A pear. Familiar image. Simple shape. Would make a nice design – slightly assymetrical, bit of texture, can do things with the stalk and leaf. Off we go!
I’ve spent a day making designs on my ceramics based on the pear. But can I make a pear shape? Just about not quite to drive me crazy.
What is it with the pear shape?
It has to be asymmetrical, but not wonky. The narrow part must be not too narrow, must have a blunt top, one side of the top is slightly higher than the other, must be in the right ratio to the wide part. The bottom part, the wide part is not exactly round, it’s slightly flattened. The pear shape is very subtle, and if you fluctuate slightly it doesn’t look right at all, and may not look like a pear.
Am I being very literal and precise here? Not at all. I can make a literal drawing easily with a pencil, but my painting technique uses a flat wash of yellow and a quick brush outline in a darker colour, and it’s that fluent line, capturing the pearness of the pear that is so difficult to do. The great Chinese painter Qi Baishi said that his calligraphic style of drawing with a soft brush had to be like and unlike the thing he painted, had to capture its spirit without being literal. I notice that Chinese pears, as painted by Qi are round and not pear shaped.
Business is an art, but art is a business. Most artists are unbusinesslike and there are few Damian Hirsts around. But some gallery owners are just as unbusinesslike, and I’ve just become the victim of one.
Galleries work on an interesting business model. Nearly all take artists’ work on sale or return, which means, in effect, that they’re borrowing from the artist instead of the bank. Even established artists have to lend to the galleries in this way, taking the risk off the gallery and bearing it themselves. The system suggest that the galleries are undercapitalised and lack confidence in the work they’re selling. If the system works, it doesn’t matter, but sometimes it goes horribly wrong.
One of the galleries I’ve been dealing with for two years has gone bust owing me money. The owner vaguely promises to pay some time in the distant future and claims to have no money. That’s funny: they have my money. When I leave my work on sale or return, it remains mine until it’s sold. The gallery never owns it; they sell it for me, for which I pay them commission. The proceeds of sale also belong to me and not the gallery. So when a gallery owner says they have no money, what they mean is not that they’ve spent all their money, but that they’ve spent all mine.
In this case it’s the result of muddle, not malice. Everyone who dealt with this gallery said the owner didn’t know what they had and what they’d sold. One artist said when it came to payment, their work was muddled with another artist’s work. Another was paid twice.
So what should one do in such a situation? Artists are not only unbusinesslike, they’re nice, and some of this gallery’s creditors are willing to give the owner an infinite amount of time to pay. I can’t afford to do that. I’m not so nice and I’m pursuing them for my money. Artists are willing to lend to galleries because the system depends on good personal relations. When trust breaks down, the artist is disinclined to have sympathy for the gallery owner.
PS. 19 April 2016
When I told the gallery I was going to court, they paid immediately.
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