Never Encountering True Egolessness
“I wouldn’t give up all those negative experiences because by contrast they make the good moments monumentally blissful. Love and strife. Without the experience of loneliness and rejection, praise and company wouldn’t be very special at all.”
Introduction by Adria Leeper-Sullivan
Interview by Theo Constantinou
Ebenezer Archer Kling creates paintings, sketches, and films that are otherworldly. Colors are mixed with exceptional contrasts, they are placed on the page with varying texture, and patterns combine to form scenes that are familiar, but left to the whims of the imagination when coming to life. His ideas are direct, when writing it seems he is following a straight line, but it is the peripheries and the always thinking mind that are where his genius burrows. The purpose not only of every artist, but of any living being, is to find what they can do like no one else. Specialty is individual, and individuality comes with origin, but it is easy to let one’s self slip away with so many uniformed temptations obstructing the real world. If you, the reader, can walk away with one goal or lesson after listening to this unique craftsman it is to develop a true character, and not to sell yourself in a false light. Respect will come to those who can form a path with honorable intention.
I just read this piece by Glenn O’Brien called How to Be an Artist, in which he says:
“When I think about the offerings at Art Basel it seems that more and more the artists are trying to serve their audience almost the same way as other industries. You would almost suspect the artists of having conducted market research and focus groups among the collecting demographic to arrive at their “style.” I know that’s cynical, and it’s not going to put meoff art. In fact the more I thought about the strange art boom in the midst of global financial meltdown it made me think that maybe we have missed the point entirely. Okay, art is all about money. So what? Do you think Caravaggio was about Christianity. Art has always been about value. The value of art is based on faith. So is the value of money. But art seems to offer more evidence of its worth than dollars or euros. At least you can enjoy looking at it, and make some worthwhile independent appraisal of its quality. Maybe it’s time for a new currency, one that isn’t an unlimited edition, like the dollar or euro, but consisting of originals, or at least of limited editions. Imagine a Tom Sachs dollar, edition of…say 10,000. Doesn’t that that sound better than the usual? How about a Warhol dollar?”
It made me think, why not base the whole financial system on art. Let’s have our currency backed by something more than faith in the idiots who’ve been failing for decades. Let’s have a Federal Art Reserve backing the buck. The big business guys wouldn’t have to worry all that much about regulation, and the government reserves could be held in fantastic museums. It might be a house of cards, sure, but a more interesting one than what we have now. Why should Germany bail out Greece? Maybe Damien Hirst can do it.
Do you agree that we should based the whole financial system on art and more so what are you thoughts on the art community tailoring their works to their buyers?
I don’t think we should base the whole financial system on art. I’d prefer a bartering system. As far as the community tailoring their art to buyers, I’ve personally never felt great about it. In certain industries it’s necessary however. Working an illustration gig or doing my long term in-house projects overseen by an art director you have to make revisions or you’ll lose your job. This however is different than trying to satisfy the expectations of some critic so they will grant you a good review thus selling your work for you. This to me is shameless and superficial and has no place in good art making.
Chögyam Trungpa was a Buddhist meditation master who lectured on the idea of there being three marks of existence: “change, suffering and egolessness.” I also read a stanza by Allen Ginsberg in relation to these three marks …
Born in this world
you got to suffer
you got no soul
He then says that represents “suffering, change/transiency, and anatma or no permanent essential identity, meaning, in a sense, non-theism, or nonselfism. It’s a description of the nature of things, by their very nature.” The above text was pulled from an interview I read with Allen Ginsberg by Peter Barry Chowka. Can you speak about the concept of ‘egolessness’ ?
I’ve never encountered true egolessness. I wouldn’t know what to say.
I came across a quote by Buddha that I had never heard before. It says, “He who loves 50 people has 50 woes; he who loves no one has no woes.” If this statement is true for people do you think it can be true for passions, can sometimes doing what you love ruin your life? Do you think having these woes of love toward living beings, objects, or passions are worth more than staying lonely and un-phased? Would you give up your negative experiences?
I had a teacher once who told me his daughter who was 15 at the time expressed interest in making and studying art, was even thinking about going to art school. “That’s great!” I exclaimed. But he did not look too happy. When I asked him what was eating him he answered that he wouldn’t wish that on his worst enemies.
While this is pretty dramatic, exaggerated, and fatalistic it is sort of true. The conflict and negative experiences that can come with fully giving yourself over to a life of artmaking are intense at times. All physical troubles like space, money, employment aside, the emotional fortitude you require to simply not quit making art must be staggering. The grim realization that many artists have when the figure out that most people are frankly not that interested in your process because it isn’t theirs. It can be extremely lonely sometimes and artists need to be prepared to be self sustaining.
However, I wouldn’t give up all those negative experiences because by contrast they make the good moments monumentally blissful. Love and strife. Without the experience of loneliness and rejection, praise and company wouldn’t be very special at all.
Here is Roald Dahl’s poem ‘Hot and Cold,’:
A woman who my mother knows
Came in and took off all her clothes.
Said I, not being very old,
‘By golly gosh, you must be cold!’
‘No, no!’ she cried. ‘Indeed I’m not!
I’m feeling devilishly hot!’
In what way are misunderstandings necessary? How has confusion affected you positively? Do you prefer absolute answers, or molding reality?
I don’t feel like misunderstandings are necessary, they are inevitable. Last night I was speaking with a friend of mine, expressing frustration with the stasis in my studio, like we all do sometimes and he suggested this and suggested that. Why don’t you challenge yourself and try it this way, “throw yourself a curve ball”. And whether I take his advice because I am hungry or not and let my pride get in the way of healthy suggestion, whether I literally and physically practice what he recommends technically or conceptually, whatever that may be, its going to be different than how he intended, and that conversation is going to influence my practice in ways that are unintended. This is progressive and THAT is a necessary misunderstanding.
I will be teaching for the first time in the fall and I’ve been asking myself questions like these often. On one hand, painting is an amorphous medium. It’s hard to provide “answers” with a painting. I’m not really sure I can identify a proper question. For me, painting has one function and that is to accurately represent its maker. There is only one detail that can possibly distinguish good work from bad work and that is whether or not YOU the maker made something that only YOU the maker of THAT can make! No other question really matters because if this relationship between maker and thing is true it covers every concern. so to answer your question I suppose I find it hard to distinguish between those two schools.
I was at a show last night and I saw a poster with a quote from Albert Einstein that said, “Great spirits have always encountered violent opposition from mediocre minds.” Not that you or myself are great spirits but I feel as though my spirit is always encountering opposition from people. How do you think that negative energy inspires you to dig deeper and become even greater of a spirit not only in your life but in your art?
I was listening to a Joseph Campbell lecture the other day and he talked about the difference between guilt and shame. Guilt being a worthless emotion that is rooted in the ego and shame being an admirable state of reflection in which you can grow from you’re mistakes. I feel that the same thing can be applied to ones studio practice. I would hope one strives to make better, more mature work after they have been shamed for their lesser more naive realizations.