In his contribution to the catalogue accompanying the Martin Creed exhibition at Fruitmarket, Alex Coles refers to Creed as ‘my artist’, adding that ‘everyone has one’.

My understanding of the term used by Coles is the artist whose work provokes an instinctive reaction of familiarity and affection – the notion is a romantic one. It goes deeper that ones favourite artist- it suggests a degree of ownership over them and their work. It’s the artist whose work you return to time and again, and who is always there in the background.

It may be comparable to an old, strong friendship.

It might be love.

Throughout the Edinburgh Arts Festival I have been collecting thoughts and idea on this concept from artists and curators. The responses will be collected and added anonymously below.

-to add your own contribution, email to


In 2000 I visited the Royal Academy’s Apocalypse show in London and saw an installation by Mike Kelley titled ‘Extracurricular Activity Projective Reconstruction #1 (A Domestic Scene)’. It was a darkened stage set featuring a room with a bed and an oven. On a monitor in the corner, a play was shown that used this same room with two high school students enacting an absurd psychosexual narrative overacted to the point of hysteria. It was camp, tragic and hilarious and it was also a kind of epiphany for me. Shortly after that I went and bought his Phaidon monograph and took that along to the Fine Art course at Duncan of Jordanstone in Dundee where I produced a lot of art that bore his influence, both directly and indirectly. In 2002 he released a book called Foul Perfection: Essays and Criticism and that still influences my art writing too. I also share his deep mistrust of the entertainment industry in general, and identify with his declaration of being an avant-gardist. Maybe that’s idealistic and romantic but I think it’s beautiful. 


When I was 10, My Artist was Rembrant and Van Gogh. I had a poster of The Potato Eaters on my wall (alongside a photograph of a piglet in a wicker basket).

When I was 13, My Artist was Cezanne. I went to his house in Aix en Provence and I felt I ‘knew’ his vision.

When I was 15, My Artist was Goya. Beauty and pain and drama.

When I was 17 I really discovered MY ARTIST. Willem De Kooning. I was painting and he made me understand painting. Painting was all there was for a bit.

When I was 19, it was suggested everyone had an abstract expressionist phase and I suddenly questioned it, became embarrassed by it.

When I was 20, I developed a more up-to-date, but conservative taste. I thought Koons was a bit like the art world’s equivalent to Coke (a-cola) and didn’t really want to ‘have’ an artist at all.

Later that same year I found Fishchli and Weiss, Jenny Holzer, Jeremy Deller, Grayson Perry – the list could go on.

Since then I have not ‘had’ an artist. If I admire one too much I start to see their failings, if I dislike another I begin to see their strengths. Though that doesn’t stop me falling in love with one or another every now and again…


**Hans Haacke**.

Unflinching integrity, stood up in the face of censorship at a time before controversy could be used launch or enhance a career- instead could seriously damage or effectively end one.

Still politically engaged and artistically relevant after 50 years. Works have resulted in ongoing, contentious discussion- both publicly and in parliament.

Pioneer in multi-disciplinary practice- opting to use only the medium appropriate for the individual content and context.

If I could return to any past exhibition- from any time or place in history, high on the list would be Haacke’s Germania, from the Venice Biennale in 1993.


Running around charity shops to gather books for a young boy’s bedroom; carefully stacking them to form the foundations of a memory; pencils, teabags and rulers, creating a maze of rituals

 These were my first experiences of Mark Manders, working as an intern on an exhibition of his work.  I was drawn to the familiarity of the materials he used, the safeness of this other world then surprised and awakened by the sudden sight of a cat split in two or the slumped form of young girl.

Now I am always anxious to find his work at any art fair I visit, tired of the bright lights, the endless stands and throngs of people.  Sinking into a borrowed memory, filling my head with the flickers and reflections of a life imagined. Comforting, re-assuring and strangely familiar, like a memory created from looking at photograph, I know it isn’t mine, but it feels like it could be.


There is a real sense of thrill when you discover a young, emerging artists work, in an art fair or a provincial gallery, who noone else knows about yet.

The exclusive, secret relationship creates a real sense of ownership over the artist and their work.

I discovered mine last year.

But I can’t say who it is.


I discovered Jean-Michel Basquiat not in an art history text but through the many graffiti magazines and retrospective vhs tapes floating around in skate shops in the 90′s. I, like him, had no interest in high school and was drawn to street painting long before I had ever entered a proper studio space meant solely for the purpose of making art.  It’s not that his work itself
struck me as much as the comfort and confidence his path to the world of professional art gave me during my own period of self-discovery and articulation of ideas.  Seeing Basquiat’s work even now resonates like and familiar song or scent: warm memories of clay-and-paint-caked cassette tapes, all-night studio sessions, and my wild enthusiasm for making anything and everything I could wrap my thoughts around during my introduction to the new world of art.  I still want to draw each and every time I see one of those familiar SAMO crowns.  Basquiat was the bridge I crossed and, more importantly, my personal memory-jogger that sometimes it’s not a bad idea to go back and cross that bridge again.


I’ve never been a fan of celebrities.

Mike Nelson and Roman Signer in some way have induced a level of conjecture over my work. They have affected the development and lineage of my thoughts and I see them all as milestones in my perceptions.

I would not call either of them ‘My artist’.