Artist: Created to Create
28th August 2017
28th August 2017
Francis Bacon said of the artistic process ‘the feeling of desperation and unhappiness are more useful to an artist than the feeling of contentment because desperation and unhappiness stretch your whole sensibility.’ Perhaps one of the greatest artists of the 20th century, Bacon suffered from periods of depression throughout his lifetime and was a self-confessed product of an abusive childhood in an oppressed Catholic Ireland, steeped in economic and political turmoil. Though he left his country at an early age to establish his career in London, his traumatic experiences in Ireland have ultimately been cited as the cause of his recurring psychological damage which proved to motivate the core inspiration behind his renowned dark and sinister scenes. Bacon is a testament to someone who emerged from the ashes and used art as an expression for much of his work.
So, what is the purpose of art? Is it to idealise the world and transport us to scenes which are far removed from the harsher realities of life? Alternatively, they can do quite the opposite, to serve as grim reminders of life, through scenes of war, depravity, social injustice or famine. Nevertheless, the main purpose is to always make a point to the viewer. The artist rarely executes a work of art for the sake of it, rather expresses an idea which is more often than not deeply rooted in his or her own political or social leanings ingrained in their own individual upbringings.
We all know too well the feeling of standing in front of a work of art, and projecting views onto it which we have already heard been uttered by famous art historians who came before us. There will most likely be elements of bias in our opinions but what we can add, which is unique to every individual, is our very own interpretation of a work of art. Where we stand on common ground is that there can be no right or wrong. This is how art has the overwhelming power to unite us, no matter the social background or geography, therefore acting as a universal language. As we can only make presumptions based on educated opinions, can we ever truly know what has inspired the work of art and acted as the motivation behind it? It is for this reason that art is so powerful in its ability to incite a reaction, opinion and discussion, whether from an educated observer or an amateur coming in from the outside. We all extract our own emotions from a subject and so, nothing can justifiably be disputed.
As with Francis Bacon and so many millions of artists who came before and after him, art has stood in as a therapeutic process which so intrinsic to their own personal developments, whether it be mainstream classic to contemporary, to a doodle made by kids, or street art – it can take on so many different forms, even when sometimes we even don’t realise that is actually art. And in turn, when successfully executed, it will always be therapeutic to the viewer. This is the mark of a great work of art – to evoke a reaction and different interpretations from each and every observer, while never giving a definitive answer to the true meaning of the work. It is this mystery that makes it so stimulating to the senses. Such honest self-expression and opinion of the artist are so admirable – the way in which the creator lets down the gauntlet and bears all while never compromising what is truly felt. Thus, from inspiration to creation, every influence alongside the creative process followed by an artist is greatly respected at Arran Frances.
The many parallels that might be drawn between honest design and great work of art can be very interesting – it’s in the technique, the attention to detail, the uncompromising quality of work and the authenticity of the piece. Art could be seen sometimes as introverted, perhaps individualistic. It’s objective towards a consumer of art is to trigger an emotion. Whereas design requires it to be a bit more selfless, it has to bear in mind the consumers need while maintaining aesthetics. The relation between art & design explained very successfully in the words of Shimon Shmueli–
“Design is art optimised to meet objectives”
31 August 2017
Created to Create, Killian Schurmann, glass artist and sculptor, creates absolute magic playing with glass and light and has developed an authentic style by his usage of colour, form and texture. Located near the Dublin mountains, he is also a trained scientific glass blower from Germany and extensively travels to draw inspiration from urban and rural landscapes. Killian shares with us how he draws inspiration from nature and his thoughts on balancing creativity and commercial viability.
My parents were both sculptors, my father was a bronze caster and my mother did a lot of sculpting, drawing, and painting. Having grown up in those surroundings, it was normal for me to come home to plaster casts, wood carvings or my father pouring bronze. That was the insight I got living in Ireland and as a child, I thought that was the norm and how people earned a living.
Later on, we moved to Germany and my father went into Opera singing, so I was introduced to theatre. I could have easily gone into dancing or acting so I had to choose between being an artist or a performer and I was quite analytical in the way I thought about it. I did dance and acting for a number of years and nearly went professional with it but finally, I chose to become an artist because I enjoy having a physical outcome at the end of the process. I started with the craft side of glass blowing, mastered the craft, and then I became more experimental, which is what I really enjoy.
The way I work is quite intuitive, I don’t tend to pick a theme and then try to work it out. Although, I’ve noticed over the years that there seems to be a running concept in my work which I haven’t been aware of – I keep getting drawn towards the same kind of things. It tends to be very impulsive. What really interests me is very like the Japanese philosophy of wabi-sabi where it’s about the beauty of erosion or the idea of nature taking over something that’s man-made. If I’m walking and I see how the pavement has been reclaimed or a piece of concrete with a perfect circle of moss in the middle, it really intrigues me. I like that contrast where nature is taking over again because it makes people aware of how small they are in the grand scheme of things. I think it’s important because it makes you feel more comfortable and you realise you don’t have to be something or do something.
I like not having the pressure to produce an artwork all of the time, so I also do applied art, something that might just be a beautiful window and has nothing artistic about it except perhaps some inspiration from nature. Like a musician, sometimes they just write a song because it’s beautiful and other times because it has an in-depth meaning. I’m not in any galleries but I exhibit my work where people can see it and I usually get a lot of commissions that way. That’s the difficult part about glass, people always know what to do with a painting but with glass, I always have to go and install it because it’s completely light dependant. For that kind of work, I make a piece which I feel reflects the person’s personality in my opinion and that always informs the composition. The story behind the piece is not necessarily recognisable to the person, making it more intriguing as everyone sees something different in it.
I really admire abstract art like Rothko, Louis Le Brocquy or Jack Yeats, where you’re looking at a piece where you think you’ve discovered a figure but then you realise that the artist purposely drew it. There’s an amazing painting by Louis Le Brocquy where it’s done so quickly but everything is in place. So as someone who works with glass, I really admire painters who can do something really fast and just know that it’s finished, whereas working with glass it has to be thought through. They have that confidence to create it close up but, they already know what it will look like to someone who’s passing by. Working with glass can be spontaneous and I try to achieve that spontaneity of a brush stroke but it will never be the same due to the process.
There’s also a lot of conceptual art or political work which I think is quite smart and clever. I admire it but, I don’t put the pressure on myself to have to achieve that in every piece I make. It’s like going to the theatre, they need an audience just as much as a show would. So for that kind of work, I’m very much an observer and I love how one can have a concept and depict it with the simplest possible means. It intrigues me and I respect the people that work in that field. But, I don’t have a lot of time for the artists that are too commercial, because I think that’s just like a band who is forced to play the same kind of music because their record company tells them that that’s the kind of music that they play.
Not repeating yourself. In all art forms, people are inspired by one another and they develop, but as an artist the worst thing you can do is copy yourself – once you’ve developed a concept and you get to the ‘perfect’ piece it’s important not to keep repeating yourself, and a lot of people do that. In the end, if you keep producing the same thing you’re actually devaluing the work which isn’t fair to the people who invest in your work at the beginning and then realise you haven’t stopped making the same pieces for the last five years.
It’s also important as an artist to find your own path or a different way to enter the market. For me, the business end of art could be compared to the music industry – it’s quite a cut throat industry. Galleries have a lot of power over young artists. If an artist signs up to a gallery too early in their career then they can find that the gallery insists that they continue to produce the same kind of work without being able to develop as an artist. What some artists don’t realise is if you get dropped by one gallery it’s most likely that you won’t be taken on by another. Galleries invest a lot in their artists and they have an understanding between each other so, a lot of artists end up getting stuck. My advice to any young artist would be not to get involved with galleries too early in your career. Read up on established people and look at the average age they were when they “made it”, rather than putting themselves in a situation where the galleries have a right to steer them and control their career or development for their own financial interests.
From my point of view, art is about opening somebody’s eye to something, a certain kind of beauty, whether in nature or something like a manhole cover, which goes across the board for all art forms. But nowadays it’s almost like the curator is the artist, as they pick twenty different artists and juxtapose them, so people become more interested in the collection that has been put together than the individual pieces. So it’s quite hard to tell exactly what art is or what it’s meant to be. I like that there are so many people from so many different areas calling themselves artists. The word has become so diluted but it won’t be long until it takes on a different meaning. For instance, anyone can call themselves a film director if they make a film on their mobile phone and put it online – some people do and have become very successful so it’s very hard to define. I spent a long time in the theatre scene and the people performing are the artists, but at the same time the artist is the person who wrote the play, so the performers are not actually the artists of the piece. So… it’s all twisted in a way that’s quite pleasant. I usually say I work in glass design which is a lot simpler!
I’m lucky as I’ve always remained independent and have never been with a gallery. But when I was younger I had the craft work to fall back on – I made drinking glasses and it was work I was proud of. A lot of people used to laugh at me for making drinking glasses and would say that I should be making art work, but a lot of those people are now out of business whereas I’m still doing well. It’s still a fine balancing act but if I find I get stuck I have no hangups about turning around and making Christmas decorations. That’s where a lot of artists go wrong when they think that they’re selling themselves short by not making a living solely on their artwork. Whereas, I sometimes respect the artists more when they have a day job and create their art out of passion, regardless of whether they’re successful with it.
It’s a very difficult thing to balance and I would again advise any young artist to look at other artists’ biographies. Dorothy Cross, for example, made jewellery for a long time before she made it as an artist and is very open about the ups and down associated with being an artist. I really appreciate people who are like that as most people assume that your career goes up and up quickly and that’s not the case. It’s difficult when you meet artists and they’re upset because nobody likes their work or wants to buy their work…I don’t think that’s the right attitude – you create something because you like it, not because you convince yourself that everyone should buy your pieces. There’s also a bit of hypocrisy there in my opinion because it’s not about the financial reward if you’re really into making art.
Usually my last piece! Every series I’ve done I’ve kept one for myself, but there’s one in particular that resonates with me the most. It’s a piece called “Running on Hot Sand” and it’s this quirky little piece which depicts this feeling of moving your legs so quickly you don’t touch the ground.
Look at any fashion show and I’d say they’re definitely pieces of art – especially if you look at the work of designers like Philip Treacy, whose hats are more like sculptures. A lot of design has also gone beyond function and is more useful up on a shelf and being looked at, for example, the “Juicy Salif” by Philippe Starck which is very like the spiders of Louise Bourgeois. So if you compare the orange juicer with the spiders it makes me think they’re related. And a lot of design goes back to nature – if you look at aircraft or construction machines like JCB’s, they are all inspired by things in nature, for example helicopters or dragon flies and also many every day utensils. That’s why I think if somebody wants to make a living out of an art form they should design practical things so that they can find balance.
I make very few pieces that I would consider works of art and I’m very proud of the little niche I have created for myself between art and design. It’s very comfortable there because I don’t have the pressure of a reputation to live up to and I have a lot of freedom. I have my own quiet little space and I like that I can experiment with concepts that I find interesting.
There are loads! But there are so many different fields and so many artists I admire that I wouldn’t just like to pick out one. I respect the people who are happy and content even though they haven’t made it big. I think they’re more passionate about their work because they have time to be passionate about it. I know some artists who are too much in demand and have too much work that they get very stressed from it. It has happened to me before and it’s a very uncomfortable situation to be in because you can’t move on because people are demanding that same type of work. But you only understand how stressful it is when you’re in that situation yourself.