Wednesday, May 06, 2015

Pictures of a Sour Artist.

Oh, I'm sorry folks, but I've gone mad for a spell, hopefully I'll regain my senses soon. Life in contemporary times is maddening, even if one is in a safe haven like Auz. The climb up the garbage heap by the ruthless gets your face stood upon. Lucky I'm reading "The Snow Leopard", its Zen nature-tripping is the perfect antidote to my existential blues.

Someone who's trying to fuck with my head got this sour pic onto my Google page of images. So many other wankers sneak onto the page as well, the way Google connects us all is mystifying! What the fuck! It makes me laugh, I happen to love sour cream. There's a lot of shit-heads out there, the arts field has more than its fair share. I'm beyond sour/bitter/perverse, I'm fulfilled, light-filled, grateful, wonder-full.

One legged ballerina. 2011
Remember, for the fake glitter of Immortality, arts-holes can be so cut-throat they'd sell their grandmothers to third world brothels for the cachet of being "the great artist." My truth is that I, a nobody with no connections, art school or otherwise, dared tell my side of the story in Blogs such as "The Artist as Outsider", "The Hunger Artist" and "Do Deadbeat Freaks Have the Right of Reply?" What is an artist anyway? The journey was the buzz, the doing of it, not the gold statue and the obituary promised at the end. 

(By the way, I got rejected when I applied to go to the National Art School, THEY didn't want a gutter scumbag like me rocking the boat, creating subversive satire instead of arse-wipe, meaningless abstract expressionism. Thankfully I got accepted into the Communications degree at University of Technology Sydney where I majored in Writing and Text Studies.)

Eat the Kids.2012 - Toby Zoates

Everyone ends up dead and buried, most of their work reverting to dust. All arts-school wankers can go fuck themselves!!! Here's some pics of mine I want on my Images page and, being cyber-illiterate, I can't work out how to get them there. I feel so fucked up and fucked over I don't even consider myself an artist, just somebody who doodles while waiting to see what comes next. 

Pyrrmont Squats Wall Mural 1984 - 1989
I didn't make it as an artist but I sure had a good life anyway, honorable, not ripping anyone or pushing them out of the way, just dancing, laughing and trekking, gleaning all knowledge. And yeah, in between painting, I was nursing the sick and dying, having a real life, not posing as "the great artist." Obviously, I'm extremely fed up with the field. I met many bullshit artists along the way and, while their friends would say otherwise, 70% of them were cunts!

My one and only book cover - 1980 - Toby Zoates
But a few people were very kind to me.The first guy to ever help me after arriving in the cold, harsh city of Sydney in '77, was Glen Lewis. He fed me, gave me a Super 8 film camera, encouraged my art, was unstinting in his kindness and I will always be grateful to him. There were others, who helped for the sake of it, competition and jealousy far from their ken, such as Eddie vander Madden, Chris Tillum, Richard Keyes, James Kesteven, Tim Gooding, Jon Hewitt, Peter Sainesbury, Damien Minton, i.e. not all trudging up the infinite highway were dicks.

The Radicallty of Garbage - Pollies. 2015
Recently, at the 2nd Redfern Biennale, with the theme of "The Radicality of Garbage", an old gronk in stubby shorts rushed along the exhibits and tore them down, screwing them up and throwing them into a dumpster, calling us all fuck-wits. Unknowingly he was going with the spirit of the show, improving on my effort, a political poster left to shred in the wind. The life of an artist can be like that, serendipity striking when it's needed most. I went and fished the works out of the bin, straightened them out and put them back up, and had a big laugh, for the old shit must've been gnashing his teeth that I had surfed the chaos yet again.

My one and only record cover - 1985
While I was sitting on the street with the "Radicallity of Garbage exhibit" Joanne Piggot of XL Capris and Scribble fame came up to me and hugged me and reassured me that my art had some merit. Her and her band were some of the few souls who supported me unreservedly in the cut-throat world of Sydney Art and I thank her endlessly. It's not all bad, some days the sun shines and I feel cool. You can view the video clip I did for her pop song "Sunday School" in 1985 on Youtube. Because of its inference of a white girl having sex with a black man it was considered too risque.

Sadhu freak 2007- Toby Zoates

When I'm fed up with the rat-race in the West I hit the road and live the life of a vagabond freak, wandering the world, mostly in India, far from the competitive crowd and I'm very happy and at peace for the few months I can break free.

 On first hitting Sydney in 1977, after a five year stint in India, I got a job at a community center called Stanley Palmers where I put on Arts Festivals and taught silk-screen printing to the local streeties. In making this poster a turps-rag fell on a bar-heater and started a fire, spreading to other tins of paint and rags, which nearly burned the place down, us with it. Luckily one of the kids had the presence of mind to run for a fire extinguisher he knew of and put out the flames that were licking at my feet, no kidding!
Chased by Horse. 2011

I've never taken drugs, except for a stint of LSD in the '70s while searching for my soul, (I lost it instead of finding it!) I sometimes smoke cannabis but consider it a healing herb, not a drug. While hard drugs were always around me I avoided them like the plague, I had other priorities: art, adventure, health, knowledge, survival, all far more important to me. I enjoy MDMA once a year on New Years Eve as a sacrament for a vision quest shamanic dance, but I still avoid all white powders. Being straight is a high in itself and it's awesome to look out upon the Universe with a clear consciousness and bright eyes.
Undefeated - The Frontier Wars. 2013

Since my childhood in Melbourne I have felt great sympathy with the Kooris' cause, I even identify with them, my childhood friend in primary school was a Koori girl, the both of us getting into trouble together. We are aliens in our own country, dispossessed, displaced, distressed. Along with them, I don't believe they were ever fully defeated, their struggle goes on, as mine as a gay man does, and they have won because they are still with us and their culture and heritage is strong.

One can be lucky and meet some beautiful people along the infinite highway of Life. One of them, for me, was a fabulous cabaret artist named Fifi L'Amour, whose soul lit up every body's path she crossed and who saved my arse when I found myself strung-out in Amsterdam with no place to rest my head, street junkies and hustlers surrounding me like sharks at the central railway station while sleet fell in the darkest of nights. She gave me shelter on her kitchen floor and showed me her awesome city. Sadly she died a few years ago at the age of fifty-five but she will live forever in her friends' hearts.

You have to do the hard work and you have to be out there, in it to win it, but sometimes luck comes your way and you get a break, when you least expect it, again because there are good hearts willing to give you a space. Virtually nobody has walked up to me over the years and said, "Your art is cool, how can I help you?" One of the few, in these twilight years of my life, Damien Minton, has encouraged me to paint 7 new works and show them at his loft on Aug 23rd.

This is a detail from one of the works in the show, "The Fool's Journey Through Sydney in 7 Pictures", titled "Framed by the Kings Cross Filth". All this of course makes me very happy, for artists thrive on exposure, it's half the travail, and here at the end of the road, I feel somewhat vindicated at my perseverance. Again, when you're broke and ignominious, it's almost impossible to take on the tag of "artist", it even seems silly.

The journey has been the buzz, the few beautiful personalities I met along the way, such as the women Fifi, Geraldine, Nicorette, Margaret, Nuala, Sybil and Nikki made life for me, behind the tears, ecstatic. And there were some cool guys too, Tony, Vanyo, David and Paul, and my Indian friends Iqbal, Umesh, Pankaj and Ravi, all of them straight, strange for a gay lib guy like me but it wasn't a matter of sexuality, it was all about heart. They are worth staying alive for, they are ART and KNOWLEDGE in the flesh.

If you enjoyed this story please go to the WEB address above and consider buying my book of tales about growing up anarcho-queer, rock and roll punter and mystic adventurer in Australia and India of the 1950s, ‘60s and ‘70s.