I’ve had the pleasure of following Carla Knopp’s blog for a while now. She’s been posting thoughts about her painting and her business that are incisive and intimate. The fascinating structure behind her studio practice is how one part feeds into the other, how she finds ideas in both the atelier and the business parts of her art life. Lately, Carla’s been struggling with some wonderful shaped abstractions, bringing us in to her process and practice on the blog. I asked Carla if she would drop some thoughts about Style vs Brand, and she attacked it by thinking creatively and practically about how one might work style and brand in the real world:
After ranging around mentally, I focused in on an artist’s use of branding, but in very general marketing terms. As I read your well-reasoned thoughts on Postmodernism and on market-driven creative production, I experience a split screen in my own comprehension. It’s very similar to conflicting considerations I have in the studio. I don’t believe I’ve explained this conflict here very well (yet), but rather am putting forth the idea that a market perspective can benefit an artist’s art-making. This influence can also create conflict and contradiction, but how certain decisions will play in a public/market arena is a worthy consideration.
CK Blitzkrieg 2010: “One Artist, Five Shows”
This is my fantasy marketing gimmick. I throw myself an audacious multi-venue exhibition, showing five distinct bodies of work, all of which were simultaneously created by one artist (me) over a few of year’s time. Keep in mind the background here. I’ve been laying low in the Indy art scene for nearly a decade. There is no real consistent scene here, but rather a 3-5 year cycling of current players. I’m three cycles back and no longer on many radars. This scheme is a sink (backlash) or swim play for instant recognition. It’s a public branding.
This exhibition idea also markets and reveals a truth. Many artists are exploring ideas, not just creating product. This exhibition reveals insight into the creative process. It shows five creative meanders, each a distinctive investigation by the artist, and each part of an ongoing parallel development. This public projection brands by framing the unknowable. It’s about marketing truth; creating a public lens which exposes the realm of personal discovery.
Documentation for these shows further utilizes this ‘truth via marketing’ approach. Five show catalogues are available for individual purchase, or as a boxed gift set for $xxx
Each catalogue offers earnest dialogue regarding that body of work….and so on.
I struggle to control my desire-motivated marketing impulses, but I don’t entirely discount the value of them. I want to include a “hard public parts” perspective in my art-making. Marketing requires a vibrant active type of energy and thought, and it’s beneficial to maintain a peripheral awareness of how we and our work play to an audience of skimmers. This doesn’t necessarily make us scammers (though it may tempt us).
A brand provides a framework for comprehension. It may represent truth, hype, or both.
When used as part of an inductive creative process, branding and market perspective can benefit an artist’s work. It allows a public perspective, along with one’s more personal considerations, to inform the making and presentation of one’s work. Here commercial success is not the primary motive, nor is it excluded. Rather, the reality of the work’s market presentation plays alongside its artistic evolution, all part of a process-fueled creative endeavor. This broadens an artist’s working arena without necessarily changing motive. It’s still a quest for artistic discovery.
A brand may also be developed deductively, based on what is knowable and predictable. An artist can calculate for art world success. The thrill of creative achievement is ready to reap, unencumbered by the tedious process of abstracted meander. The goal is to create an “interesting” product, and the method for this is straightforward. Do what you think/know works. Oh yeah, and the prize is fame and fortune.
As an observer, it’s good to distinguish the reasons for which we value art. Marketing can seduce and manipulate our experience, and we should know how and when this happens. Clarity begets comprehension.
An artist may do better with more permissive, even compromised rationales. A softening of one’s discernment, at least for periods of time, may benefit creative direction/impetus.
I do want to show the separate bodies of work simultaneously, or nearly so, but I would greatly temper the ‘Blitzkrieg’ presentation, starting with a change in the show title. I’d refine the promotion from an obnoxious identity-fest, and more towards a process-revealing offering. The ‘home town big splash in a little pond’ mentality is petty and already has me cringing. I’d hone the entire promotion to more accurately frame the diversified creativity motive/motif, and also to present a more positive brand for myself, one which I can personally stomach. I think this type of flirtation with grandiosity is natural and honest, and its indulgence generates vibrancy in one’s work. We can always rethink and backtrack and cull the detritus. This sort of self-indulgence helps us define value.
I go through a similar process when painting, where an external, top-down perspective influences and sometimes battles more internal bottom-up decision-making. As difficult and self-hate-inducing as it is, I want to work with this ambition, and not excise it.
For More about Carla check out her website.