Most modern art puzzles me – especially anything abstract. I just don’t get it. My paintings (see Fundraising Watercolours) are utterly conventional, even chocolate-boxy. There is a part of me that resents this, but I seem incapable of making the creative leap that would free me from my comfort zone.

The other day I read a verbatim conversation between an art dealer and an artist where I was astonished to hear that the artist drew ‘blind’ using carbon paper.  When questioned about this, the artist said, ‘The use of carbon paper is purely to stop me looking at the drawing; it is an exercise in trust and it keeps my entire focus fixed on the subject. The actual drawing is unimportant – it doesn’t matter if it is complete rubbish’.

Reading this I suddenly saw the error of my ways!  How foolish of me to assume I should actually see what I’m drawing.  How absurd to think that the drawing actually matters.

Imagine, in my incredulous state, that I am interviewing an artist of abstract paintings seeking to gain insights, perhaps even a glimmer of understanding.

Me: I understand that you are the founder of the arbitrary art movement.  Could you tell me how it started? 

Artist: Well, arbitrary art isn’t a movement as such.  That makes it sound too purposeful, too organised. It is more of a process.

Me: Yes I see, sorry.  Never mind, perhaps you could tell me what being an arbitrary artist involves.  How do you go about it?  How, for example, do choose your subject?

Artist: Paradoxically, I use a routine to ensure my work is arbitrary. First I use a random number generator and write down twelve numbers. The first random number tells me which page to turn to in my dictionary.  The second number tells me which word on that page to note down.  The third number indicates the next page to turn to in the dictionary, the fourth number the word on that page and so on.  This gives me six arbitrary words. I then roll a dice and allow it, not me, to decide which word will be the subject of the painting.

Me:  That’s amazing. But suppose you finish up with a really awkward word like amanuensis or psephology.  Are you ever tempted to cheat and find a more convenient word?

Artist: Absolutely not!  Any intervention from me would completely destroy randomness. It is essential that the subject is arrived at arbitrarily – the medium too.

Me:  (flabbergasted) You choose the medium randomly too?

Artist: Absolutely. A roll of the dice decides whether it will be on paper, canvas, plaster, a nearby wall and so on.  And another roll of the dice decides between oils, watercolour, egg tempera, pastels, mixed media and so on. The whole thing is arbitrary from start to finish.

Me:  This is quite extraordinary. It never occurred to me to go about it in such a care free way.  What about the actual act of painting, is that arbitrary too? 

Artist:  Pretty well. I wear spectacles with thick lenses that makes everything really fuzzy so that I can’t see what I’m doing. If I could see the painting it might influence my mark making and that would never do. I also use the dice to decide when the painting is finished.  1 means carry on, 2 turn the painting upside down and carry on, 3 rub the painting face down in mud then stop, 4 put the painting under a hot shower, 5 destroy the painting and start again, 6 stop it is done.  The roll of the dice decides.

Me:  Well, this has certainly given me food for thought.  Many thanks for taking time out to see me. I know you don’t usually give interviews.

Artist: Yes, I can’t pretend it hasn’t been an annoying interruption, but you see the dice said I should subject myself to an interview, so I had no choice.

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