In my teens I decided I wanted to be an artist… Because that is the time that you make such dramatic decisions out of the bloom.It was a concept so exciting and exotic that it must be something wonderful. As my parents didn`t want to enroll me in art high school (the school system here in Croatia is a bit different than say USA or Great Brittan. Here you have different types of high school which specialize in different professions- this is a very simplified explanation). And of course as a thing I couldn`t have it was a thing that I most wanted-to become a painter.
Often I wondered what will this life as a painter look like… Now after college, exhibiting (not as exciting as I first thought) and working as an art teacher my path in art drifted a bit and took me to the world of applied arts. I won`t say that I got disappointed in art or got fed up with it… but all this searching for a purpose in art, this quest for a higher meaning (in art) gets a bit too much. And as much as I now sometimes try to escape this haunting title of “the artist” it is something that I just can`t escape. Even now, I am sewing… That should be simple, yes? You have a design and a pattern that has to be transferred to some sort of material and then sewn. But me being me it has to be a bit more complicated. I have to make it a bit more different. Not wanting to sew strange and not wearable clothes (that ok too don`t get me wrong creating in general is so rewarding) I got interested in the idea of painting my own fabric. Usable aspect of sewing your clothes is what is for me the best part in sewing. I already have a full basement of paintings I don`t exhibit and project that are collecting dust… And well, if I`m going to spent so much time and energy into one piece of clothing it`s going to be in the best and finest of materials- it`s going to be in silk!!!
So here we go-silk painting!!! And I said I wanted to escape the title artist, ha, ha. There`s no escaping yourself in life. Now the topic of what I am going to paint is something I think about all the time. Thank god this is a field of applied arts so there`s no worry if you feel thatyou are painting something too trivial. Fashion itself is fickle and forever changing so you can go ahead and paint and wear whatever you like. But is it all this simple?
This is a discussion that I have with myself (it sounds weird I know but hear me out). Ok fashion is always changing and something that is in this season will go out the window the next. But is this really ok?
It is something that we can`t escape I am not talking about boycotting the fashion industry. No, I am talking about why should I even waste time in painting my clothes when you can go out and buy such lovely fabrics. What`s the point in painting my fabric then? Or even sewing them? Painting my fabric is something that I look as delicate, special and unique. Not unique in a way that it will be something that nobody has seen before, no. Unique in a way that every piece is hand painted. My hand is not a machine and it will never make to same designs. It`s sad how handmade things (not just clothes) are a dying breed. My grandfather was a carpenter and made stuff from chairs and tables to his house and garden. Next generation-my mother, ok she can crochet and sew a bit but has no need for it because everything is easier if it is store bought. And for my grandparents it wasn`t the case, they had to make a lot of things themselves because they simply couldn`t buy them, most thing were too expensive or you just couldn`t buy them. Not in rural Yugoslavia after the II world war. It`s a good thing that we don`t live like that anymore, that you can go out and earn and buy everything you need.
But I look at my pupils and see how they are hanging on their cell phones all the times. When they have to actually write something with their hand their handwriting is awful. Their fine motoric (hand) skills are limited to the ones needed for typing on their smartphone. We have become a society of buyers not a society that produces. We are bombarded with images of what we can or should buy… This consumer society thinks only of the price tag. The more expensive the better, right? The more money you have the better, right? And the most important thing is to have it now and throw it out tomorrow… And I am afraid that the world of handmade is slowly slipping away into the past. Isn`t that sad?
I always think of my grandfather and a brush he made!!! Oh I really have to go to my grandmothers and find if she still has a some piece of that brush and photograph it!! You don`t get it…right? Why am I talking about a brush… Ok I am sorry this should have been a post about painting clothes, I`ll get to that (eventually 😉 ).
The world of 1950s Yugoslavia was not the same as 1950s of Great Brittan or USA. Not even close. The world of 1950s Yugoslavia was a world… well let’s just say in terms of the way people in the countryside were living it`s a trip to the 19th century. You didn`t have stores or a means of transport that would enable you to get to a town. Living was hard and well, most people left their homes and emigrated to Western Europe and the rest of the world. And that brush… Do you know what did my grandfather had to do when he need a brush? He went to a field and dig out some weed (I don`t know which exact plant it had to be), then he cleaned the roots and let them dry. From a piece of wood he made the handle of the brush and in it he drilled little hole to put those dried roots which will serve as teeth of a brush. It`s a brush, just a brush. And imagine all of the rest of the things they didn`t have and had to make… Ok thank god I can go out and just buy the damn brush..
Who would now do all that just to get a brush to scrub the floor…??!!?? But… It`s something nostalgic and special in that simple brush… Everything today is given to us on a platter and not just that we don`t appreciate it we are bored with it. And again I am thinking about my clothes and what to paint on them… They are not just this season`s fling for me… It is something I make myself and no matter what there will always be a special bond between an artist and the piece he is making (no matter if it`s a pot, a painting, a performance or a hand painted piece of silk).
Andy Warhol comes to mind immediately…You can like him or not but he knew how to play with his viewer-the consumer society. I admire him, well I admire all great artist (I am a high school art teacher after all 🙂 ). Warhol`s work always follows me. And what better way to ridicule and question our consumer society than in a way that Andy Warhol did? Big bold colors and harmless motifs. And to repeat them again and again…
Of course I am not Warhol nor do I want to be. Nor am I my grandfather living in 1950s Yugoslavia, nor do I want to. But I am an artist living in 2016 reality iPhone consumer society. And that`s something that I don`t like.
Another thing is that this is not the only way I will or can paint my clothes; I can change styles and forms any time I want to. That`s the great part with applied arts- you don`t have to follow just one style and have all this big explanations for it.
You just paint and enjoy.