Demons Dance Alone, Manuel Ocampo


As I keep practicing painting I get afflicted with this overpowering vice called creative self-indulgence. I am confronted with this great choice to paint whatever I want. It is so easy to get caught in the process, to pursue the unformed image in my head, or to follow the steps of other great painters. Because it is pleasurable most of the time I lose sight of what makes my work so different from the countless pictures in the world, hence precious time is wasted. I lose sight of the issues or what is ‘critical’ in my personal work. Being ‘critical’ or ‘criticality’ then in a work of art could mean a lot of things, depending on what I like in the work, or whatever my obsession is in making art. I think ‘criticality’ is a filtering device used to illuminate one’s ever so vague intentions. One could mean by ‘criticality’ in the work of art as changing the colors of one’s palette, or not using a brush, or not using canvas, or stretchers, in an effort to change the language of painting. One could also decide to use a conservative style in painting so as to make clear my “hot” subject matter. Or have a hot topic but with no image, or hot images with no topics, or no image and no topic, but using words, or no images, words, topics, and only invisible ideas. Anyway, you get the picture. Criticality is the intensification of the artist’s intentions. When I look at other artist’s worksI get confused by their intentions. What kind of interesting subject matter or ideas are they proposing? What stylistic or formalist innovations are they presenting? The issues of some artists though could really change one’s world. But sometimes it’s better to lose one’s issues when painting, sometimes the issues get in the way, or the issues become a system of control. Sometimes you just gotta take a leap of faith. That’s when real art happens.

Criticality in art is the illusion of disillusioning illusions. On the other hand, nobody really knows what to do with painting anymore. It’s a laughing stock with regards to academic critics and intellectuals. Therefore, the only place it could do any more value is in the open market, where the same academic critics and intellectuals who ridiculed painting ironically earns their money and reputation by reviewing them and placing them in a critical context somewhere deep in their smart ass.

I don’t think painting can be a site of criticality because in the end it is complicit with the system. Nothing wrong there, painters like Oehlen have come to terms with that. I think art objects like paintings are mere conversation pieces. It’s really all about how one can carry a dialog  (of infinite variety) with the viewer, and maybe the artist is also the viewer, and therefore the only responsibility of the artist is not be boring…We all hate lazy artists! Painting should have the strategy of a Nigger: has a big wang, incorrigibly fashionable, has a menacing presence, bad and ugly, but has a wounded soul, and definitely has a lot of chicks.