To me, classification is, like religion, a purely human construct. An apple doesn’t know it is an artistic item in a still life but a scientific cypher when it falls ont a physicist. It is an apple. So, why do we insist on first classifying areas of knowledge and then waste energy either defending or railing against the division. Why do we creat a country and then go to war? Human nature – we all want to be part of some type of tribe, even if it is a tribe of non conformists. But then forming an allegiance, a common interest will tend to exclude others. And we get tension.
Humans judge. They measure in a relative sense – how do I compare. What if we stripped away that reliance on others to define a thought, an idea, a theory. What if we measured in the absolute. No more ‘how do I compare’. Instead ‘how do I do’.
Defining a thought, boxing it, is to apply a judgement. Classification is a container made to our specifications. It is not tailor made to its contents but to its owner. Therefore, some ideas or approaches will not fit happily. Are they then a failure? Is that a bad thing?
Innovation necessitates failure. You must map a cul de sac to know it is there. The knowledge of its existence helps you find what else is near…possibilities are honed by the exclusion of options. So why even judge a nil result as a failure. It’s not. It’s a piece of data. It is a contribution. As soon as we step away from judgement a pressure is lifted and we can breathe. Innovation needs space, light and freedom to move. Judging places parameters for which read barriers. Barriers impede movement. Practical limits are unavoidable and part of any puzzle. But man made mental constructs are not. They should be eradicated.
So, if you accept that classification is artificial, the concept of failure starts to look less stable. It starts to look as if it could be ignored. And once you accept that, then you are free to look at the apple however you want. And that brings new perpectives and new insight.
TI have just finished a most marvellous book, ‘Think like an artist’ by Will Gompertz. I have mentioned him before in the context of his other book about art history. I think its brilliant. Sometimes I tweet him to fawn. I do hope he doesn’t think I’m a stalker.
Anyway, reading this marvellous book has led me to some thoughts. I am going to be working some of them up a little bit more for my MA but here are some outlines. It would be interesting to see what you guys
- I will be Focussing on the importance of rigour and decision-making in the creation of an idea, piece, whatever. I Iam familiar with logical analysis from my scientific days. Gompertz quotes Socrates. I wants to be able to quote Socrates which means I’m going to have to read him!, The principle of logical analysis is highly attractive to me and hopefully will apply some kind of discipline to my ideas. God knows, they need some.
- Tie that in to my existing ideas of classification and data analysis. So, start off with the chaos of collection of data, then ordering using classification techniques and then applying rigour in the choosing of data and of inspiration. The idea being that applying all this to previously chaotic scenes will unleash the creativity/flow.
- Thinking about how this will then translate into my next show at the University. Developing the previous installation : so sticking with the idea of projection, light and movement against traditional surface but I think I could extend to more than one plane.
- Towards the end of the book, there is a discussion around see Notion that all art schools teach you how to think rather than what to think. Isn’t that just the same as physics? When you think about doing a proof or a research point, isn’t that just the same as exploring an idea using Socrates? That’s something to think about a little further but if you accept that life is a process and experience is accumulated to get to your current position, then it makes perfect sense.
- Think about the experience I have had around job interviews and second-guessing bosses and fitting into an existing corporate framework. Compare that with art students and The assumption they will be self-employed. Think about the post modem generation again, one size fits all does not work, everything is personalised. So why can’t you personalise your gallery experience? Why can’t you make your own show, your own point of view, your own experience? That is the idea I would like to expand upon when I do my year end degree show.
Lots to consider. I better make a plan.
I’m learning a lot on this MA. I have already discussed how I’ve come to realize that seriousness in approach increases the chances of a serious i.e. Considered response. I’ve been thinking about it a lot. Seriously.
Today we had a lecture about photography compared to painting. It was almost metaphysical in content. I loved it. And it reinforced my embryonic realization that perhaps, just perhaps, I am not a charlatan. Perhaps I can do this.
So, here is something that I’ve been working on…a life painting rescaled and mixed with my image archive. A post modem stained glass window for today’s gods and behaviors. Does it make you think? What? I’d love to know.
So, having children can lead your brain to emulsify for a while. Not because of my female status, but because of sleep deprivation, multi tasking and multi conversations, cat herding talents and the usual domestic schlep. I am finally removing the glue from my synapses by studying for this MA. It’s a great feeling. I recommend it.
This afternoon we discussed a critical essay. The exact text is not really the point. The important aspect is that I can hold my own these days. I can contribute, question and have a (partially) informed opinion. It’s marvellous. Invigorating.
Today’s discussion included a debate around whether it is possible to convey emotion via a painting. A seemingly simple question but when considered in conjunction with an assertion that all artistic endeavour is only done after a conscious or unconscious internal filtering and rationalisation – a translation – it becomes more interesting. Do you ever get a pure message across? What is lost in translation? Is there such a thing as a truly expressive artistic gesture? If you agree with the initial assertion, then no, there isn’t. Does it matter so long as one manages to ‘touch’ the viewer? Discuss.
And the more fundamental realisation? To be taken seriously, to get thoughtful critique, discourse and constructive comment you need to approach your practice with equal seriousness. If you downplay your thoughts, your process, others will not stop to see your depth. Why would they when you do not yourself?
I found myself making light of some of the pieces I have been working on recently when in fact, I have found resonance in them. I am starting to realise that if I want to continue with this artistic role then I have to commit. Method acting is obligatory. As with any life choice, I have to stand up and be counted. I have to stop playing the ‘dumb’ card.
This is not a comfortable realisation. I have to admit to playing the fool so as to protect myself from others’ ridicule, disappointments and disagreement. It’s a fairly familiar tactic used by many. But it won’t serve me well now. It’s time to grow up. I hope I can do it with grace.
And no, no punchline today. Today I’m all purpose and focus. Today it’s just me.
Things I have learnt this weekend…
- Sometimes (OK, most times) it is worthwhile to put a bit of effort into something if you want it to work out. I know, I know, it sounds completely obvious when I put it like that but I have come to realise that up until now, I have expected my art to just ‘happen’. I have always worked by sitting down in front of the paper/ canvas/ board/ whatever and painting or drawing whatever I felt like at that moment. So, a teapot, some tomatoes, a person. Hence, my work until now have been mainly figurative and, while I like some of my stuff quite a lot, it hasn’t really lit me up from inside. The pieces I truly love have been either the life drawings and paintings i have done over the past few months in class or the memory/ archives collage and printed pieces I have been working on and showed at my first assessment hanging a couple of weeks ago.
- If you do put the effort in upfront, life gets better later on in the process. By which I mean, if you think of a concept, a question, an idea to explore and THEN put brush to board, you end up creating something a bit more interesting and original because you are communicating your (hopefully) intellectual thoughts as well as your visual references. Stop me if I’m starting to sound overly, well, arty, will you?
- On that basis, I can see why some say that there is no such thing as a truly original idea. The piece I have produced this weekend (block) while different for me, is born out of the ideas and approach Mondrian slaved over his entire career. It is a humble effort and I like it, but it is not original in that it was created in the shadow of Mondrian’s practice. I did not think of the grid.
- I understand the tenet that no idea is new , but I do not agree. I cannot agree. Firstly because it feels like giving up. Like resigning ourselves to a world of gradual progression rather than one illuminated by sudden flashes of brilliance. How boring. And secondly, because I cannot reconcile this belief with wonders such as Alexander McQueen, da Vinci, Cezanne, Vezelay (more on her to follow,love the woman) and of course Mondrian himself. Yes, most of us will not create something completely new, but a lucky, talented few will. Hurrah!
- I am inherently messy and I hate tidying up. No surprise there then. Less said the better.
- Doing this MA is an absolute trip. It’s as if I have been driving across the moors in the middle of a pea souper of a fog and the wind is starting to blow the mist away, slowly, lazily but steadily. Ideas are starting to come out of the gloom, take shape. My fog lights are on and working. Let’s just hope I stay on the road, eh?
- Finally, a weekend away is lovely but I miss the madness that is my family too. I’m typing this en route to them. I can’t wait. Thank goodness.
Hope your weekend was as good for you as this one was/is for me. Surprise I store for tomorrow guys…..watch this space.