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The answer lies in the question

February 9, 2015

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Being an artist forces me to think about life in quite a general way, through this confluence of observations and feelings, I inevitably reach conclusions which is really how and why I produce art. However there is an area that troubles me and that is, can “absolute knowledge” really exist and when we feel it does, it is really based on a series of assumptions. I write about this from the standpoint of empirical experience, not only from my own lessons of changing perceptions and consciousness, but also from the observations of daily life. Through my interactions I’m often stopped in my tracks by those who make huge assumptions in communicating absolutes, to which there is no suitable retort or answers, beyond  the question mark.

The reason this area of human nature intrigues me is because it relates directly to my whole approach to art in which almost every gesture I make is a question. For example, I like to think that each drawing which I make is a tentative question in which through my enquiry I will gain a little wisdom and understanding, which equates to my slowly evolving journey. You see, I’ve come to realise that all my artistic gestures are just staging posts along the road and that there are no resolute statements which I can fall behind as absolutes. So when I analyse my feelings and intent I realise that my art is more about questions than answers because I cannot offer definitive answers if I don’t believe they really exist. In summary all that I can hope to achieve is a communication of thoughts observations and questions, my contribution to the conversation of life.

The consequences of my thinking is that art for me is a fairly open book, limited by the parameters of my mind’s ability to observe and question the circumstances of my own existence. It is also dependent on my inherent nature and the essence of my being and how that is provoked into action by life and the social engineering which I have endured. But most importantly I have no great depth of absolute knowledge to dress up my creative offerings as anything more than question marks, which is also why I’m suspicious of art that is qualified by a grandiose context. Who really knows, maybe it’s just me and my inability to take ownership of absolute concepts or reach finite conclusions that are unsurpassable.

Now my approach to life and art is quite complicated for me because there is no promised land, no absolute statements, instead there is a realisation that life is a great mystery and whilst our existence is an utter phenomenon, we are also very limited. Limited because we are constrained and restrained by the formalities of society and language in which we are forced to comply and conform to the social expectations laid before us. And this brings me neatly to the point of what art is for me, an unrestricted language and a free for all that can set me free to explore my life with question after question, without an expectation for any formal answers. This for me is the great mystery of art which gives it the potential to fly beyond the finite reaches of formal society and why it is so important to a healthy and dynamic community. To just be able to release your soul and spirit and fly beyond your imagination into the freedoms of thought, unburdened by any narrative or rational expectations and the physical requirements of earthly conformity. Such as the bullshit surrounding money, property, status and the clock watching of a prescriptive life.

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Personally I’ve always been disturbed by the way society has created a formalised art world, because the magic of art  is often destroyed by the over contextualisatin of art, riddled with esoteric theories that intellectualize art and appropriate it to an elite and a formal structure, and in so doing destroy the perceptions of the mystery in art. What I’m saying is that there doesn’t have to be a reason for art and there is not one specific way of looking at art or understanding it, so you don’t have to quantify it, judge it or categorise it. And as an artist you should be free to do express yourself without the expectations of justifying your statements, beyond saying I felt like it or just saying it is what it is. As free human expression, art has a lot to offer the world, but as a cynical contrivance I feel its true value is compromised. I mean if people want to see Duchamp’s urinal as a great work of art, then that is fine by me, but I in my own wisdom I see it as a urinal. I believe in some ways I understand why he made it but the response it has had and the consequences of the statement have far outweighed the initial gesture. The Duchamp example demonstrates clearly to me, how art was starting to be conceived more and more as a reaction to art, which brought mainstream art into an in-house phenomenon and removed (mainstream) artistic expression from the freedoms of individuality. In a way it follows the conventional academic approach in citing previous examples to qualify and justify works in the present, as a kind of leverage to sew up a thesis as bullet proof. The result was the strengthening of an establishment, which I believe is formulated through a combination of the elite tiers of society with its wealth and backed by the academics who put it all into a context, the done deal includes all the apparatus that is needed to promote what is mutually beneficial, such as the publishing houses, the auction houses and the prestigious venues. So in my opinion the establishment was able to obtain a tighter grip and applied art to the dogmas of a world that was looking for a continuity based around compliant possibilities. The effect of the mainstream thinking on art then trickles down through the hierarchical model that we humans are fascinated by and the status quo prevails.  I believe the consequence is that art becomes tamed by an institutionalised complicity in which a clear direction was and is implied. So now mainstream art can often be seen as a reaction to previous art, moving along on invisible tracks, filling in the gaps and feeding the machine with the food it requires. Through the intellectualisation of art we are bastardising the spirituality that has little to do with the rational mind and intellect and in its place we fill the void with what I would suggest is a contrivance based on a rational and intellectual premise. I believe in one respect that it is all part of a human desire to have control and understanding in life, which is clearly demonstrated by life in general and how we engineer our lives around convenience. But the whole point to my thinking is that the over intellectualisation and desire to think we know so much is a distraction and leads to a necessary duplicity. Because by diligently conforming to socialization we are forced into double standards, to put it simply, as an artist I can follow the trends laid out for me, but for this I must deny many of my instincts, which is compromise and a life lived without realising my own truth. I must if I want to be successful in the eyes of the world, sacrifice my freedom for a guaranteed outcome and a product for the art market and for me this simply isn’t art, because I’m playing to an audience with the expectation of creating desire and the subsequently sales. In short I’d be playing a game and using psychology to manipulate an audience into embracing my artistry, which is something that I personally find unconscionable. The truth of our time is that art is now taught in many institutions in such a way now that it is based on a calculation and through rigid formulaic dogmas which deny the raw essence of uninhibited creativity. A cynical calculation of what will persuade the movers and shakers of the art world into taking your work seriously. But the essence of art (in my opinion) is not about a preoccupation with context and desire, but instead a window into the spiritual aspects of being, as is often said an artist will virtually expose their inner most thoughts and feelings onto the outside.

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My thinking is really just part of a generality that exists in contemporary life, whereby the rise of the individual is now at least a possibility and this is due to increased possibilities in communications which is giving people a sense of empowerment. I think it offers a different perspective in which we can take a fresh look at the institutions and the injustice of life as it becomes clear that our meritocracy is a little bit of a myth. Of course I don’t know where any of this is heading or if it will lead to greater freedom, but for now it feels like we are on the cusp of change as more and more people feel empowered to express themselves freely. The reality is one that requires a level of resourcefulness and if art is to be promoted more independently it will require a clear shift in expectations and outcomes.

I know that my  thirty years of involvement with the art world has done my head in, but I still feel able to continue and am confident that I will find a more easy route to finish my story with and in doing so produce some interesting art.

Of course all I write is just my opinion, but it is the basis of my lifes work as an artist and as always with my life, the intent is quite simplistic, a simplicity that is turned into a complexity through its application into a dynamic world. Yes I was thrown off target and yes I’ve found my way back to a practice that satisfies my soul. But the nature of art will always make life deeply challenging and a sobering experience.

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❤ ❤ ❤

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