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Brand or Experimentation?

Brand or Experimentation?

The debate about whether artists should stick to one style, or experiment with different approaches to art. 

by Jo Thorne on 22nd May 2024

A gallery owner once said to me that there was nothing wrong with moving between styles. “Look at Picasso” she said, “his style changed all of the time”. Now I’ve neither the name recognition or confidence of Picasso to compare our art, but her comments left me seriously thinking about how to do that whilst not losing the consistent message you want to convey through your works. 

I’ve come to the conclusion it is about prioritising your artist’s voice over your style.

Above are two of my paintings, both of them could be argued to be completely different in style. But each of them have been painted with the exact same aim and approach - that is to use expressionist painting to convey a feeling or emotion to the viewer. 

Sometimes I feel a strong desire to take a more “realistic” approach to expressionist painting with the only abstract element being intensified colour and mark making (used to spark an emotional reaction to the depicted scene). Other times I have a strong urge to move entirely away from any reference to representational painting and want to convey my own mood, a feeling or an emotion. For example the compositions of my more abstract paintings are comparatively automatic in approach and are painted in a more meditative state, often in response to the music I am listening to. 

Ultimately my artist’s voice is about conveying our human connection to the beauty of the world around us - whether that is our connection with nature, the man made environment, visual surroundings, the noises that surround us or the feeling of the air. I aim to visually express environmental factors, ie, what I am hearing, seeing or experiencing in that particular moment, through symbolism, colour and unconscious mark making. 

Now as an artist, I am completely paranoid about whether or not moving frequently between abstract and more representational painting makes me haphazard, unfocused or naïve. I mean when I say I’m paranoid about it, what I mean is that I even went to the lengths of setting up separate Instagram pages and taking my abstract art of of my website so my art didn’t look too jumbled! 

But I am quite a hyperactive person and my thoughts and moods do frequently change. Surely my art should reflect me as a person and I should ignore the pressure of becoming distracted by creating art purely for recognition or financial gain?

Following conversations with some excellent artists last couple of group exhibitions, I’ve been seriously challenging myself on this question. Should I be painting with the same representational approach to all of my works (which so many of my customers predominately know me for), or should I be creating art that reflects my response to surrounding environmental factors at that time? 

I’ve reached the conclusion the latter is more relevant for my approach to art. I need to stop worrying about getting widely recognised and instead embrace fluidity in style. Experimentation is the most important part of the creative process. Whilst it’s important to keep focused on my “artist’s voice” it’s equally as important to continue exploring  different ways to use art as a means of connection. 

Some years back I worked as a successful jewellery designer. I loved coming up with new designs and finding new techniques. But the shops and galleries ordered the same pieces of jewellery over and over again purely because they knew they sold. I understand why, but as a result I stopped being creative and merely became a conveyer belt. Consequently I gave up making jewellery. I won’t allow that to happen to my art! 

For now I’m laser focused on a more representational approach to my subject matter, but don't be surprised when the abstracts return! 

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