‘Value’ and ‘meaning’ are different terms. People often say that art is meaningless (whereas business is actually never meaningless in that sense). As an artist, I am not trying to be meaningful. If you ask people why they like a flower, they might say “Due to the colour, the shape, the scent” etc. These associations don’t have any meaning per se; there is no inherent meaning or logic to explain why people like what they like. So you cannot ‘explain’ art. Take Van Gogh’s sunflower – it could be seen as a silly, stupid, simple painting. It did not cost millions to produce. But it has a story, and that story has accumulated a cost. But stories are not inherently meaningful.
When I quit my business I let all of my money almost disappear. It was a deliberate process to become almost homeless. When I reached that point, I decided that was when I could become an artist. I stayed with various friends in their studios and homes until my mind was clear. Many friends offered me their places to stay. It was a process of waiting and being ready for the next step. My ex called me out of the blue from Turkey and said “We have a couple of plots in Turkey we could sell”. I didn’t want to negotiate or do a deal, just sell them and take half the money. I had just enough money to buy a little car and drive to Italy where I found an agency selling inexpensive houses. I bought it and renovated. It is on the edge of a small village on a hill. When I look out I see the eagles flying down below into the valley. I feel I am on top of everything! I have always imagined being an artist in Italy – Italy gives artists a lot: culture, history, nature. I can’t think of another country that would give me so much.
When you make money you don’t make art. Making money is also an art but in a different way. Business is hugely creative work. The feeling, that creative feeling, in fact, can be quite similar to being an artist. But the code of practice is quite different in these two fields. You sometimes have to do many mad and unusual things as a businessman, which can be very unpredictable and negative ultimately, but you have to do it because if you don’t, someone else will. The art market is also very competitive and is a big business so you need to be creative just to manage that aspect. But there is something else: in art you have to prove your uniqueness, which is extremely hard. It is very rare to find that. You can’t decide that but the complexity of your life and time will. As I can never be a businessman again, my life is now deciding for me with my focus on schematism…
As told to Corinna Gannon
June 2019 MONK