Blog #4: Arts Publishing in Melbourne: A Review

Seventh Gallery Conversation Series: Art and Publishing.
In Conversation with Eugenia Lim and Trent Walter.
27th February 2018. Seventh Gallery, Melbourne.

The Conversation Series at Seventh Gallery aims to create a platform for critical discussion of the contemporary arts and broader concerns in the arts industry.

Career Arcs: Arts and Publishing brought together two Melbourne based artists to discuss how their career paths, or alternate trajectories, have been impacted by where the arts practice meets publishing.

Eugenia and Trent talked about their career paths, their opinions on art practice and the arts industry. Unfortunately I found the event didn't have that much to say on the publishing industry, and while it was touched on briefly with each artist, the focus was on a general arts career and practice. But I thoroughly enjoyed the discussions of an art career, identity as an artist and the reality of being a working artist.

The event began by discussing how each artist views their practice, and how their identity is tied up in the process of creating. Two key factors were identity as an artist and the definition of success.

Identity:

A career in the arts is often one fraught with uncertainty. Being an artist often becomes a central factor to someone's worldview and their sense of self. BUT: the art school -> artist run space -> commercial success trajectory? Rarely happens.

Working in the arts requires creativity in a whole different sense of the word. You need to learn to apply your skills as a 'jack of all trades' and you need to HUSTLE. You never stop working. 

Trent spoke of his broad experience working as a Senior Printer in Singapore and how he views the importance of moving through aesthetic styles. In art school, he says, it's easy to feel the need to acquire a particular 'style' to define your identity as an artist. 

"Don't subscribe to finding your 'thing.' Try everything and fail." 

But this focus on establishing a style or an identity as an artist ignores the creative need for exploration and the way that an individual style will naturally change and develop over time. Discovering your artistic identity is an ongoing process. The key lesson from this conversation was about accepting and exploring the process and be willing to 

Success:

The discussion centered on the idea that the key to being a successful artist is having your own definition of success. 
Some people want huge commercial sales and international renown, while others might want to focus their practice on the making and the processes. 

Eugenia spoke of balancing the financial and emotional well-being of artists. As an artist working with video, performance and installation her projects will start with an idea and become a problem solving process. 

"Focus your energy on the actual practice and the making, not everything around it."

Defining success is a major factor for all artists, and I feel is a challenge that faces the younger generations broadly. Artists are expected to have significant online followings, young people are expected to be successful before they even know what they want in life. Success if often equated with money, salary or materiality. Art can teach us to focus on creativity, adventure and challenge our perceptions of what is around us. In establishing your own ways to measure what success means to you, enables you to break from the expectations of others, and to avoid comparing yourself to others. 

 The Publishing Element of the conversation talked briefly about the role of archives, digitisation and accessibility. Comparing print documentation to digital archives highlights how access to material can have significant advantages, but Trent acknowledged that any sort of technology trouble can cause instant loss. While both Trent and Eugenia are involved in publishing projects and have been involved in the publishing industry over the years, they unfortunately didn't explore this experience in any great detail. 


I highly recommend the Seventh Gallery Conversation Series as an opportunity to explore new ideas, meet people and of course, interact with some great art. Find out more about Seventh Gallery here.

Eugenia Lim is an Australian based artist who works across video, performance and installation. Find out more here.

Trent Walter is an artist, printer and publisher interested in the intersection of contemporary art and printed matter. Find out more here.