Saturday, 26 February 2011
'you are an artist'
A member of the creativity group brought along this absolutely wonderful book to our last meeting. It's the best book I've ever seen on doing art. Not that I've seen that many, but it's very different from most of the books readily available, which seem to concentrate mainly on techniques with different materials. It was published in 1965, which, as you can see from the cover, means that 'art' was happily accepted as being about the creation of abstract works. The closest I've seen to this published recently is Painting Abstracts by Rolina van Vliet (2008) but it isn't really a patch on Fred Gettings.
Historically, it's interesting. It's a time when artists were looking at African masks, sculpture from New Guinea; when Paul Klee was still alive (I think), Jackson Pollock was throwing paint around, Rothko was making red squares. Fred Gettings has a wonderful take on the whole thing. I may bore you with excerpts from this book for some time to come. Here's the introduction:
The aim of this book is to show that you are an artist. Art is not merely concerned with great artists, with genious, or with prodigious skills. It is, fundamentally, the outward form of an inward search. To participate in this search, on whatever level and with whatever ability, is to be an artist.
The equipment of the artist is not found in art shops only, but in his attitude of mind, in his vision and in his emotions. It is of supreme unimportance whethere the artist is possessed of some dazzling vision, like Samuel Palmer in the valley of Shoreham, or whether he paints almost as a matter of amusement with whatever materials come to hand, like old Alfred Wallis of St Ives - the important thing, the thing which links all artists together, is the search.
Works of art, sometimes good and sometimes bad, are the outward evidence of this search. But the work of art is really of secondary importance - it is merely the crystallisation of an idea of emotion, and a correct understanding of art must take this fact into account. The true importance of art lies in its alchemical nature, in its strange power to refine the sensibilities, to heighten visual awareness. This evolution of the spirit is the true aim of art, and anyone who embarks on this spiritual odyssey bears the name of artist. The practice of art is not directed towards producing artists who can paint or sculpt with real ability, nor towards producing more works to fill our homes and galleries: it is directed towards producing human beings with a sense of wonder at life and at that precious ability to enquire into its outward manifestations.
I'm not saying this is right or wrong, but it's interesting, inspiring. Though personally I can't get on with the idea of 'spiritual'. I object to this word pretty much wherever I see it; I've yet to find anyone who can tell me exactly what it means. For myself, I can't see what's 'spiritual' about exploring what's going on when you aren't always directing your attention to the external world. What, for example, is 'spiritual' about meditation? Why is sitting examining what happens when you stop rushing around chasing your tail spiritual? But that's a digression - I love Fred Gettings' description of what he thinks art is....