Art, Artifice, And The Artist

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Posted by parhad ( on September 29, 2001 at 09:33:33:

The word "art" is closely allied to "artifice"...that is, something artificial therefore not "real". It's a subtle distinction for that painting of a bowl of fruit is not real...yet if it is any good, has any "Art" to it, it will in certain ways evoke more real feelings than an actual bowl of fruit.

Art, like poetry, is a "hightened state". It is NOT real in the ordinary sense we are used to the real and mundane and profane world of is MORE real. But, being more real than reality, it is "artificial" in the sense that you wont often find a bowl of fruit on anyone's table looking as good, looking as much like the soul of a bowl of fruit, as what you see on a flat one-dimensional canvas.

In the same way good acting, is just brilliant lying. Ingmar Bergman's family used to punish him for "making believe"...because they considered it an act of falsehood, a sin in other words. When an actor plays Richard III, he is "lying"...he isn't really any king and the stage isn't a battlefield. Yet to make it a "Truth" make you believe, make you cry or listen up as you never would in the "real" world...he's got to lie so convincingly, that you accept it for truth...or even better than truth for no king ever spoke the way Shakespeare has them speak. The actor's lie has to be more honest, more true to the essence of kinghood and conflict and battle than any "real" depiction could ever be.

It may be that the reality we all live and see is a sort of a lie for it doesn't bring out what is truly hidden in our souls. In our heart of hearts we can be made to swell with longing at the sight and sound of a well delivered strikes a chord within us which must be there at all times, but has little scope or purpose in our ordinary lives. We NEED to be lied to through great Art in order to feel the truth of our deeper Humanity.

But in that case, Art...with all the artifice that implies, is really telling the Truth to us...and it is we who are living a "lie" most of the days of our lives. The "real facts" of the genocide of Assyrians by Christians and Assyrians taking place in Iraq now for 12 years will make few people weep or see the "truth". But a poem, or a well acted scene or painting would bring that fact home with such a startling shock that we would stop in our tracks and cry out loud in pain.

I can't help but think of the contrast between now and then when I enter an art supply store and see the variety and the quality of supplies, of paints in every hue and chisels of hardened steel such as you'd never have to sharpen, and drawing paper, stretched canvas and brushes made of the chin hairs from some exotic ape in Barbary of such variety and specific function that there are brushes for sky and sea and tree limbs and faces etc.

Yet when I look at what is produced today I am baffled at how or why such an array of specialized materials can be necessary to produce works of such poor quality that one could have used a broom as easily as a $100.00 brush. Michaelangelo had to stop and sharpen his chisels every few strokes...and how our ancestors managed to carve as they did using bronze and iron chisels is beyond understanding. And yet maybe the secret lies there as well. When you have to make your own oil paints by trudging through the woods to find the roots and berries, to dry and crush them, to mix them with oil and beat the whole thing to a smooth consistency...perhaps it is the need, the Will, the determination to do such a thing which also makes the artist determined in other ways, in the kinds of ways that develop great insights and expectations of oneself. It is only by going very deep within yourself that you strike a common chord with the rest of if there were a tunnel deep, deep within us that connects us to every other living being...but you have to "bother", you have to WANT to go that deep, and most people are afraid to do that. The "self-centered" artist has only gone part of the way on that journey...and we are far more self-centered than we are willing to seek our center.

It is a challenge to paint well. If one becomes unaccustomed to challenge, or learns to look upon it as "opposition" as a "difficulty", something to be avoided, or something which may indicate that one isn't "cool", isn't facile or quick-witted, or just plain "fast" might also come to demand not only instantly available paints and brushes of every conceivable mark and variety...but may expect one's ideas and beliefs and values to come as easily packaged, picked up by the dozen, ready-made, with none of that "old fashioned" mess, fuss and bother.

That Fuss and Bother was the stuff of character, it was what made the artist grow and develop through challenge over years, with slow ripening Time. Today an artiste is ready for a "Retrospective" show at 21. There comes a point in some professions when making things too easy, too readily available, destroys the possibility that anything meaningful will come from the effort. It would be like deciding that a doctor didn't need to bother with all that stuff...just watch a movie starring Dr. Kildare and buy a host of specialized equipment.

You gets what you pays get out of something what you put in...if you're lucky.

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