Titles are contradictory creatures. Sometimes they push themselves forward from nowhere, fully formed, demanding an art work to complete them. Other times, art lies lonely on the table, looking good, but without a name and so their identity remains somehow shrouded.
Some artists care not about titles. Or at least they feel that Untitled is a title. Perhaps they feel the viewer needs not a title. Or should not have such assistance in interpreting the work or that a title preempts and disrupts the viewers experience. Maybe the title is terminally shy or has depression and is hiding. Maybe they simply don’t care. Viewers of art respond to titles in different ways. Some read first, others look then read. Some never read. Some write it down. Some forget.
Me, I need a title. I am at heart a wordsmith. The words and and the visuals together are the completion of my offering. That said, some series seem to demand a composite title and a numbering of the individual works. As if they want to stay together huddled under the same umbrella for comfort in their anxiety.
I understand the ‘huddling for safety’ mentality. This new series Roses are there too is an expression of my encounter with some depression and anxiety. It is not all encompassing. There are white days and grey days and over both some unexpected red jagged fears and moments of anxiety. Those ‘umbrella days’, being warm in the studio with the rain lashing against the velux window ( as it is as I write) are comforting. But also there are times of light and brightness, love and laughter and the dancing around the studio paintbrush in hand. And eventually comes also the putting down of the umbrella and the venturing out into the world, the showing of my identity, titling myself (unashamedly) as an artist experiencing this illness. The titling of the illness. Not ‘stress’ ( which is not an illness but is a trigger). Not ‘bluesiness’, or ‘ a bit down’ or ‘ fine just not in the mood’ or ‘oh, you know I’m OK,’. (Which are avoidant minimising descriptors, true though they may at moments be).
Depression and anxiety. It has a name. Like Strep throat. Like carpal tunnel syndrome. Like ‘broken leg’ or ‘migraine’ or ‘slipped disc’.
And so this series gets both titles and numbers. The numbers for safety and the name for the joy that comes with the bravery of showing your vulnerability and your brokenness and finding that the response is “We understand”, “We know”, “We have been there’, “You are OK”.
The title is borrowed – for all artists borrow in some ways – from Tschaikovsky, who wrote in Spring 1870, just after he turned thirty:
I am sitting at the open window (at four a.m.) and breathing the lovely air of a spring morning… Life is still good, [and] it is worth living on a May morning… I assert that life is beautiful in spite of everything! This “everything” includes the following items: 1. Illness; I am getting much too stout, and my nerves are all to pieces. 2. The Conservatoire oppresses me to extinction; I am more and more convinced that I am absolutely unfitted to teach the theory of music. 3. My pecuniary situation is very bad. 4. I am very doubtful if Undine will be performed. I have heard that they are likely to throw me over.
In a word, there are many thorns, but the roses are there too.