I recently read about Andre Breton’s ambivalence toward painting, which is surprising since he is in the vanguard of Surrealist thought and theory. Breton writes that painting is a “lamentable expedient in the service of the revolution.” This attitude, that making art is a chore, saddens me. Breton only sees the end result, the art object and not the process, as worthy of consideration. This attitude strips the importance of loving the process of making art out of the equation.
Nathan Coley is one artist who seems to hate the process of making art. The 2007 Turner Prize nominee described his working process for The Lamp of Sacrifice, 286 Place of Worship, Edinburgh (2004) as “there was nothing beautiful or exciting about it. After two weeks it became total drudgery.” For The Lamp of Sacrifice, Coley constructed miniatures of all the places of worship in Edinburgh, Scotland, not out of fascination, love, or reverence, but to inquire into the “insidious hold religion holds on our society.” Even anger would have been an acceptable emotion, as anger with something at least proves that you must love something else in equal measure. It is possible to construct a critical work of art and still love the art making process, but I don’t believe Coley truly likes making art, and this is where I think he errors. If you hate making art, I suggest you stop being an artist. We don’t need you. There are plenty of people who like making art who will gladly take your place. When you approach the art making process without love in your heart, it ends up reflecting in the work. I see it too often in contemporary art practices . . . cold, intellectual investigations made without love.
Below are some of Nathan Coley's cold, intellectual investigations, made without love.