PAINTFACE: You Reckless Bath Towel 2014


She don’t like that kind of behaviour by Sera Waters

It is always risky taking art advice from Australian Crawl song lyrics, and ‘don’t be so reckless’ is right up there. From what I can gather, recklessness, or jumping in without considering the danger, might have initially got the girl (adventure/gig/insert-your-own-dream-here), but was not advisable as a way to retain them. In fact, in 1983 The Crawl warned that uncontained rushes of rash emotion could throw it all off course. Their evidence? Antarctic explorer Robert Falcon Scott, Burke and Wills and presumably at one time or another, James Reyne.

Starvation, succumbing to the elements, and being single aside, recklessness in art practice poses real risks (starvation a possibility), but it is perhaps more risky for artists not to engage in such behaviours. In this time of ubiquitous risk assessment it pays to remember how art practice often diverges from arts management, for example. If it wasn’t for recklessness, an unrestrained and wild wondering which propels artists into the illogical, yes, there would not be studios brimming with failures, but there also would not be such things as reckless bath towels.

Reckless # 1.

To throw in the towel-ness, to simultaneously care for and resurrect discarded towels whose past signified by torn edges, threadbare patches and years of stains, and to find their glam future beyond rags as trimmed pennants sporting bespoke be-dazzlers.


Reckless living

At some point, artists (in current-day Australia at least) will inevitably assess their own creative careers within a scale ranging from moderately to extremely reckless; in terms of future monetary security, continual employment, and such things. Choosing to be an artist, and each art project jumped into, requires some purposeful ignorance toward practicalities, sensibleness, and feasibility; a form of blindness mixed with excitability. Thinking beyond the perceived parameters is a skill of the reckless.

When artists like Mae Finlayson and Grant Nimmo were asked to think ‘paint’, ‘don’t be so reckless’ was unsuitable and unheeded advice. Paint requires recklessness to unpaint itself, to unthink its bounds and unbound its thoughts. What else can paint be? Well, as it turns out, in textile-obsessed hands and hands which paint outside of the medium’s lines, paint can be fabric, sequins, double-sided, puddles, crow chatter, outpouring and other stuff not necessarily immediately associated with paint.

Reckless # 2.

To liquefy wizards, until only their hands, heads and hat swim within a colourful puddle of their own melting. As these half-beings/half-puddles show, no one passes through ‘The Reckless Years’ untainted.


Careful Recklessness

To be artfully reckless means to not succumb to thoughts of impossibility, yet it also means to care. To care, according to Jan Verwoert is ‘unconditional and existential rather than economical’[1], which goes some way to explaining an artist’s often reckless self-determination. Both Finlayson and Nimmo work their care into stuff and with stuff; the matter of paint, op-shop finds and nick knackery, as well as the invisible stuff that matters most. In the abandoned craft projects completed by Finlayson (snubbing the instructions but still hopefully vicariously freeing the retiree of incompleter’s guilt), and Nimmo’s ceramic crow-heads and dripping candles conversing atop his painting (like sly mantelpiece code), we see how their skills of working stuff, manifests. These expressions of care cannot happen by pre-planned outcomes, restrained processes, or the limits of economic rationalism, but by being reckless enough to colour outside of the lines and through a bath towel and melted gnome, reset the parameters of paint.

Reckless # 3.

To make art and care.


Sera Waters

Sera Waters is an Adelaide based artist, art writer, lecturer at Adelaide Central School of Art, and current PhD candidate at University of South Australia.

[1] Verwoert, J. (2010). 'Exhaustion and Exuberance', Tell Me What You Want, What You Really, Really Want (V. Ohlraun Ed.): Sternberg Press, p. 103