Many times people ask me. 'Alex, isn't it great that, after coming home from your hard and disturbing work in some war-stricken country, you can just relax and paint?'
I tend to laugh.
'You have no clue. Strange as it may seem, working in war-zones like Iraq, Afghanistan and Libya, to me, is far less scary and traumatising than being confronted with an empty canvas.'
'An empty canvas is the start of an unknown journey. A dark-white muddy pool of decision making with no-one to hold your hand or beacons to guide the way no matter how often you walked the path before. This path almost always leads alongst desires, fears and weaknesses.'
'In a war zone, the confrontation to fear is the one with the armed enemy. In painting, the enemy that needs to be conquered is you. Believe it or not, when painting, it's more than often just you blocking the way to inspiration and creativity.'
'Artwork in the making will reflect all your false ego, dreams of everlasting stardom and pathetic insecurity and rub it in your face nice and thick.
A painting will not allow pretention. It will not allow shortcuts. It will not allow lies. Because the one person you would be lying to would-be yourself first, and your audience second. What could be the sense in that other than selling big colourful and expensive lies?'
'In my opinion, art is beautiful when it shows us little bits of inconvenient and embarrassing truths we normally hide from ourselves. Those little truths that generally make us feel weak and vulnerable. It touches our softer, melancholic side. The intimate side we keep to share with our lovers and our friends. The parts we hide because they are so easy to mingle and crush. The parts some of us don't even show during an entire lifetime.'
'Those are the parts that make art interesting, and those parts are exactly the reason why making art can be such a nightmare to the ones making it. When done well, painting feels like standing naked in front of a crowd with baskets full of rotten tomatoes.'
'Besides that, works of art can be quite demanding and posh themselves. At best, they want to inspire, confront and comfort. They do not merely wish to comply with the colour of your couch or the approval of your friends' basic knowledge in artists names. Doing so would imply they have no intrinsic meaning other than to decorate or to be used to show off at dinner parties. Works of art will have none of that, and they will let you know eventually. Just like human beings, paintings prefer their presence to be meaningful and nourishing rather than plain and practical.'
'But, If it's so hard, why do you keep doing it?'
'I don't know! Really. Believe me. I would love to make painting a nine to five job.'
'If I just knew how to sit down and effortlessly paint epic, engaged works of art that would touch everyone's soul in an instant, I would immediately spread the secret. There would be far less heavy drinking, drug abuse, sleepless nights, dark depression, anxiety and other kinds of existential crises amongst my fellow artists and me. We would all be happy campers, carelessly smearing paint all day long being able to feed ourselves and our children without the burden of the everlasting hunt for great, meaningful and genuine ideas as well as the fears of insanity kicking in any minute.'
'Because to make great art, you will have to align yourself with this almost ungraspable energy called inspiration. But this magnificent trophy all artists are constantly and desperately hunting for has a peculiar way of hiding itself in different places every single time you try to catch it. Sometimes it sits in plain sight, sometimes at the bottom of a glass of whiskey or in discussion with a total stranger. You will never know, and you will never find it in the same place twice. Therefore you will always have to be alert. You will have to have your hunting gear armed and ready to catch it at all times. After that, you will have to guard, nourish and protect it, so it doesn't get stolen and gets to grow to become this great piece of art that doesn't need any introduction. This truthful work with the serenity and grace of Princess Sissy. A masterpiece that will make heads turn as effortlessly as Marylin Monroe would and will have a natural authority that humbles even its creator.'
'Once you get to this stage, I assume you can imagine the feeling this gives the artist, and hopefully, you will now be able to understand why, unlike real wars, every piece of art is a war worth fighting.'