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Alex Diggins on Olivia Laing

At 3AM Magazine, Alex Diggins casts an eye over the artistry and artistic philosophy of Olivia Laing’s new book about the making of art, Funny Weather: Art in an Emergency — perfect for Covid-19 lockdown.

The kind of close attention [Laing] champions takes effort; it exacts a cost. But its rewards are equally sustaining. … What, then, might such an attention look like? Well, it might look a lot like Laing focusing on her favourite artists and writers, and perhaps its clearest demonstration in Funny Weather is the Artists’ Lives section of the book. By tracing the trajectory of authors and painters like David Hockney, Derek Jarman and David Wojnarowicz, Laing shines a powerful spotlight on the conditions under which they produced their work. In doing so, she erodes the perception of an artwork as a fixed item, a stilled commodity — “Oh look, another of Hockney’s swimming pools” — and instead rediscovers its provisionality. Art is not made in a vacuum. It is teased out, often under circumstances of great difficulty, sometimes in the face of appalling societal odds. Work takes work, in other words. And Laing is as excellent a critic of the work that goes into work as she is of the art itself.