Humanising Conceptual Art

Essay by Luke Foster

“In the studio, I don’t do a lot of work that requires repetitive activity. I spend a lot of time looking and thinking and then try to find the most efficient way to get what I want, whether it’s making a drawing or a sculpture, or casting plaster or whatever.”

 Bruce Nauman

Bruce Nauman neon

A lot of visual artists I like are sort of conceptual intuitive artists which is sometimes a bit hard to comprehend for the lay person to contemporary art.

The best conceptual art is humanised so a sort of intuition is crossed over with deep logical investigation.

My favourite artists who fall into this category include: Bruce Nauman, Joseph Beuys, Anish Kapoor, Louise Bourgeois, Cindy Sherman and Katthy Cavaliere.

Katthy Cavaliere retrospective

Katthy passed away a few years back but she was a immensely talented conceptual/ performance artist. She was also a dear friend and is deeply missed by her circle of friends.

One of my favourite artists dating back to art school is the Indian born English artists Anish Kapoor whose drawings and sculptures are deeply spiritual.

“A work will only have deep resonance if the kind of darkness I can generate is something that is resident in me already.”

Anish Kapoor

Early Anish Kapoor sculptures

Cindy Shermans staged photos have not influenced my staged photos directly but they interest me deeply as they examine how identity is manufactured.

“Everyone thinks these are self-portraits but they aren’t meant to be. I just use myself as a model because I know I can push myself to extremes, make each shot as ugly or goofy or silly as possible.”

 Cindy Sherman

Cindy Sherman” untitled (Marilyn Monroe) 1982

Joseph Beuys has also been a favourite artist since art school days and his drawings are immensely intuitive and sensitive but his installations and performances are very intellectual and fascinating.

“Art alone makes life possible – this is how radically I should like to formulate it. I would say that without art man is inconceivable in physiological terms… I would say man does not consist only of chemical processes, but also of metaphysical occurrences. The provocateur of the chemical processes is located outside the world. Man is only truly alive when he realizes he is a creative, artistic being… Even the act of peeling a potato can be a work of art if it is a conscious act.” 

― Joseph Beuys

Joseph Beuys The Pack 1969

Louise Bourgeois was a French American artist and I look forward to seeing her retrospective at the Art Gallery of New South Whales opening soon. Her work seems to mainly deal with coping with emotional trauma.

“I know that when I finish a drawing, my anxiety level decreases. The realistic drawings are a way of pinning down an idea. I don’t want to lose it. With the abstract drawings, when I’m feeling loose, I can slip into the unconscious.”

 Louise Bourgeois

Louise Bourgeois: An Unfolding Portrait.

In conclusion my art has been deeply influenced by the artists in this essay and many others. I feel conceptual art can work on a healing personal level for themselves and the world around them.

My recent hand drawn t-shirt project more intuitive than conceptual.