The blond young man with slicked backed hair told me he was an artist. “Another bullshit artist,” I thought; but then I had been drinking at yet another exhibition opening and when that was over moved on to the nearest bar.
I told him that I was an art critic, well, I write this blog. He claimed a vague familiarity with my work. Was he trying to get on my good side?
The artist, let’s call him that, I don’t think that he ever introduced himself, told me about the 20 years of his art practice and his thesis. Maybe I had underestimated him; he could expound on post-modern philosophy with a familiar distain. Next, I thought, he’ll want me to write about his project.
Instead the artist claimed that he was being persecuted in the popular press but I had been at the beach and hadn’t seen anything in weeks. He told me that his art practice involved destroying drawings by major Australian artists rather than creating more and there were people threatening to kill him. I looked around the bar – nobody appeared to be an art lover about to engage in psychopathic blood frenzy. I ordered another beer.
The artist pointed out the old A5 sheet of paper that he was using as a beer mat. “It is a genuine John Brack’s drawing, valued at $9,000. I’m testing its survivability in contemporary living conditions” I didn’t examine the smudges of graphite on the paper and failed to ask the artist if this was Australian or US dollars. The artist finished his beer and stuffed the now beer stained sheet of paper into his pocket.
The January weather has been capricious, rain was threatening. It was like winter. Next the artist took me into the laneway. We sheltered in a doorway and he pulled out a thin rolled paper artefact that he claimed was “a marijuana joint”. He also claimed that the cardboard “filter” was torn from Ricky Swallow drawing. I don’t know about either but I didn’t get high from smoking it.
The artist appeared to have got very high and was raving about Robert Rauschenberg erasing de Kooning. Quoting from Penny Rimbaud of CRASS on how to destroy art and the Futurists he had somehow got on to the symbolic castration of the father figure. Then he wanted to show me photographs on his cell phone of a Brett Whitely that he had showed up his ass and set on fire for his Masters. I declined, pointing out that I didn’t have my reading glasses with me and the screen was too small to make anything out.
January in Melbourne is full of strange art stories you can’t believe them all. Exhibitions of toddler’s paintings, the Prime Minister’s collection of photocopies of her breasts stolen by members of the opposition party and Dennis Hopper eating Sidney Nolan drawings for breakfast.