Reflections on art and leadership

I use my art to reflect an artist and a senior manager in the financial services industry. I notice that the deeper I understand myself the more I succeed to impact others; in both art and work.

Sunday, November 25, 2012

Endurance Exhibition New Century Artists

Last weekend I flew to NYC to collect my art works that had been framed, bring them for the exhibition in Chelsea and get everything installed, also for my next exhibition in December. Here you find a short summary of my experiences, challenges and the results.

New Century Artists
Exhibition Endurance
Maurice van Tilburg
Artworks framed at Pearl Paint (308 Canal Street)
In June I had brought some paintings to New York, all rolled up as they were large papers. I brought 3 of them to Pearl Paint. The others I needed for my contribution to the NYSE charity event where they were auctioned for charity, and framing at pearl Paint took at least 6 weeks.
his time I picked it up and my view on framing was:
- quality of framing is good. During the hanging one art work (with front cover of plexi glass) fell from the wall at a height of 5 ft, and the frame and plexiglass survived...that is quite impressive, and saved me lots of hassle
- one of the art works had hanging construction vertical, where it should be vertical, and they resolved that in a day.
- price of framing (for New York comparison) is quite okay
- as said before they are quite busy and framing takes at least 6 weeks, and could be more when it overlaps a holiday period
- shop service is okay, they help you think about solutions and advised me for the transport.
- small point is that each time I came early in the morning staff arrived late for work...making me wait.

The transport I did by Breakaway Courier ( as advised by Pearl Paint. Funny ride in a van that was a complete mess (full of garbage, blankets, old coffee cups, etc) but guy was friendly, told me all about his experiences since Hurricane Sandy, and dropped me off at the right place.

Setting up the exhibition
Arrived at the exhibition and other artists arrived one by one. Was interesting for the first time to hang my art in New York, and seeing the specific way of hanging. Some impressions below.
In the end I got a good spot. It turned out that the first hook I used in the wall to hang the painting was not strong enough. So when I stepped back the frame fell on the floor. As said before it was a miracle that it all stayed in one peace. And after hanging my art work and helping some others I left for a drink with a friend at W 49th Street. Big relief as I had been a bit nervous to see whether all plans would work out as planned...and they did.

Hosting at the gallery Tuesday 20 Nov
It was nice to arrive at the New Century Artists Gallery at 530 25th Street in Chelsea, taking the key from my pocket and opening the door. During the day I had company of Belgian sculpture Luc De Man and his wife. A key element of exhibiting is that it offers the opportunity to exchange of views with visitors and also get feedback. Also interesting is to meet other artists, where you naturally connect easier with one artist than another. I had a nice discussion with Luc and was great to see his artworks.
Also during the day another artist came to hang his artwork; he had been working the day before and couldn't make it to the hanging session. This New york based artist Rohan Baronette explained his view on art and what he was trying to achieve.
I will write in another article more about these artists, and the elements I found interesting.

First days were not too crowded, and several reasons can be found:
- seems in general less crowded now that NY is occupied with recovery of Sandy
- first days of the week are always more quiet
- these were the days just before Thanksgiving, where many people are getting ready for the family event, not really busy with a nice gallery-visit.
Well, curious how the rest of the exhibition goes, but will follow that from a distance.
Also nice was that friend Paul - when visiting - offered to be there at the exhibition closing and take artworks home, and restore the walls.

More updates to come...and thank you to all people that are supporting me!

Tuesday, November 20, 2012

What is it that really matters at work? A new art concept

For some time on this blog I have exchanged more purely on art works, less on leadership. Now that my exhibitions in New York are prepared I try to take a bit more distance, read more and reflect. This will help me at work and to develope further my current and furture concepts.

Sometimes it is good to be forced to reflect. To be stuck in a situation where there is nothing more to do than to think and reflect. To empty the mind, allow the echoes of latest experiences, emotions and tasks to fade away and achieve a certain intense awareness in your head.
This can be when making art, or when going for a run, or when biking for a long distance...
Recently I was taking care of our newborn son, who would only be satisfied when in the arms of his, I had some time where I could do nothing...only think and reflect.

Observations looking back at work experiences?
I realised that recently at work there are plenty of challenges. My team is doing well, at least making great efforts to get things delivered and improved. At the same time I see around us some other areas where basic mistakes are made and not addressed in an adequate way. And these directly impact the overall outcome of what we deliver...basically making it difficult for us to deliver.
Then I reflected on a few observations that lead to some insight:
- in general several managers solve issues from a distance; they stay at a high level and do not actually know what happens on the working floor. They focus on interesting strategic discussions before solving the operational dysfunctions, they fire the people that make the company run (but are maybe less visible), they assume that they can direct the cleanup without getting their feet dirty
- in several cases I have worked to lead teams to a better performance, and in general we would make it possible to objectively view the improvement. But after leaving it would only take a year (or sometimes a bit more) to break down all the mechanisms that have been built. And the net result of my efforts have disappeared.

What remained?
Then I realised when looking back that there are different ways of looking.
1. Achievements -
we can look back at what we have achieved, made improvements, delivered projects, made work more efficient, etc. This will give us possibly a sense of pride, a sense of satisfaction and maybe even an eagerness to start doing that again in other areas.
2. People that mattered -
another way is to look bakc at the people we worked with. Which memories do we have of exceptional experiences, where ahve we been able to help others, where have we allowed others to help and teach us. I observe that when looking back actually these type of things give us a sense of warmth. Now I realise more than at that time, how special the experience was and how great the collaboration with others.

Testing the idea
I shared with other people and basically everyone recognised that "what remains is the memory of the meaningful and nice people we worked with" and that "we mainly realise this afterwards, often insituations when we are in a new -less inspiring- work environment.

You are not able yourself to materially change things for it is better to focus on making the journey meaningful and fun

It is good to frequently take time to look back to understand, and then project understanding to the future

Art concept
To translate this into an art concept I need to make it personal, and rephrase: " what do I need to learn to bring this into practice"?

Elements that come to mind:
- stimulate reflection on how things are going and what really matters ( keeping focus on meaningful things, rather than achievements)
- actively appreciate and share the joyful collaboration, rather than focusing on issues only

Practical ideas
- making nice design drawings to mark nice and meaningful experiences
- make postcards or ThankYou cards for share with others
- integrate writings in terms of lessons/experiences and make them into a collage
- make a drawing a day on nice work experience, and combine these in a large artwork
- create a cv compised only of positive work collaboration experiences and then contact those people to relive and rediscover...although in some cases that might destroy the previous memories ;)

Friday, November 16, 2012

New Century Artists exhibition Chelsea - 20 Nov to 8 Dec

20 November starts a new exhibition at New Century Artists.
530 West 25th Street
Open: Tue-Sat 11 AM - 6 PM
I will be there on 20, 21 and 22 November, so let me know if you want to stop by, and I will make sure to be there.

The theme of the exhibition is ENDURANCE, and indeed that is a theme that is close to the heart many artists.
"It is all about inner strength, motivation, passion, survival skills and struggling. As Artists we have to stand strongly by our believes about what keeps us going and creating despite of difficulties in life."  

A celui qui sait attendre

I read in the ArtBusinessNews magazine (Mar/Apr edition) that in average a successful artist spends around 30.000 hours of drawing and painting on his art works before breaking through...

The New Century Artist is an artist collective, running a (relatively small0 gallery in Chelsea NYC. This time the curator is Basha Maryanska; and she is also the person that contacted me to take part early this year. She had seen an article on my art works using parchment, checked out all art works on my site and approached me, specifically aiming for my digital art works and the Subconscious Power series.

The link with hurricane Sandy and Endurance is also ironic...seems the gallery was out of power until a week ago, but now has recovered and the exhibition is still made.

Red Cross Donation
Just as a note I have decided for my art works to donate 30 % to the Red Cross for victims of hurricane Sandy. Seems the right thing to do...

Art shown
In this exhibition you can see at least 2 of my art works (that will also feature in the 20 December exhibition at Agora Gallery):
A Celui Qui Sait Attendre
Je Crois Que Non
The space I will cover is 8'x8' (2,5 m x 2,5 m). If the space turns out okay we might add a third one (Le Droit De Donner Des Dispenses)

I will be going to NYC to hang the art works on Monday 19 November, but will not be able to join the opening at 1 December. And fortunately found my friend Chuck willing to pick up the paintings at the end of the exhibition at 8 December.
Je Crois Que Non
Maybe: Le Droit De Donner Des Dispenses

Thursday, November 8, 2012

ARTisSpectrum magazine Nov 2012 - review of my art

I just received the new November edition of the ARTisSpectrum magazine; in general I find this a nice magazine and it was recently mentioned by CBS as an important and influential magazine regarding contemporary art. One of the elements that helped Agora Gallery get in the top 6 of contemporary art galleries.
I also like the look and feel on the web, where you can virtually flip through the magazine.

Then, even nicer to see that they included half a page for a review of my art. On the right top.

For people interested in the review I included a close up below, or you can go directly to the right page on the web.

I have seen now several galleries, agents and magazines. There is a lot of variety in approach, exposure and how it is designed and prepared. Until now quite happy with Agora as gallery and agent for NYC, and how they take care of organising adequate reviews, exposure and organisation of exhibition. And although this week I have been approached by another gallery in Chelsea, still feel that the whole look and feel at Agora fits better with my profile and is basically more professional.
While describing it as 'professional'I realised that this might be 'vague' for readers; so to be more explicitly it refers to:
- clarity in every detail of timelines, required preparation, sign off, insurance, and all very timely and well documented
- engagement what will be done in terms of exposure, and then delivering what has been committed
- professional texts, that show they actually fully reviewed my biography, artist statements and concepts as well as references. And coming with an original view on the right 'context' for myself as an artist,
- advice and guidance on how to connect their promotion with your personal audience
- provision of tools helping sending of invitations, uploading of art works and selling on the web;
- website that is adequately designed, gets updated frequently and gets corrected rapidly when mistakes are reported.

Friday, November 2, 2012

The latest creative spam - as prize this time

Yes, some weeks ago I asked people in an article on this blog to help select the key art work of my exhibition in NYC.
As a result Plapable Sense of Energy and Anticipation was chosen and decorated the invitations.

Many people gave their preference, but only one could win: John Merrell
As promised he can now select one of the original Creative Spam drawings; I listed them below.
I would say "John, let me hear which one you would like".
Just for ease of reference I numbered them and gave them names.

As a reminder: everyone is still welcome to join us for the opening at Agora Gallery 20 December.
By the way, it was quite shocking to see this week the enormous devastation that Sandy has created in and around NYC...realise that my exhibition is a modest event in all this chaos and disaster.
Anyway, hope John likes the art works I selected and finds something of his taste.

1. Where Everything Seems to Happen in Waves

2. Look into My Window

3. I looked up and down

4. At the close of a sweltering night

5. His stretching way down

6. Flags of All Nations

7. Faint Stairs

8. In one of the Dives

Thursday, November 1, 2012

What to know when looking at a modern art work

Je Plaiderais Ma Cause
For quite some time I have wondered how much to explain viewers about my art works. Should I explain every detail of the art work so they can see all depth in it...or should I completely let them free, not spoil the freedom to see what they want to see.

I also observed other artists/viewers taking several approaches:
- some will not even give a title to allow the viewer to completely discover his/her interpretation
- some explain a lot, provide detailed descriptions
- also sometimes you find critics that give a very detailed interpretation, about 'what the artist intended to do/say'

I went back to what I would like to achieve for my art, and how it would be viewed:

1. Understanding the context
The viewer should be able to understand the context of an art work.
Too many times I hear from many people that they have no clue about what modern art is, what it intends to do/bring, why abstraction can be a better way to express oneself than realism, why the artist might not go for very √°ccessible' art.

2. Freedom to interpret
I have observed that when people see art they have a direct preference; they can tell whether a specific artwork 'touches'them, or has a certain impact. It is important to allow people to make their own story with an art work. It helps them more appreciate the artwork, helps to further explore and keep seeing new aspects of the artwork.
Also I have seen cases where providing too much detail can be limiting:
We had an exhibition in our gallery where objects were exhibited of an artist that is very much into psycho analysis. We had one viewer being fascinated by a box; it was light, small, had a square opening in the cover and certain patterns. It was clear that he was exploring and approached us to buy. Then the artist joined. The man said he liked the shape and the carvings.
The artist said: "these are patterns of auto mutilation..."
The man put the object down and 'ran'out of the door.
For em that was an example where the artist limited the viewer to find the beauty in the art work and discover/explore its many dimensions.

3. The artist view is limited too
An artist, when working and expressing during his/her art largely relies on his/her feeling. The artist has developed normally a good level of skills; and the tools become part if his senses. While working preferences and state of mind will influence the artwork. Patterns, shapes and colors are chosen often in a highly intense process. The result is a complex work of art that contains expressions of the subconscious. This implies that some deeper elements of the art work are also hidden to the artist.
I have had cases where experienced viewers identified patterns that I had not (yet) discovered. Elements of suppressed pain, frustration and passion might appear without the artist actively injecting it in the art work.

So, from this it is easy to understand what not to do...but more difficult it is to find a way to actually provide sufficient context, but allow the viewer freedom to interpret.

I have chosen the following guidelines, but always p[en for better suggestions still:

A. I explain the concept, but never the art work
Every series of paintings is part of a concept; an experiment where I transform ideas, analysis and reflection into a new approach. Explaining the intention of the concept helps people to understand the art works, and helps to appreciate the materials, colors and patterns. And I never explain an art work, even when people ask. Sometimes I explain elements of what I see, or what others have seen, but always leave space for the viewer to have his/her own interpretation.

B. A title that is 'open'
Nowadays I take time to select and create the titles. Often they are taken from literature or books with a deeper meaning. I make sure that the title strikes the right tone and touches on the patterns and themes that are in the painting. Also it will often refer to the concept itself, and the intentions I have with the concept.

I am not saying I found the perfect solution here, and it could be that other people can help me refine my ideas. And I still have moments where people insist that I explain the details of a painting. And then I give them the explanation as described in this article.
But I did see several artists struggle with this topic. And most feedback I recieve is actually positive. Many people approach me after reading the concepts on my main site where I also explain the concepts. They like that I explain more about the context, and in several cases they have told me it was the first time that they have understood what modern art could be about.

The artwork in this article is the one I finished this week. It is from the Subconscious Power concept and has the title 'Je Plaiderais Ma Cause', which means 'I would plead my cause'... I leave you the space to look up the concept and explore what you see....
And of course I would be happy to have your view.