“Buying art is a bit like falling in love.”
How do we find art we love? An artist we love? Why do we fall in love with a particular work? Why is it that we want to spend our hard-earned money on a particular artwork as if we can’t live without it? I’ve been pondering these questions since doing a radio interview with Derek Guille from ABC Central Victoria along with Sharon Seyd, Founder of Jumpleads Not for Profit and curator of the Small Works From a Big Place exhibition currently travelling around Central Victoria. As a musician, photographer and artist himself, Derek asked us some thought provoking questions that I’ve been musing since.
Finding art and artists is a bit like falling in love. It can be love at first sight or happen gradually over time but the physical and emotional reactions can feel similar. Knowing an artwork is for you can be an intense emotional, physical and spiritual experience. As an artist, psychologist and budding art collector myself I wonder whether I am attracted to certain works at a moment or stage in my life because the work reflects some potential within me that I need or want to develop and express. Or maybe it is embodying a feeling I don’t want to consciously face. The unconscious within all of us is very powerful. In my experience it has a strong part to play in the enjoyment of and purchasing of art. And it wants us to grow and develop. Its main purpose is to help us move towards wholeness and joy no matter what is happening consciously or in our external world. I believe it is worth trusting so I’ve learnt to tune in to my body’s signals when viewing art.
Try to sidestep your analytic mind and go deeper. What piece do I keep going back to? Does it keep coming back into my mind when I am away from it? Which work leaves me feeling hopeful or joyous or exquisitely sad at a profoundly peaceful level? Does the work leave me feeling curious and uncomfortable? Ultimately don’t think too much. Go with what your body and gut tell you. Don’t get caught up in what other like or have but stay true to yourself. Art is about relationships including the relationship with yourself. I cannot stress enough how important it is to buy art you personally love even if it will be a gift. It is a reflection of the deeper you and this is a gift in itself.
To find an artist you love, I encourage the process of playful exploration. Visit new spaces in your local area. Scour the newspapers for art events. In my region of the Macedon Ranges there are several Open Studio programs to explore. Visit small and large galleries. Borrow or buy art books. Go to your local art festival. Whereever you go, stay present to your feelings and bodily reactions when you stumble across art. They will be your best guide. Is your heart racing? Do you feel excited? Do you suddenly hold your breath in awe of the colour, the skill of the artist, curious about how they created the piece or what it could mean? Does it take you to a time of meaning and connection in your life? Are you moved to tears or anger? Even more negative emotions could mean you need to live with a certain artwork. Feelings like envy or hatred can often be triggered when we love an artwork. It is common to feel dismay when we envy another yet envy can be a healthy road map to our true selves or our untapped potential. If we can notice it, ask ourselves what it is telling us, then we can grow and move forward.
By supporting local artists – any artist in fact – we are honouring ourselves indirectly. By celebrating the success of another we overcome the power of the ego and connect with our truly loving potential. And artists love and need your support. When I witness someone falling in love with my artwork I feel grateful and privileged. It is so moving to watch. Being in the position to facilitate this type of deep connection is a great honour as an artist as I know it has the potential to heal and transform that person. Buying local art also financially supports the artist to buy materials and supports them to take up opportunities to enhance their practice. To me art is a practice and I will do it even when the art isn’t selling. I do it every day, it is what I do and who I am. But knowing my practice is supporting and nurturing others fuels and inspires me to continue making art.
Art matters. It makes a difference. From my experience as both an artist and psychoanalytic psychotherapist, art starts conversations that otherwise would not have happened. It connects us more deeply to ourselves and others. It is a bridge for our unconscious which wants the best for us. It may even have big things in store without our knowledge. So why not start the heartfelt process of finding the art and artists you love? Take the leap. Trust me, you won’t regret it.
(Photo credit to Popup Art Group. Central Victorian Artists in the Small Works From a Big Place exhibition pictured from left Jenn Spencer-Stewart, Kathy Medbury, Kathryn Portelli and Helen Fraser)