funny thing is none of these "put an exhibition advisors" will actually buy a single piece :-D


pRiyA said...

You are absolutely right about the advice givers Sunayana.
Btw, I don't tame charcoal, I just let it take me where it wants to on one WILD and very spontaneous ride. The surprises are always tremendous :-)

Anonymous said...

yes wouldnot tame your dont tame something you love and respect....and creativity cannot exist when u tame your just has to be spontaneous.....