…way back in 1986, I decided to become a full time artist (painter). At least painting full time when it was possible. My self imposed rule #1 – was “to live for Art, and not live off Art.” – which sort of boxed me in, as I still needed to earn a living. This I did by working in a variety of jobs, writing articles and catalogues and selling the occasional canvas to interested parties, or taking on commissions, but only when someone asked me.
Somehow, years later, I found myself ensconced on island called Aegina. The island is close to Piraeus (19 kilometers) and thus Athens, where I could buy (piecemeal) oil paint, when I had the money, for Art supplies that is. It was here that I confronted the age old enemy of creatives – Ego – And it was here that I defeated it, albeit with the help of an invisible helping hand, which many people call their God. Unlike my home in Northern Europe, the Greek belief system was strong, and it would be unnatural for any creative not to absorb the atmosphere that surrounds them. The outcome was work which, up to then, I had never envisaged painting. This was linked to an incident, one that is too long to explain here, but let me just say, a miracle occurred that saved my life.
Time passed and my collection of paintings grew. Eventually I met my future wife, on another island, where I had accepted a commission to paint ‘Walls’ for a Greek friend who was setting up a ‘Rock and Roll cafe on Anti-Paros, a very small island in the Cyclandic’s. This chance meeting led to a Gallery exhibition in Stockholm (1995) and another one in the same year, before I knew where I was I had several shows, created a ‘radical’ group of mixed media Artists and curated, designed and participated in three major exhibitions, one of which was a commissioned [non paying] job for the Swedish Government Estonia Trust Fund and the International Support Group, that one took over four years to complete [sic: Heart 2 Art- Stockholm January 2002]. And all the time, keeping to my #1 artists rule, I was earning a living doing other things [in the UK] remotely or directly.
Almost twenty years later, and now an artist in the Grey hair sector, I and my wife could scrape together enough time and money to spend a month on Aegina [July 2018]. And, as luck would have it, we were able to take my ‘Greek-Niece’ up on her kind offer to stay at her family home – which just happens to be above my old studio from all those decades ago. Hence the ‘time travel’ headline of this post.
The studio had not been lived in or attended to for some years (my niece no longer lives there) And nature had began to take the place over. I resolved to spend the cooler mornings and late evenings bringing the place into ship shape. Mainly because I couldn’t bare to see it in that condition, and I wanted to ‘feel’ what I felt when I was a much younger artist, how I’d grown and developed in comparison, which was insightful. I recalled every single canvas I had painted there, in that place, the struggles, the ecstasy of a breakthrough and the disappointment of failure. I remembered the people, those characters who became more than close friends, now most of them, passed to the other side. At the back of the house I found my white plastic chair, and another for visitors, who would sit with me to discuss the painting I would have been currently working on.
I was time travelling, inside my mind, as I doggedly swept and moped, and swept and moped again and fought the weeds that had embedded themselves in ever crack and cranny. My human form bled salty water from every pore in its body, to cool itself down, but my mind was far to busy ‘travelling back in time’ to take any heed or warning to rest up and drink water.
At the end of all this, my voyage ended with a realisation of what I had actually achieved in Art per se, despite my rule #1, or because of it – And a truly personal sadness, that I could not share with them, that their high expectations, ones they were convinced that I could achieve in Art, had been.
So, ‘Time Travel’ is not easy – for many reasons – but I am sure it’s a trip everyone takes at some point in their life, the good, the bad, the tears the happiness. That’s what it’s all about, isn’t it?
posted and written by Denis Taylor. Artist and Writer.