Friday, 31 August 2012

making the path...

Yesterday I wrote a post on the other blog, reflecting on the two different themes in my drawing and painting. I never know what to call 'it' - I was using 'work' until I read Kathleen Jamie a week or so (more below). It suddenly struck me what a strange process this is. Sometimes it  hits me anew how much the whole thing is  'making the path by walking'; making the path by working. I keep thinking that I'm going to arrive at a place where I'll know what my work is, is to be, where it starts from, even a sense of where it's going. And then I learn, again, that I'm already in my work, and that in one sense the path never becomes much clearer. You just see the next stone heave into view out of the mist, and you respond, and then another stone appears....

Kathleen Jamie, The Guardian, 18th August, 2012:

...This is why I'm suspicious of those writers (and artists) who can brightly describe their own books. Who can 'pitch', and talk about 'my work' as if they might talk about 'my dog' - as if it were fully formed and present and trotting along obediently beside them. It seems to me that if you know precisely what you've done, or are going to do, then it's a project. Projects are not art. Art proceeds without a map.

I'm quite uncomfortable with the word 'art' too. A friend was talking to me about the John Cage quote I posted a few days ago, pointing out that it implied that there is only one purpose to art. In that discussion I came to the conclusion that perhaps what matters to me is simply knowing what my own purpose is in doing it, regardless of all the debates out there. My thoughts went something like this...

It doesn't even matter to articulate a purpose, unless one feels interested in the idea. For me it's about internal experience, about a to-ing and fro-ing between my experience and the world, and something happening as a result of that. I can't see that there's really anything else but this. Of course, you can choose to become wrapped up in politics and fight against injustice etc, feeling better in a moralistic sense because you feel have moral obligations to the wider world. But you're actually doing that  because it makes you feel better in terms of your own experience as well. There's no getting away from it, as far as I can see. And when you make art because you have to, I don't think it's about ONLY that internal experience - people respond, the work goes out there, makes its contribution. I was very confused about this for most of my life. I now think that art and music make as much contribution to the world as volunteering your labour or giving away your cash. AND I think that people who are doing what makes them feel vibrant and alive are themselves making a contribution to their society by BEING vibrant and alive. I have far more capacity now to support friends in distress and do things for people than I had as an academic.

From this internal experience thing (it's my life, I'm going to die, this is it) I think I would say at the moment that art, for me, is a way of exploring the world. That's what I want it to be, and what it is when it's working best. I suppose I like the idea of creativity better than art, because it lets me play with cutting up bits of paper and weaving them together, and, actually, the images I make when I play like this are in some ways much more exciting to me. And to others, from the feedback I get. Either way, it doesn't matter. For me it's about a gentler, more exploratory, more forgiving, more playful, more expansive way of being in the world. Purpose of art for me, I suppose. 

I don't know why it interests me so much to explore these ideas in writing. But it does. Part of my to-ing and fro-ing.


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