Taymaz Valley is an artist, writer and photographer, who shares his time between London and Montreal.
He has independently published three poetry collections, and his art has been included in a range of exhibitions.
Thank you for meeting with me Taymaz. You’re an artist, writer and a photographer, would you say there is a general theme across your work?
When the American painter Mark Rothko was asked by an art enthusiast how long did it take to paint one of his paintings, Rothko answered: 57 years.
So my answer is yes, there is a theme to all my work, be they paintings, poems, or photographs, but I cannot point out the theme to you, I cannot say “there it is, there is the shape, or word that unites them all” because I am including whatever connects you to the work unconsciously.
The connection is made by the viewer or the reader, and that is when the theme becomes a reality, otherwise it is lost, and overlooked. It is very easy to overlook the theme, because it is easy not to connect with a piece of work. However, when you do manage to connect with a piece, then man oh man, the moment of clarity becomes so consuming that you cannot have enough of it.
That is precisely why we buy art, or a book, or a photograph. We must have it. We must consume it, like it is consuming us. It is very primordial. Think about it. Have you ever said out loud: “you look so good I could eat you”? Where do you think that stems from? Deep. Very deep. Back to our fundamental core need for consumption to survive.
That’s interesting. It reminds me of the idea that no two people ever read the same book, because they will each bring part of themselves to it.
So what’s your process in terms of creating? Do you give yourself specific projects, or work on ideas as you feel moved to?
Now there I think two people are reading the exact same book every time they read every book ever written. They are just reading it in their own mind which might make it sound unique, but in essence it’s not.
Let’s clarify it a bit. I think there is only one book ever written, but this book has been written and will be written again infinite number of ways in the finite way possible. No, I’m not going religious on you.
I think there is just one story in everything. We would like to think it is unique to us, but it is shared by all. Some are better skilled at telling it, like yourself.
It is the ground. It is where all rise and end up. It is that ultimate limit that dictates all of life. When I said it was consuming, I meant it, because it has that power, and you subsequently have the power to exercise it.
That’s why I don’t assign myself a process for creating. I don’t come into it with preconceived finale. It might be a feeling, or a word, or an image, and then it develops into different things until I say that’s enough. The limit has reached. It might be ruined by then, and I will think I should have stopped earlier; or it will never end, and will remain undeveloped and lost.
As someone who creates for a living, you will have to accept that not everything works out. Some pieces will be ruined, and not accepted, and some will unexpectedly become popular; but nothing can be perfect. No piece can ever reach what is perceived as perfection, because that concept might exist, but the reality of it does not.
So how do you know when a piece of art or writing is ‘ready’? (I’m deliberately not using the word ‘finished’ here, as potentially nothing ever is.) For example, I really liked your poetry collection Blue – how did you know when each poem was ready to be included in the collection?
I think what you said is absolutely true. The line between not ready and done by my standards is so thin that you can easily miss it.
To be honest I don’t think the poems in blue are done, I think they need work. Some of them were in better shape in the earlier drafts, and maybe I should have stopped but I didn’t and some are now over edited.
It’s the same with paintings. I believe it was da Vinci that said “a painting is never finished, only abandoned”. And you can certainly see that in the Mona Lisa, but the work still is considered beautiful.
So maybe beauty should be reclassified and reinterpreted. Maybe our idea of beauty should change to includes the flaws.
I’m sure you are the same with your work. I can certainly keep working on a single poem for the rest of my life, and it doesn’t have to be an epic poem. I’m talking about 4 lines that can be improved upon countless times and never reach perfection.
Yes, you’re right, it is something I’ve considered with my own work too. The structure of a sentence in a novel, or the delivery of an stand-up joke can be changed and ‘improved’ forever. I guess the trick – if there is one – is to know when to stop.
So what project or projects are you working on at the moment?
I have so much respect for people who get up in front of a crowd and say how they feel and what they think. That’s the kind of courage I want, but then again I’m too much of wimp to do it. I rather make snide remarks from behind my computer.
I’m working on the second collection at the moment. I have enough poems for it, but I still have to edit them. But, as I don’t ever know when to stop, I might call the collection “To Be Continued”.
That’s a very cool title, definitely intriguing. You work in a lot of different creative areas, which must keep you very busy. How do you manage your time?
At the moment I’m slowly chipping away at a degree in political science. Previously I was studying art history, so the creative side of my life matched with the everyday side, but not anymore.
There are two sides to not having enough time to do the creative work. The bad side is precisely that, and the fact that everything you make or write is done in hurry and without proper time spent on editing. However, the good side of not having enough time for creative work is that you are not debilitated by self doubt all the time. You don’t spend most of your time worrying whether something is good, and what would happen if people love it or hate it. I enjoy not having enough time to go crazy over my work.
I know what you mean, self-doubt can be a real killer. Given how many projects you work on at any one time, what advice would you give to someone wanting to start a creative endeavour?
Do it. If you think you enjoy being creative, and will have the drive and dedication to succeed and endure the hard times, then do it. Nothing like it. You will be dancing with the gods.
Just remember that you will doubt yourself, and everyone and everything around you. You will encounter people who will want to put you down and laugh at you. But, you will learn to deal with those negative aspects of a creative life in your own way, and you will succeed. It might not be like you imagined, but you will do it. Against all odds, you will.
I just want to add, that you should enjoy the process. Enjoy the journey. Because, the end result will leave you wanting more, so it’s better to have fun on the way. But do try, because that’s the least we can do. I’m reminded of a quote by the American poet John Greenleaf Whittier:
“For of all sad words of tongue or pen, the saddest are these: ‘It might have been’.”
Thanks Taymaz. And I think that’s the perfect note to end on. Thank you again for the interview, it’s been very interesting speaking with you.
Thank you Angelo, it’s an honour to be recognized by such an awesome writer as yourself. I have always enjoyed your work and can’t wait for your new book. Here’s hoping you all have a wonderful holiday season, and hope to catch up with you in 2016.
You can find Taymaz at:
Blue can be read for free at Google books here