Saturday, 22 August 2009

How did I get here?

So why am I blogging about art? I'm not an artist and I've certainly got no artistic talent.

I never studied art and when I have read any art theory it's always seemed boring and dry. Even visiting art galleries that contained works that I did enjoy, I always felt alienated and intimidated. What I know now is that art is all around us, not just in galleries and museums and that it exists in many mediums and certainly isn't just what the "art critics" tell us it is. But for many years it seemed to me like a highly exclusive members club with a scary bouncer on the door.

Then a few years back I bought a CD by a band called E.A.R. featuring Pete Kember a.k.a. Sonic Boom who used to be in Spacemen 3 and Spectrum, two far out, trippy and highly inflential British bands from the late 80's onwards. I bought it because I loved the sleeve. I thought it was like Sonic the Hedgehog on acid in some futuristic sci-fi fantasy action film.

The sleeve art was by an artist called Anthony Ausgang and somewhere in my mind I made a mental note of this.

Jumping forward to 2005, still relatively new to the internet and surfing around on my first computer, it popped into my head to search Anthony Ausgang and I did. I found his site and I also found some of his works for sale at a place called the Shooting Gallery in San Francisco. Some of his pieces I thought were quite reasonably priced and I took a shine to a particular piece called The Martyrdom of Saint Kitty. I don't know why, maybe because I like cats and I grew up surrounded by a lot of Catholic imagery and it was a crazy combination of the two. I had a bit of disposable income at that time and for the first time in my life it occurred to me that I could actually own a piece of art.

(The Martydom of Saint Kitty - Anthony Ausgang.)

I emailed the gallery and exchanged a few emails with the owner Justin Giarla who was friendly and enthusiastic. The piece I liked had been sold but he was getting some more pieces in by Anthony in a few weeks and he would send me the images. He assured me, they kicked ass. I think before I even saw the pieces my mind was made up. I was going to buy a piece of Anthony's work.

When the images came, one stood out for me. It was priced a bit higher than I had really hoped to spend - but I think I was already smitten and there was no going back. I bought the piece - Cirque de Soil.

(Cirque de Soil - Anthony Ausgang.)

I kind of felt guilty at the extravagance, but as Justin said, people happily spend such money on things like motorbikes. And I have never bought a motorbike. So I didn't feel too guilty for too long. I was very happy with my painting and to this day I never tire of it. I emailed Anthony to thank him and he said he considers it to be one of his best pieces and I think he is right. And although I never expected to be purchasing art again, I started to surf around the links to other artists originating from the Shooting Gallery site and before long a whole new world began to reveal itself to me. A world of art that spoke to me in a language that I didn't feel I had to be specially qualified to understand and images I could relate to and enjoy without having to rack my brains looking for some deeper meaning. I had discovered outsider art. I had been bitten by the bug.

There is a postscript to this story. Earlier this year I visited San Francisco and called by the Shooting Gallery. Justin wasn't there but we were warmly welcomed by the guy holding fort. We had a good look round and there, on the stairway, looking a bit neglected and forlorn, was the original Ausgang painting The Martyrom of Saint Kitty that I had originally set my sights on and which in turn had put me in touch with Justin and made me aware of the Lowbrow scene. Turns out it had been damaged by an electric cable that had melted some of the paint, luckily just the black background had been affected.

Sometimes things are just meant to be and when I got home I emailed the Shooting Gallery about the painting. Yes it was being repaired and yes it was for sale. I think you can guess the rest. It was a happy ending for Saint Kitty and me.

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