‘Behind every great artist…

Making, Philosophy, Public Art, Relationships

This weekend there was an article in The Guardian about those who work ‘behind’ or ‘for’ well known Artists. “The death of one of David Hockney’s staff this week has thrown light on the assistants who work for famous artists”. I know a few people have probed the question about the fact that my husband now has a fabricator and a painter to do the large metal works. I guess there is also me, what shall we call me, the PA. There is also his driver who drives the van and assists him in transporting the sculptures, and the man who works at our shop when my husband is away. We are already a team. There is already a ‘we’ behind the sculptor, the artist.

I can’t speak for anyone else but for me this is not a problem. There would be no creation if it were not for ‘the artist’. Anthony Gormley’s assistant may ‘regret letting go of his own practice’ but I think he is right when he says ‘maybe I am doing it because I am not brave enough to strike out on my own’. There are few people have the vision, the confidence and ultimately the talent to see a project through from start to finish. They personally may not the best welder, painter, engineer, or craftsman but in today’s world where large-scale creations need to be made with specificity, health and safety considerations then a team of people is needed to put together the final result. Without the artist it would never take off. Artists having been using assistants for years, centuries. I don’t understand why there is ‘a moral outrage- the idea that we’re being duped’ it is as Jeffries writes in his article, ‘ridiculous’.

'chemo 2007'

I have purposefully , of course, put this picture in here. It is made from clay, you can see the technique of strips of clay. All done by my husband’s talented hand. It is to emphasis my point about talent. It isn’t just about talent though it is about ‘ideas’. My husband has often been asked; ‘where do you get your ideas?’, ‘what is you inspiration?’. His head is just full of ideas and the more materials and possibilities that open the wider the imagination becomes. From what I see ‘life’ is his inspiration, anything, everything. I may slip in an idea, an alternative direction every now and again but that is not something that needs crediting. The assistants working for these ‘famous’ artists may sometimes feel that they are ‘airbrushed from public consciousness’ but I don’t think it is due to the fact that ‘the lone genius myth’ helps sales and gives the artwork mystique. Assistants are simply assisting the process, a tool. Like Chapman (Chapman brothers) state, “It’s a job”. So what is it like realising someone else’s vision?

Well, yes perhaps there is the internal battle of knowing you are working on ‘someone’ else’s ideas. The inner dialogue of creativity for self or under direction. At the end of the day though, some of us are creators and some of us are ‘the assistants’ but hey, I think its fantastic, it is a privilege, a blessing. As I have written before, ‘On being the Sculptor’s wife’ even if it is ‘Behind every great artist’, you will find…………….

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