Make your own damn art; don’t expect me to do it. That may be a strange statement coming from a lifelong artist but it fits with the source; Bob and Roberta Smith [actual name being Patrick Brill] is a very political creator of art. His every piece of art is a huge statement; Bob found his style early on and settled with turning words into pictures on colourful sign-style canvasses of various sizes. He also sings.
Make Your Own Damn Art: The World of Bob and Roberta Smith, to give the documentary its full title, is not a life story but we do see what Bob considers to be his most important statements or incarnations over the years. The documentary is another statement; one which might seriously ruffle some arty Hoxton-based feathers. Having said that, Bob doesn’t make his negative feelings about some of his fellow artists the central theme, he reduces his comments about them to the occasional side-swipe, the odd scorn-laden sentence.
The central message conveyed by Bob and his art is that yes, we should definitely be making our own art. He does cite the apparently inspiration and effort free art from the Hoxton basement dwellers as one main reason for getting out the watercolours; Bob makes it very clear that he thinks the art world struggles under the snobbery and domination of the rich.
Bob learns about himself while getting his work together to show to us. Like many of us, he had some strong thoughts about who he was as a younger man and seems surprised that, looking back, the opposite was true. He didn’t think he was political as a younger artist but it seems it was always there, underneath the surface.
Make Your Own Damn Art is a very refreshing look at the motivations and action of putting paint to canvas, or wood or whatever you have to hand. If you had any interest in art as a younger version of yourself, you will be itching to get home and start drawing.
The World Premiere of Make Your Own Damn Art takes place at the East End Film Festival on 07 July, followed by a Q & A with director John Rogers and Bob and Roberta Smith.