Roz.hovory R na Radikále


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Rozhovor třetí - s Michaelem Murphenkem, australským malířem, autorem úchvatných obrazů.

Originální verze, začátek rozhovoru je dole na konci stránky. Anglicky nemluvícím se omlouváme.

R6.9.2005.07:02Thank you very much for your time and questions Michael.

Michael5.9.2005.16:11You are Australian but you married Ukrainian woman and recently live in Ukraine. How would you describe Slavs Spirit? How is life there? And have you ever been in deeper contact with Aborigines? Slav spirit... Ukrainians are very strong believers in family and ideals. The extended family communicate a lot, almost everyday. They don’t hide things from one another and really get into some esoteric arguments. If you read Bulgakov's 'The White Guard', you can see for yourself. Even now with the new capitalist/democracy, these two dragons, family and ideals, are still the strongest parts of their spirit. It is strange for me, because I was closer to the Ukrainian youth in my attachments to money and wanting to change the world, so actually seeing the value in family and ideals caused me to change my own thinking and grow up. Their spirit is forceful and surging like a river, with lots of rapids. Also it is a spirit that appreciates the sweet, simple things in life. Really appreciates them. Life - life was a lot harder when I first came here eight years ago. I live in the capital, Kyiv, and it is very much like a European capital, and is growing all the time. People are less satisfied than they were eight years ago, which is normal. They have reached a stage where they want to buy their dreams today. I was surprised when I was in Rome and saw how difficult it is to get internet access and stores that are open late at night, things that I take for granted here. Here in Ukraine, there is a lot of activity, with people trying to get things moving in art and commerce, so it is exciting. I didn't have contact with 'traditional' Aborigines, except for school where there were visits from traditional Aborigines who explain their culture. The contacts with 'urban' aborigines (the ones that lived in the same city that I did) are rawer - with people having to face emotional exchanges. There is a lot of pain for Aborigines in Australia, and I think that any solution will have to be simple and brutal and would involve the transformation of Australian society. I think that transformation is happening, due to the influence of Asia, but it may take another decade or so.

Michael5.9.2005.16:07Do you draw together with your children? Would you ever exhibit in some gallery these common energies? I resisted drawing with my children, which I now realize was a mistake. It was painful because it is simpler to paint yourself and not be forced to go to places where you are helpless. But for my daughter drawing and painting is simply lots of fun and she wants to have fun with her parents, so we have drawn together, especially lately. Children have stronger visual senses than adults, because they rely on these senses more than we do, so their art is often stronger. It is a challenge for an adult to accept the child’s thoughts because you have to give up your authority and also reawaken the child within you while being a good parent. However, like all challenges, you grow and become more powerful. When I create an exhibition, I select the works that will full express the exhibition, even though I sometimes have to leave out very strong paintings. When I would exhibit with other members of my family, their works would also have to do this. It is easier for me to exhibit with my children than to draw together with them.

Michael5.9.2005.16:052) would you say that each artist's break of barriers should be called spiritual painting? In Business Management, these days they are talking about Spirituality. They say they are not talking about religion, but about a need in people that is not being fulfilled, leaves them empty and therefore affects their work. If Art is a part of our lives, not just artist’s lives, then it cannot censor itself from this question of our times. The spiritual crisis in art is the same as it has always been. Breaking barriers is a spiritual action, perhaps the only spiritual action, so when an artist breaks their own it often is a spiritual painting. But the strength of the barrier is also a factor. Breaking little barriers, playing it safe, creates little artworks. Personally, when I use the word Spiritual, I mean big artworks, ones that hit you. A painting of flowers can hit you, so it doesn’t depend on subject matter, despite what critics say, but it does depend on the artist. Joseph Campbell says that the hero brings back a treasure from the unknown and the world then rationalizes it and fights against it until it is digested and forgotten. That treasure is Spiritual, not of this world but needed by it, even though it doesn’t want it. So many spiritual or Real artworks are not accepted in their time, until they are digested. You have to create what you know is needed and put all your intelligence and energy to accomplish this in its purest form. I was thinking why people avoid dirt and obviously began to think why do I avoid dirt? I often think why should I get dirty? Dealing with it takes time and energy away from getting material benefits, or achieving my aims. But I think you can only experience life by being open, and to keep being open, you have to deal with dirt as it comes to you, not avoid it and not seek it until you are ready. That is on an individual level. On a group level, I think that we now have to face the challenge of our era, which is the psychological and environmental consequences of the 20th Century – loss of energy supplies, loss of environmental balance, hunger for a Utopia, and each of us trying to achieve our Sense of life. We will only have the tools and limitations of the 20th Century to find answers to these problems. That means we have to go beyond the sum of our material strengths and use some sort of spiritual force to succeed. This is probably the main reason for the Spiritual Crisis in Art that has been gathering for at least the last decade.

Michael5.9.2005.15:531) Do you practice some spiritual technique in touch with painting? (e.g. meditation before creation) How does it look like? My technique of Spirituality is to be clear – so I simply have to let go of defenses/excuses (no time, getting upset at life, accepting false views etc.), and do the work without holding back. Let the work itself live with me rather than me trying to drown it out. To create art, to make something that makes people human again, I need to be open to the world and to be happy and grateful that I live in it. Without that, I really cannot create anything worthwhile. When I have defenses against the humiliation and pain that is essential to making art, I get caught in a whirlpool, like Odysseus and the whirlpool Charybdis. It took me years to understand that these influences were pulling me away from doing Real things. Open means understanding the world is brutal, strange and beautiful and to take part in life I must be myself – be a tiger and create in the same brutal and beautiful manner. I have to laugh in order to be an artist, that is my meditation. I do my thinking before the painting – what feeling/subject/goal I have, but it is like any plan and falls apart as soon as I start. A lot of my best work is painted very quickly. While painting, I am blank. I think that means that I meditate while painting. The action is really fast and physical, like an athlete in sports – you get one chance and commit yourself fully. Many paintings are realized at that moment and when I come back to them days later, they look good. Others need to evolve, they need more refinement. The bad ones are a mess and I have to sit back and look at them to see what can be done. Usually it is something very simple missing that once it is put in the painting flies. To sum up – to create art you have to laugh and accept humiliation, this is my meditation. However, I still resist this and then disaster hits me.

R14.6.2005.10:28Allright - I'm back&ready. Back to the question of spirituality: 1) Do you practice some spiritual technique in touch with painting? (e.g. meditation before creation) How does it look like? About the question of spirituality as "up to date" theme - 2) would you say that each artist's break of barriers should be called spiritual painting? I want to force you to describe spiritual crisis in contemporary painting - do you think there is something like that? (=3) Maybe we are close to this desription in your last answer ("However, most people want to avoid dirt.") 4) Do you draw together with your children? Would you ever exhibit in some gallery these common energies? And 5): You are Australian but you married Ukrainian woman and recently live in Ukraine. How would you describe Slavs Spirit? How is life there? And have you ever been in deeper contact with Aborigines? Thank you!

Michael3.6.2005.14:21How do you work with form of your paintings to eliminate to make illustrations or kitch? When I create something it is in its most powerful and true form – I am committed to the full realization of this energy/emotion/idea. Kitsch and illustrations don’t do this, they try to please at any cost. They are missing the strangeness that artists bring back into the world. As long as I am committed to expressing real truths, then I don’t have to worry about kitsch. These questions are difficult because I feel they are two sided. From art-school, I know spirituality means religion or naïve stupidity or mystic mumbo jumbo. And kitsch is simply bad taste based on subject matter. I don’t see them that way. I think that you need to get straight to the heart of any question or problem. You need to get your hands dirty sometimes. However, most people want to avoid dirt. Most decisions are made on avoiding or delaying dealing with dirt in our lives. If you want to truly live, you have to jump in.

Michael3.6.2005.14:21Have you got some problems for example on the University in Brussel while your study with this orientation? Any school is about power, politics and emotions. Authority’s only power is the power to say no. So, you have to do things that make them want to say yes, even if it is a lie, irrelevant, or the opposite of what they themselves are telling you. And there are a lot of things like teacher’s own likes and dislikes that have a major bearing on how you are treated. I remember one teacher telling me that I was not at school to become an artist but simply to get the degree. But school is its own self contained world and really has no bearing on the rest of life. Afterwards you move on to other areas and take the rewards and consequences of your own decisions.

Michael3.6.2005.14:20Is it actual (up to date) today to be "authentic" or give some spiritual messages to art? Yes. Each artist goes past their own barriers into something unknowable and brings back what they have found. Lately artists are able to talk about their work and their working without having to use the jargon which gives us a purer sense of what they are doing. The up to date part is not interesting for me, because it changes so quickly and makes no real sense.

Michael3.6.2005.14:19Hi. My first message got eaten. Sorry about the delay. My computer wasn't connected for a week. Can you say that you are spiritual painter? I don’t believe in one word that can sum up what someone does. I do know that my work is about the experiencing life.

Michael3.6.2005.14:19How could you specify "spirituality"? My idea of spirituality is that it is simply the recognition of the energies that make up the universe and various ways that we see how they affect us. Life’s energies have their own behaviours, which are similar to each other but not identical. Those energies are integral to human beings but also to the universe (which is not a human like thing). Spirituality is being attuned to those different energies and understanding them in order to realize your life.

Radikála20.5.2005.10:05Hi Michael. This is a way how to make an interview. How are you these days?

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