Do You Fight or Do You Dream? / by Chris Hall

Christopher Hall, In Winter We Rest From War, oil on panel, 48x24, 2000.

Illegitimi Non Carborundum - Don't Let the Bastards Grind You Down.

Per Aspera  Ad Astra - Through Difficulty to the Stars.


When I was a younger artist, some 20 or so years ago, I use to dream more.  By dream I mean both literally and figuratively.  I used to dream of accomplishing great things during the day (I had wild ambitions!), and at night I would dream of visiting unusual places and "catching tigers in red weather."  Sometimes these dreams were terrifying.  These were Shamanic Initiation dreams.  These dreams fueled my art, which is why a lot of my earliest art can sometimes seem a bit dark and otherworldly. 

I don't dream anymore.  Really, I don't.  At night I close my eyes, black out, and then I wake up in the morning.  I'm almost embarrassed to admit it:  an artist who doesn't dream.  It seems I have to fight more these days.  These days I feel as if have been backed into a corner by society, by my difficult life.  I don't have time to dream anymore.  I've become a brute animal, a crocodile caught in a net.  All I do is constantly fight, constantly fighting not to get ahead, but just to stand my ground and not let the world run over me.  And my art reflects all this fighting.  It comes out as being clever, critical, satirical, humorous, black, ugly, perhaps challenging, maybe even sharp and dangerous - but there is less discovery, and it feels less inspired, less transcendent.  Fighting, dreaming - both have a great tradition in art, but I confess, I do miss the dreaming.  

I wonder, am I on the right path?  Have I lost my way?  Can I go back?  Is it too late?  

As long as I am forced to fight, however, and for table scraps, I fear I will have to continue on this path.  Art is a responsibility to me.  I am on a mission.  What kind of art does the world need?   Beauty or a satirical message?  But I am also concerned about my own welfare.  What kind of art is best for the expression of my soul?  The authenticity of my anger or a sweet song of peace?

How I long for peace.