Artists, influences and the history of art

Artists, influences and the history of art Darren Nixon, Unititled 03/08/12, 2012

Sheila McGregor blogs about the artists who influence artists today

It’s an inevitable aspect of running a website about art that, however much you try to get out and about, much of the contact you have with artists happens remotely by email or on social media. At the London Art Fair in January, however, we found ourselves in the welcome situation of coming face-to-face with Axisweb members and having some really interesting conversations about the kind of things that rarely crop up in our daily communications with artists in the website’s directory.

I discovered, for example, how much painter Darren Nixon admires David Hockney and enjoyed the big Royal Academy exhibition last year. This was unexpected, given that Hockney’s brand of decorative naturalism is somewhat unfashionable these days. It was even more surprising to learn about Darren’s enthusiasm for Mondrian, because the correspondence with his own practice is by no means self-evident. 

Matt SmithFigure of a Youth Cruising, 2010 

But then why should it be? Artists like the work of other artists for all sorts of reasons. Inspiration can be a difficult thing to account for; influence occurs in ways that are often hard to pin down.

My conversation with Darren got me thinking about the connection artists have with the art of the past and how little attention we as an organisation – and the contemporary art world in general – give to this relationship. We often focus rather narrowly on how artistic practice is changing, with barely a backward glance at the history of art. Yet the encounters artists have with art history are often the very experience that inspires them to become an artist in the first place.This relationship is something we’d like to explore in our future programme of content for the website. With funding for museums now channelled through Arts Council England, we are also keen to promote the idea of artists working with or intervening in museum collections and we are talking to Museum Development North West about a series of events on this very subject.

So, if you’re interested, watch out for further news. We’ll be telling you more very soon.

Contributed by Sheila McGregor
Sheila is the Director of Axisweb.

Sheila McGregor's staff profile on Axisweb