Place of Humility

Two weekends ago I had my first solo exhibition at the David Lloyd Gallery in Hamilton, New Zealand. It was exciting if slightly nerve wracking and very rewarding to see so many of my works hanging together. Below is a collection of images from the exhibition opening:

I was very honored to have some established and respected artists such as Jennie de Groot, Santie Cronje and Michelle Ives at my opening.

As luck would have it, one of the most respected teachers in the USA, Martin Campos, was in New Zealand to teach and he also attended. Martin is an Adjunct Professor at the Pennsylvania Academy of the Fine Arts. You can find an interview with Martin Campos on Painting Perceptions.

I was quite thrilled to have roughly half of my paintings sold at this exhibition. I have reflected on the experience extensively.  As a child, I was taught that “showing off” (i.e. exhibiting yourself!) was a bad thing. Something not done by people of character. So being there as a center of attention drawn to myself took adjustment.  I tried to mindfully observe the experience as neutrally as possible.

O276 (oil on canvas paper)

At a solo exhibition I guess it is common for people to point out what paintings they like. Even though no one said what they don’t like, one senses somehow what is not so popular. This creates in me a huge risk of being diverted from what I believe is my true goal in painting – getting to know myself and my internal world better, and providing an outlet for things in me that I value deepest.

I recall reading about the dangers of having an audience in the book “Art & Fear“:

The risk is fearsome: in making your real work you hand the audience the power to deny the understanding you seek; you hand them the power to say, “you’re not like us; you’re weird; you’re crazy.”…catering to fears of being misunderstood leaves you dependent upon your audience. In the simplest yet most deadly scenario, ideas are diluted to what you imagine your audience can imagine, leading to work that is condescending, arrogant, or both. Worse yet, you discard your own highest vision in the process.

Bayles, David; Orland, Ted. Art & Fear: Observations on the Perils (and Rewards) of Artmaking (pp. 39-40). Image Continuum 

Naturally, this does not have to happen. But one becomes highly aware and sensitive to this danger. After all the excitement abated, I took time to reflect deeply on my art and what I wanted to achieve with it. This period of introspection was perhaps the most rewarding aspect of this exhibition experience. I feel I have since deepened in my mission as an artist and heeded the advice of Bayles and Orland in “Art & Fear“:

The lesson here is simply that courting approval, even that of peers, puts a dangerous amount of power in the hands of the audience. Worse yet, the audience is seldom in a position to grant (or withhold) approval on the one issue that really counts — namely, whether or not you’re making progress in your work.

Bayles, David; Orland, Ted. Art & Fear: Observations on the Perils (and Rewards) of Artmaking (p. 48). Image Continuum Press. Kindle Edition.

P37 (charcoal and pastel on wrinkled paper)


I leave you with some beautiful prose by Pessoa:

Amiel said that a landscape is a state of feeling, but the phrase is a flawed gem of a feeble dreamer. As soon as the landscape is a landscape, it ceases to be a state of emotion. To objectify is to create, and no one would say that a finished poem is a state of thinking about writing one.

and something from one of my earlier posts:

Time and time again, a hurried pace, ambition and lack of self awareness takes me to the place of humble-making. There I find myself. Gold is found where I stumble and fall without hope.

I am not that steeply sloping hour that Rilke wrote of:

My life is not this steeply sloping hour
in which you see me hurrying.
I am the rest between two notes,
which are somehow always in discord
because Death's note wants to climb over -
but in the dark interval, reconciled,
they stay there trembling.
       And the song goes on, beautiful.

Rainer Maria Rilke, trans. Robert Bly in
Selected Poems of Rainer Maria Rilke

Thanks for visiting my blog! I hope you are happy and content.

19 thoughts on “Place of Humility

  1. Amazing – well done – your work is really fantastic!! I’m not a regular blogger but I come in here every now and then and am amazed at how prolific you are and at the consistency in the quality of your work!

    Liked by 1 person

  2. The paintings all look lovely together, and I’m excited that you had several sales! As for the unspoken observational “criticism”, I never take that sort of thing personally. Each person will react to your art in a way that reflects something about themselves. If that be true, then they cannot possibly regard it in exactly the same way that you do because they are not you. I view it more like a curiosity question in the sense that I always have favorites when I have an exhibit and I find it interesting to see if anyone agrees with me. Make a game out of it and enjoy watching the the interplay of the people with your art! Cheers!

    Liked by 2 people

  3. That is so wonderful! I’m very happy for you! Really can identify with the fears you’re describing here. And the outcome for yourself, great achievement. Wish I could see your pictures with my own eyes. For example, I would never have guessed the medium of p37. Charcoal and pastels! Brilliant combination!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Many thanks Sue – yes, I am a bit crazy in combining the black of charcoal with the brilliant colour of pastels, but it just gives that depth of contrast I seem to like at the moment. Thanks so much for your comment.

      Liked by 1 person

  4. Fritz, I’m so excited for you! Your work has changed so dramatically over the last year, I’ve often thought that you really needed an exhibit. How wonderful that so many pieces sold. Congratulations. But as always what you write is as soulful as your paintings. I have many artist friends and the struggle you speak of is one we often discuss. I believe it’s why I’m finding it difficult to write right now. The role of the audience in art is a very difficult one. We are ultimately trying to communicate something with art, but communication means more than one person is involved. I have been reduced to posting photos of my cats while I try to understand who I’m writing for.
    Thank you for always sharing your thoughts on your journey.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Hi Nadia, thanks so much for your encouraging but also thoughtful comment. I sometimes wonder if I am the only one struggling more with the “why” rather than the “how” of creativity. You hit the nail on the head when you said “We are ultimately trying to communicate something with art, but communication means more than one person is involved”. When one thinks about this, it induces a sort of paralysis of the spirit. One stands dumb before creation, unable to create, fending off the imagined audience’s clamor drowning out our own voice. But whenever I run into questions like these I think of Rilke’s advice to the young poet, when he said something like “we must learn to love the questions THEMSELVES, like locked rooms and like books that are now written in a very foreign tongue”.
      Much joy to gain from solving these questions with playful seriousness, isn’t there?


  5. Firstly, congratulations. ‘Making progress’ or not, it simply IS good to see your work getting exposure and reaction. You don’t paint in glorious isolation, you share your work (sometimes literally 🙂 ) and in that respect your audience co-owns it, interprets it, takes part in the creative process.

    Liked by 1 person

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