The Anxious Artist By Christina Mullan

It is harder to write about one’s professional art practice than one might think. These statements are easy to complete:

Christina Mullan is…
Christina Mullan attended…
Christina Mullan graduated…

Now ask me to finish this one: Christina Mullan does…

I am a professional artist. I am also a writer, a researcher and a student. I am a painter, a photographer and a philosopher. It has taken every fiber of my being not to add ‘con-artist’ to that list. Because overall, like Cezanne, I am an anxious artist.

Five years of practical study didn’t theoretically qualify me to practice full-time and so I am engaged in an attempt to complete a PhD in the study of philosophy and the phenomenology of painting. What do I do? I sit and read. I sit and think. I sit and write. I run away. I meet people for coffee. I drink tea. I talk. I present at events. I read again. I panic. I procrastinate. Sometimes I draw and paint and prime canvases and print images and then I am overwhelmed again. I return to the words. When they don’t work I return to the pigment. I write stuff like this:

‘Tensions are created, firstly by fastening cloth to frame and secondly by the rendering of medium. These processes, so often described in an art appreciation sense to relay something of artistic intention play little role when it comes to the philosophy of painting. We rather discuss matters of temporality, of being in the world, of revelation, space-occupancy and dimensionality. We see a shift from the consideration of the finished piece via spectator to an inspection of the artist’s role with Wollheim, for example, triumphing the artist’s eye or Dufrenne recognising intentionality. However the very practical physical application, the pictorial limits caused by these tools even, and the construction of vessels rather than surfaces should all be taken into
consideration if we are to discuss notions of transcendence. The practical facets of painting are ignored in essence. We theorise about being in the world because we find ourselves in that world, drawing from a sense of habitation and presence – a shared feeling of tenancy. We discuss poetry and writing by referencing text – utilising known words to analyse. In our understanding of painting however, the limitations imposed by the non-communicability of a physical element lead us to disregard these elements as a messy physical side-effect of the finished works. We talk about painting with regards to what we see, rather than what we know, or what we think the artist may have felt, in order to communicate. The physical minerals of the painted work however, are crucial to developing a known understanding.’

From time to time the anxiety dissipates and then I am just an artist…

Christina Mullan is a writer and artist from Galway. More can be found on Christinas work here.

If you are an artist based in Galway and would like to publish a piece about your own practice please email your writing to art@aae.ie for consideration. x

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