art vs an artwork:  aka – the thought’s the thing

 

 

Don Quixote

 

The artist thrives in the unique state of being able to see things (as they truly are) and presents to the rest of us such a translation in an equally unique vision.  This is the artist’s ground, the raison d’etre of the artist.

Artists work toward communicating thoughts and ideas, and yet, it is not about the artist at all.  It is not how the artist thinks the work reads, but how it will be read by the society observing concurrently, and, which the artist is equally a part of.  Communication’s the thing, and the language used to translate needs to meet up with the audience that views it.

Art is not made with “Art” in mind, but rather, an artwork.  Yet the artwork itself doesn’t operate as art until we have the reception of the viewer.  The artist throughout, is always viewing, for the image has been continually viewed upon its initial inception.  It then becomes a matter of continued revelation (for the artist) as one works.  All of this, again, is not static, but moving, active.  And, once the act of making the work is long over, the revelatory act of looking is all that is left.

 

Art is both verb and noun.  It is an act of thinking and receiving.  It is a sinking-in of information which prompts us to consider our place in the world.  Larger thoughts are prompted by recognizing meaning in an artist’s object, a playwright’s dialogue, an actor’s performance, a novelist’s writing, a poet’s verse.

 

Art is not something which one bumps into without having some sort of thought-process, some act of thinking immediately following.  This is where the art happens; with the thought—the thinking-about – usually in response to [the] contradictory nature of what is being bumped into, looked at, observed.  A contrast in size, shape, material within an environment prompts us to think in symbolic terms, and, here, we begin to venture into the realm of Art.

All of this makes me consider Melville’s description of art in his poem of the same name, for he posits just this with his lines: “A wind to melt, a flame to freeze, sad patience, joyous energies – such unlike things must meet and mate” and, also, Wilde’s “Art can make an almond tree blossom in winter, or make snow fall upon the ripe cornfield”; …. or Blake’s “Joy and woe are woven fine, a clothing for the soul divine” or, in Berger’s sharper prose “the wooden bird is wafted by the warm air rising from the stove in the kitchen while the real birds are outside freezing to death!”

These are all effective definitions of what art is – for they all contain within them an engagement of opposites, an irony, a new angle in the way things are seen.  This is art.  Art jolts us out of our accepted narrative, and makes us consider the veracity of that narrative, and, then, has us question our nominal acceptance before we came to our newest point of questioning.

This is why we need the art, artists = to keep us from slipping into a world where there is no contrast, no quest, no questioning, no new view presented to us, no way to really see our world and our place within it.

Whether through Alice’s Looking-Glass or Don Quixote’s Chivalric-Lens, both of these works, (especially) and, all works of literary fiction, works of successful art lead us to a significant and greatly-appreciated truth.

 

July  2019

 

 

 

 

 

Maybe the art on the walls in galleries should be distanced and removed from the real world in terms of its delivery, discussion, and deal with large open swaths of generalized concepts like spirit, balance, harmony and nature, allowing for the connections to be made by sense and feeling rather than study and cultural relevance —- for that is how we may have come to define art anyway.

<><>><><><><><><>

Artists were once our sole image-makers.  Their work, (whether political cartoon, lampoon, editorial illustration, architectural design, photograph, painting, sculpture, carving on clay) assumed a role of communication via a select few.  Artists of guilds, patron-hired painters of renown and reputation, professional orators and writers, critics and draftspersons were the ones who gave to our mass audience its cultural signifiers, its innovations within disciplines, and the communication of thoughts, information, and ideas.  The circle of influence was small and exclusive; its contributors, for better or worse, employed by patronage, power and privilege.

Today, with our media platforms allowing us a far wider range of respective contributors, we have universal image-making running alongside the artist’s.  In addition, we have Visual Art’s seemingly tenuous relationship to its once-inseparable theory; (Greenberg’s Modernist Theory which both promoted painting as it simultaneously, and, accordingly, penned its eulogy);  the artist working well within an established discipline pushing tenable Modernist’s boundaries.

Today’s Visual Art seemingly floats without a discipline, and its Modernist Theory, in retrospect, [a discipline criticized itself for its elitism and reduced scope during its time] seems now a welcomed breath of intellectual discourse sorely missed.

leaves pollock

A language without a discipline in which to speak it (advance it) is where we seem to find ourselves:  wanting our cake (the mooring of Visual Art to a valid language no longer found in theory and scholarship but by virtue of the exhibiting and marketing of the art itself) and, eating it, too – asserting that anything found in these spaces is art, regardless of its challenge to the form, its historical progression, (technical development or any advancement in form) made within the language itself.

So, we have a language that needs to be understood in order for the art to exist, and, the space for that language to exist needs to be open-ended and understood.  If either of these fail in communicating, what do we have?

For the most part, the contemporary art gallery exists in its own subset of isolationism by insisting that the language used here in this space is a mystery, is supposed to be one not quite understood, arcane, and, at its furthest, incommunicable.  It is a place to go to be inspired, awed, moved by the art objects we see before us.  We are there to look at and experience (almost meditatively) objects before us that are presented as art, no matter the success in translation of the language being used.

Elizabethan audiences understood the language of pun and aside, nuanced allusion, political and religious satire.  They understood the role of theater, the language of the stage.  I’m not sure we can carry this over to today’s gallery-going experience.  The deck is stacked against the innocent viewer wanting to get something out of the work displayed.  In the open-armedness of the inclusive-minded 21st century – we have an improved increased interest in Visual Art – but many of the museum-like cordons [prompting us to maintain a performance of awed silence] remain firmly in place.

For Visual Art today- the language is not only arcane and mysterious, but gratuitous and random.  It seems to consist of an ‘anything goes’ — as long as it “looks like art”, the kind of art that we’ve come to know and trust.  The Copernicuses of art-making have had to become Geo-centrists by market-success default.  Revolutions are for flipping paradigms on their heads, and the market-controlled Gallery-to-Gala-to-Big Art Fair wants nothing to do with this.  It cannot, for its own survival.

So, to look at this whole established system — to look at  “looking at art”with some sort of silver-lining – maybe where today’s art is to be found is in the gallery space — but in the gallery-goer’s own sentient experience of ‘going to a gallery and looking at art’.  Maybe it is the activity that is the important thing, the social interaction and the community participation and not the “getting anything” from the art, or, what the artist has tried to say with the art object.  Maybe it is the diversion itself; the contemporary gallery space really well-designed in successfully generating the collective sigh, gasp, or reflex and, maybe this is what we truly need.

Maybe our art today is to be found in the ‘experiencing of ‘ it —  in all of its intangible, abstract and ineffable nuanced state.

 

Nov.  2016