Being a Painter

Conor Collins

Conor Collins is an expressionist painter, Opera singer, actor and former Southern England Irish Dance champion. He has recently completed his undergraduate at the Royal Northern College of Music and has had his art shortlisted for the Outside in National Art Prize as well as the Saatchi Showdown 2011 drawing prize. Follow @Conartworks

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Painting was never a natural process for me. It took years of learning that I was hideously crap when attempting different styles of art, to discover that I was at least passable at one of them. I started with acrylic and embarked on a portrait of my first love, a love which tore me in two with such power of emotion that screaming simply couldn’t express it alone… Nevertheless, my artistic attempts, and there were many, made him look like he was passing a stool so painful, one of those you end up holding onto the sink for dear life over whilst sobbing. I tried water colour landscapes, but quickly said ‘sod it’ to nature because, unlike people, nature doesn’t give a shit when you paint it. I tried sculpture, but could never create a nude with a bum good enough to slap. Therefore they were utter failures. Thus I eventually came to ink, at which point, I discovered, I could paint. I could actually paint. Hurrah.

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My first creation was 3 or 4 summers ago, a pretty fabulous endeavour to paint the porn star Tommy Anders as an angel. Why I did this is a subject for another article, but in short, it worked. The only problem though was that it worked too well. Painting, in a matter of minutes, became my friend, my love, my mistress and a particularly good bacon sandwich all at once. I couldn’t stop. I painted all throughout all that day, much of that week, the majority of that year and haven’t stopped since.

It was through working relentlessly and constantly being utterly obsessed by my own art, immensely egocentric as that may be, that I was shortlisted for 2 art prizes and have since come to be exhibited in Pallant House, Kraak Gallery, Curious Duke Gallery, Manchester Buy Art fair, as well as Cloud galleries in Chester and Worthing, and in a matter of weeks, as it’s currently in the possession of Armani Press office, will have a painting in the hands of the Billionaire Giorgio Armani. My art even seems to be in such demand that one was stolen from where it was hanging just 2 months ago. The only art piece to be stolen in that venue I might add. You may, dear reader, therefore think that I have made it, earned a pretty penny and can now live off my art.

 

Can I bugger.

 

thinkingmI haven’t made a penny from my art in about 3 years. The last one which actually DID sell you would think that it would be too monstrous to buy in the first place. The reason being its composition: Paint, Paper, torn train tickets, Ink, Cows Blood, and my blood (my blood wasn’t really intentional, those of you who know me will know that I am chronically clumsy and managed to mangle my hand opening a bottle of red while painting). That commission made me a handsome £300 for two paintings, however, these paintings took around a month to make. So if I divide that up into days I made around a tenner a day from them. Not the best income some might say.

But listen to me whine! Quite pathetic really. But forgive me for a moment as I am really not looking for sympathy. I can completely understand why my art isn’t selling. I utterly recognise and come to expect that my art is not to be universally enjoyed. This is because my paintings are most commonly centred around the nude male. A subject, described by the Emirate’s Art Prize in direct reference to my paintings as ‘Culturally Inappropriate’. That was a new one to me. as Art being described as Culturally Inappropriate is like music being described as ‘tonally questionable’. However, that said, I can completely understand how a country that can fine you $275 for drinking water in public isn’t really ready for a modernist painting of a beautiful boy baring all.

Especially when the artist is gay.

And the model is gay.

And so is his boyfriend.

Well… now he is.

But cultural clichés aside, why are people afraid to buy a painting of a nude male? Even the gay market is not ready to buy out of fear that their apartment may then appear s ‘too gay’. Would a nude woman make a flat seem too lesbian? No. Unless it was a nude of Rosie O’Donnell, then I can somewhat understand…

The male nude is nothing new to anyone. It has provided the muse for civilisation, a source of pride, envy, intrigue, titillation and serenity throughout the ages.  You just need to have a quick browse through old art books, hell, even google images, to find the utter centrality of the nude male body buried within the artistic impulse. Nude males litter art from Ancient Egypt and Classical sculpture through to more recent icons such as Rodin and Henry Moore. I myself, for the sake of my bank balance, am praying for a revival and for everyone to just get over the stormy relationship we foster between nudity, taste and scandal. I do believe we are on the cusp of one. The male nude is now on posters, he is on stage, he even has after shave bottles in the shape of him.

 

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However, society is still not ready for the contemporary male nude in art. Only recently the world famous Leopold Museum received so many complains about photographs of 3 nude footballers exhibited by the French artist Pierre et Gilles, that it had been forced to take action. It had to put a red band over the intimate regions of the footballers. Unbelievable.  Vienna is full of posters of naked or semi-naked women as well as being known for its relaxed approach to nudity, saturated as it is with mixed saunas and its liberal ethos in general. So why oh why did the nude male posters cause such outrage?

Oh listen to me. I’m getting worked up again. Calm down Conor.

I can only suspect, (and this is mere speculation so please do not think I am presenting this as researched opinion), that much of the problem lies in how we as consumers have become so habitually used to advertising. We are used to seeing naked women because they are seen as objects of desire in adverts, in magazines, and on TV. They tempt us to buy cars, shavers, beer and holidays. However, with a naked man people just seem to see a big wobbly penis. A female nude can be seen as vulnerable and delicate and therefore offers no threat to the beholder, in fact they almost invite it. The ‘dominant’ and ‘powerful’ nude male on the other hand still holds truth even in the altogether, and threatens the observer with its audacity. Threatening nude=threatening art.

This is why I created my Greek poses triptych. 3 paintings of the modern man. I wanted to show that the stereotype of the great hunter-gatherer and warrior is outdated, clichéd and fundamentally false. The thinking man can spend the majority of his day checking his twitter. Perseus shall not hold high the head of Medusa, but instead gain his spoils from Tesco before doing a spot of hovering before his girl/boy/undecided comes round. The discus thrower no longer needs sporting prowess to impress those around him, now that we have designer clothes all you need is a label.

Talking about art, even my art, is utterly fruitless. It’s up to you dear reader to decide what you think. I, nor anyone else can not tell you if my paintings are good or bad. However, I can tell you that the nude male, my muse and inspiration is beautiful. I will continue to paint him no matter how many red bands they threaten me with.

And to all those who say I’m daft for painting men, wrong for painting men, cheap for painting men or ‘obsessed by sex’ by painting men I say the same thing I have said in my head for years to you. A Wilde like quote that keeps me going on tough days and tougher nights.

‘Fuck off, I’m marvelous’

 

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