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.