Artists’ names

There’s an interesting paragraph in The Legacy of Mark Rothko, by Lee Seldes: “Rothko had nowhere to go. If he had been able to complicate his image rather than simplify it to the extreme, his art could have soared in new directions, but the image which had become his trademark was inescapable. As Sally Avery speculated, what if it had been possible for him to start again under an assumed name, as Japanese artists do when they have reached a plateau in their careers.”

Mark Rothko  Orange and Yellow  ​oil on canvas 1956 91 x 71 inches (231.1 x 180.3 cm)

Mark Rothko
Orange and Yellow
​oil on canvas 1956
91 x 71 inches (231.1 x 180.3 cm)

My mentor explained – There are probably more artists who have produced work under other names than we might think. I’ve often noticed that it’s our names that hold some of us up. Even though we arise every morning a new person, ready to explore new possibilities, we are victimized by some image or notion of ourselves we must continue to uphold.

Names can be a core problem in an artist’s working life. Are we secure beings of creative progress and advancement, or are we at times stuck in a style, which meets with our commercial acceptance or public persona?

I was concerned that my art had a number of styles. but I understood why: I respond differently to different subject matters . I guess i’ll  hang out in the Picasso camp: Be known for changing directions, having periods, dispensing surprises.

Multiple personality?  One of the extreme examples was the Portuguese writer Fernando Pessoa (1888-1935). Over a fairly short creative career he produced 17,000 works of poetry, fiction and non-fiction of considerable quality under four assumed names. Literary styles and attitudes matched the names of his alter-egos (which he called heteronyms) and perhaps accounted for his marvellous fecundity.

Then again, it takes hard work to build your style and identity; you get known for it , it brings you fame and money , why would you confuse your audience by changing it . New bodies of work are developed from parent patterns. Each new one is born from the previous one, and has its own characteristics. Isn’t that the reason why we love them – M F Hussain, Chetan Bhagat, Charles Bukowski?


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