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Full Consideration as An Artist

Let’s take a quick break from finishing the “why paint” set of posts to talk about what I consider as an artist. Meaning, what I plan into my images so that it can be read, even unconsciously, by the viewer.

The reason I really post this is a thought I had waking up this morning. The thought was centered around considering a life of mediocrity in my work.

I’ve always been somewhat tormented by art, from the very beginning. I’m sure if you are an artist you know how it feels to create and have that creation fall short of your vision. Even if it is a perfect lasting image for the halls of all time, the chances are excellent it is still not fulfilling entirely. There is always another way to express one thing, there is always a slight change that could make it better, or deeper. There is always something about any artist’s work that leaves that artist with a desire to continue searching. Whether you call that failure, or drive, or simply the unavoidable nature of creating (hint: it’s all three combined).

I have established my relationship with my self and my identity outside of art, and was quite far along in building that foundation before I even felt the pressing desire to commit to art fully. In a related note, that is why I have a much easier time fleshing out my art theory in this blog than I do in actually creating works that reflect that theory faithfully and unmistakably. What I know of my self and what I see through my self is far greater at the moment than what I know about the visual arts. My ability to consciously create in the arts, my technical competence, my ability to choose visual representation, my understanding of art history and the places in time where it fits, and my knowledge of social context and how to express it (overall, my ability to wield visual art consciously and effectively) – these skills and many other art skills which I am still and always will be developing deeper and concurrently with eachother – they are all dwarfed by my ability to understand life and my self, and likely always will be. That is what I spent the years of my life doing before I turned to brush and canvas.

This is the source of the quote “man’s reach exceeds his grasp”. I can see farther than I can exist. But in my case, now, this is not a case of detachment with my self and an abyss of the unknown within myself. Now, this is a case my worldly knowledge and ability being unmatched by my knowledge of my self. I would argue that many artists spend their developmental years in classical training and then the rest of their lives searching for themselves through the work. And I would argue that I represent the possibility of the opposite. I will not spend the rest of my years searching for myself through my works, but rather building my work over those years to portray and match what I know of my self. I have all the time left to me on this earth, to spend playing with the vast puzzle that is art and seeing what comes of it. The top of the mountain for me is not the day I see my self. It is the day I see works of art that have me imbued in them fully. Better yet, I am on the top of the mountain drawing my works to me on a metaphorical rope and pulley.

Back to what I have considered. Strangely enough, whether or not the work faithfully reflects it, everything  in my work is consciously considered and always laid out to make every allowance for everything that can be seen within it’s confines. If you have seen it, understand that be it 10 minutes from now or 10,000 years from now (if my artwork will be relevant and still in existence in either era), I have seen it and put it there to be seen. This is one of my great aims of my work, and something I cannot avoid in the hours I spend in isolation with my self and my paint/canvas mirrors of the self (my works). Nothing moves forward from this point on without consciousness.

This does not preclude or eliminate the emergence of questions. It does not create infallibility in any case. In fact it is a method of the opposite. It puts everything into question. Every step, no matter how minuscule or possibly ineffectual, is fully questioned. And due to the open ended nature of this method of learning and being, it purposefully creates, wields, and uses fallibility as a tool to spur progressions at a steady unhalting pace that matches the immovable object of the pace of time itself.

A few things to consider, seeing that the post is about consideration as an artist.

Yes, I have considered the possibility of this – that my work will never mirror my identity faithfully. Or that perhaps even my work will never even remotely approach fantastic artwork on the level I crave. That mediocrity is a distinct possibility. I have always felt the message I have to deliver and what I believe to be new knowledge of life may very well forever supersede any worldly endeavor in importance. And thusly, only within my self and my knowledge of who I am will I ever fulfill anything complete. I’ve also considered the possibility that the mediocrity itself could be a message. To press on regardless, in pursuit of artistry and not necessarily art. I think of Andy Warhol’s work often and a particular perspective on it when I think about my place in art. I don’t know too many people who really actually enjoy the physical visual pieces of his art. I don’t know how much I even enjoy his work within the rods and cones of my eyes. But I understand through the meaning and context of his work just how great an artist he was to history.

What I see in Warhol’s work (which cannot be more evident) is the repeated images, packaged in different color variations as so much advertised product. No more glorious than cornmeal or pickle jars, waiting to be eaten, emptied, and erased. Campbell’s soup jars, of course. The production, of art. The last bastion of the entirely independent, untethered artist and hand worker, laid to it’s grave. Real life, where food, clothing, and shelter win. And art loses. For a moment look with me not at the physical works he created. Look instead at what they state. They state what was creeping through art for centuries and eluded the vision of even the greatest of artists. That the glorification of modern man and the use of tools was always leading to the death of the artist. This is quite a quandary. Because without tools, there is only man or woman and no artist. Davinci was essentially the root (with all multitude of pursuits and empirical creation within and outside of art, the invasion of tools and invention within a great artist’s scope of interest) of what Warhol was essentially the final revelation. I look at pictures from 100, 200, 300 years before Warhol and I see the undercurrent of what he would eventually state. Man painting machines, science. Futurists and others of the early 20th century glorifying their lurking killer. Amazing. But even more amazing than that – Warhol came into the picture of history with his work and spoke. But spoke not by splattering his hand with paint over and on top of what was lurking in the background. He didn’t lay a glaze of beauty on the death awaiting art. He laid himself down. Negated his own hand in his own work as a sacrifice for what was seems now so clear. That the artist, with the advent of production is essentially doomed to be a fool unto the world existing as he has been. That foolship extends back to the wheel, back to fire. Fantastic stuff.

It is Warhol’s sacrifice that absolutely intrigues me, and which brings me into focus with my own work. In resolution, it must be within my realm of consideration that my place may very well be in mediocrity of visual art. That my sacrifice (and any great and historically important work of art must require a sacrifice for the showing of truth as it stands, unaffected, rather than the peacocking of one artist’s own “vision”) lies within only my method of full consideration and my execution of the self. Not necessarily (but not necessarily not) the outward product of my hours.

As much as I adore what Warhol did in art, I have to admit there is one thing with which I vehemently disagree (which you will find repeated over and over as this blog lays out). That painting and art are dead with the advent of production and tools. My answer is to erase the focus on the product.

Posted by Matthew Adam on 6/15/10

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