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Artist’s conundrum

12 Jul 2019
Not one to take the path well travelled Teresa HR Lane kicks dust in the face of some common tropes.

‘you’ve chosen this privileged path as an artist’

That art is somehow beyond the lowly conversation of dirty money, but rather it is on some higher conceptual plane, is a bizarre concept. But one I sensed early on in my studies at Elam and I wondered why aren’t institutions upfront? Acknowledging being an artist is not a dark art, but a seriously rewarding professional career with diverse opportunities. I often questioned the validity of my fine arts degree because it seriously lacks any business acumen.

Six years on...  Some weeks I feel as if it’s a strange movie where I work at a job six days a week 12 hours a day, and I say to the boss at the end of the working week, ‘oh no, don’t pay me, there’s really no need, but here let me pay you for the privilege to sit on this chair and use this paper’. 

Due to the economics of this situation I learned to be resourceful and innovative. I was unable to justify expensive art supplies so I started painting on recycled plywood, by chance I discovered collage. A free material, teeming with information, rich in colours and textures beyond my dreams, all of which informed my thinking and built a provoking practice described as ‘painting with paper and drawing with scissors’.

Teresa, photo by Teresa HR Lane.

‘you’re brave being an artist, and lucky to find your calling’.

Looking back, I remember my heart bursting with pride, somehow I’d moved into this extraordinary place of creative enlightenment, especially after finding my ‘calling’.  Reality eventually struck and darkness clouded the golden glow of my optimism, as I stared blankly into the household budget, how do I pay bills and still find the money to produce this art that makes me so brave and so bold. 

‘you will never sell this dick art’

To complicate things, I make art about dicks and flesh and bodies and phallic things that all makes us all feel rather uncomfortable. (people love giving advice & opinions) ‘no one wants a dick on the wall’, ‘women’s bodies are far more saleable’, ‘this is amazing, captivating and thought provoking, but it will never sell’ The heart sinks deeper deflating the eternal skies of my optimism.

Cows 2019, I've Hidden Your Knickers Under Here (where the boys won't see). Photo by Sait Akkirman.

‘artists are long suffering’

Artists don't suffer because of art, they are simply challenged because they are juggling earning a living wage whilst making art. Note to self you can sleep when you are dead. I work out of Akepiro Studios, with 14 artists.  Not one artist survives solely on the arts. They’d like to, but they just can’t, all of us are wanting a viable balance between input and return that does not eat into creative making time.  But let’s not forget with all that struggle we do have much to be proud of, art made by an artist’s hand, is a very unique quality in the age of mass production.

(if you succeed financially) ‘you are a sell out’

Reading the ongoing debates of Creative NZ’s support of the arts and the scrabble for more or less money and I love this latest positive spin from the UK Guardian - ‘Arts and culture has overtaken agriculture in terms of its contribution to the UK economy, '

Let’s get real, money is important to the arts, and we can make this work, so why at University do art students still feel like money and success is the elephant in the room.  Let's talk about this; cost vs time + happiness = return, let's understand materials, operations, logistics, commodification and the artist as a brand is your business.   

Time to stop pretending money and art don’t mix. How can it be possible to be a commercially successful artist sparkling with pride and happiness, whilst still delivering what you believe in, be it lines, phalluses or flowers?

Delight 2019, Oh My, God. Photo by Sait Akkirman.

You can read more about Teresa HR Lane’s work on