Hands Up if You Get Lonely or Sometimes Lonely / Artists Through history Who have Dealt with Personal Anguish

Essay by Luke Foster

“Loneliness is the poverty of self; solitude is the richness of self.”

 May Sarton

At high school at Saint Augustine’s College in Sydney I was top of the art class most of the time but my high school major works were made with a colourful array of crayons and were about anguish, the inevitability of death and reaching out to a lost childhood: but they were horribly ugly and kitsch.

But it was at art school that I discovered a lot of art that was an avenue of release from the artist’s personal anguish. Their work helped me come to grips with my own anguish and give me hope and helped me develop my own artistic voice.

They include Dianne Arbus, Edvard Munch, Joseph Beuys, Mike Kelley, Frida Kahlo, Julie Doucet, Raymond Pettibon, Bruce Nauman, Antonin Artaud and Louise Bourgeois.

I wanted to write about all these artists in detail but that would make the essay to long so I shall pick two female artists and two male artists and write about how they influenced me and why they captivated me.

Julie Doucet is an alternative comic book artists from Canada and her drawings are amazing dealing with her female identity, and dreams in a humorous way.

“It’s not because I’m lucky. I work very hard.”

Julie Doucet

Julie Doucet’s comic book My New York Diary

Dianne Arbus was an American photographer whose photos are mesmerising.

Dianne Arbus

“I work from awkwardness. By that I mean I don’t like to arrange things. If I stand in front of something, instead of arranging it, I arrange myself.”

 Diane Arbus

This is my favourite Arbus photo child with toy hand grenade

When it comes to favourite male artists from art school days Mike Kelley captivated me and my friends. There is a fantastic book about him called Catholic Tastes.

“I think what I make is beautiful. I think it’s beautiful because terms and divisions between terms are confused, and divisions between categories start to slip. That produces what I think of as a sublime effect, or it produces humour.”

Mike Kelley

UP CLOSE Mike Kelley

Another of my favourite male artists that I discovered at art school was the German artist Joseph Beuys who tried to heal Germany after the second world war using materials such as fat and felt as metaphors for healing.

“Let’s talk of a system that transforms all the social organisms into a work of art, in which the entire process of work is included… something in which the principle of production and consumption takes on a form of quality. It’s a Gigantic project.”

 Joseph Beuys

How to Explain Pictures to a Dead Hare (German: Wie man dem toten Hasen die Bilder erklärt) is a performance piece staged by the German artist Joseph Beuys on 26 November 1965 at the Galerie Schmela in Düsseldorf.
Joseph Beuys 100th birthday

In conclusion these artists made a huge impact on me and my art and life during art school and the years after art school even though each of their art work styles and approaches were very different. The way they approached dealing with anguish and their place in the world in its complex forms was why their art mesmerised me.

This drawing was from second year at art school sketchbook and is a playful collage
This is a self portrait from my second year art school sketchbook 
Lazy days at COFA a art school in Sydney maybe 20years old
Me and Nick two years before his fatal accident on a surfing holiday at Byron Bay with my parents