At the end of my early student years, in 1974, I bought a book by Dr. Robert Wolk, and Arthur Henley. The title of it is The Right to Lie: a psychological guide to the uses of deceit in everyday life. This book, among other things, discusses our way of dress as performance and personality enhancing. We might, for example have small drooping shoulders, but by wearing a handsome jacket stuffed with epaulettes we might create the impression that we have broad and powerful shoulders. We might be on the fat side, but by dressing up in cleverly arranged vertical stripes we may look somewhat slimmer.
This book gave me the idea for making an artwork in cloth. I wanted to use an executive type cloth to go mainly with those people who can afford art - the custodians of money, the Medici's, Trumps, Bransons and the connoiseur in the grey suit. I set out to collect sedate blacks and greys in pin stripes and business-like polka dots.
Then came the exhibition at Circa. If the work in cloth had to be part of the opening show at Circa, I had to deploy it to full size and to absolute symbolic strength. This was a very important exhibition. It had to be an auspicious1 work for the inauguration2 of a fabulous place. What do I write in executive cloth that comments on the idea of camouflaging the real person and presents a more acceptable false impression?
It is tiresome to always explain oneself. If an artwork cannot stand by itself, all supportive texts and speeches are in vain. My fight to decipher what is real and what is false in art and in life is vehement and I am indebted to Pablo Picasso (1881-1973) for some of my ideas. He said five things about art, lies and imagination worth quoting in clever speeches about aesthetics:
"We all know that art is not truth. Art is a lie that makes us realize the truth, at least the truth that is given to us to understand."
"Everything you can imagine is real."
"Bad artists copy. Good artists steal."
"Painting is not done to decorate apartments. It is an instrument of war, for attack and defence against the enemy. A good painting ought to bristle with razor blades."
There is no abstract art. You must always start with something. Afterward you can remove all traces of reality.
I decided to make my biggest wall piece for this great new gallery - a work almost eight meter in length. I grappled with many words. I had to write a suitable one in such a way that it is camouflaged by its surrounds. The existence and nature of the word had to become obvious only upon closer inspection. The word 'lie' was not strong enough and the word 'cheat' at the new gallery would be too strong and cruel and might be too easily construed as a comment on the people who run the gallery. So I wrote the word FAKE. The word had to rebound with audacity - how dare I write 'fake' on the walls of a people who wish me well? On second thought, is 'fake' a cheap pejorative, or is it a comment on a deeper, hidden truth?
When standing in front of the collage one must find it very hard to see FAKE - you never know if someone's shoulders are for real. Upon closer scrutiny the word is discovered where stands out from a chequered, criss-crossing background - the disclosure of truth behind a cleverly concealed lie
For those brave enough to conceive of and build this great new gallery - I wish you well and leave you with the words of Samuel Butler (1835-1902):
"Any fool can paint a painting but it takes a wise man to sell it."