I read an interview with Grayson Perry, where he said, “It’s one of my deep fears that I might become fashionable. All that means is that you are on the verge of being unfashionable.”
I remember when it used to be clothes that went out of fashion very quickly, but it’s absolutely everything now. There was a time when you’d buy some furniture, fully expecting to keep it for years, but now, heaven help you if your new sofa’s covered in amethyst linen – everyone knows it’s taupe barkcloth now. And what about bathrooms? Limestone mosaic is so last year, darling….
An artist colleague of mine got taken on by a very good gallery and immediately started selling amazingly well – so much so that she couldn’t keep up with the demand. Then within a relatively short time, the sales just dried up. Her work was still stunning – so why? Well, her background was in fabric design, she absolutely devoured lifestyle magazines and once supplied Ikea with some of her images for reproduction – her work just hit the zeitgeist. Then the world moved on, she was devastated, got dropped by the gallery and never really recovered confidence in her work….
Another artist I know has a similar approach – good sales for her are a validation of her work and she will focus very strongly on current trends to facilitate this. Somehow though, she manages to move with the times as she’s very inventive and resourceful. But oh, what a stressful way of working – she’s forever having to think up new subjects and colour combinations – windmills, artichokes, turtles, you name it, she’s done it.
So what happens to those ordinary artists who quietly develop their own visual language over the years and then one day wake up to discover that their work has just become the latest thing? I should be so lucky, you might think – but what happens when fashions change? Do you sigh and quietly get back to work? Well yes, of course you do, but unfortunately your work now looks curiously dated and you’re left feeling very frustrated that no-one seems interested anymore.
I guess the ideal is a slow but steady career progression, with time to make mistakes and to learn your craft. I fully intend to go on working until the day I die – or until I win the lottery, I haven’t quite decided yet.