2003/03/31

Techniques of visual expression will be more and more varied and mixing of different techniques will more and more take place. But it makes absolutely no doubt in my mind that digital art will slowly impose itself as the visual medium of choice. The graphic possibilities at the hands of an artist using drawing, painting or photo imaging software are endless and the results are often stunning.

The danger of the computer is that it allows cheap and fast graphic effects and we can already observe a dizzying inflation of images presented as art, suffice to visit an online art gallery to be convinced that something is rotting in the digital world. A technique in itself is indeed not sufficient to produce a work of art. Art, let's remember, is an act of substantiation. The artist is one that with his feelings expresses an idea through a medium. Digital imaging does not escape that basic fact. And we can't but be sceptical at the proliferation of digital images that are presented as art. Now, this does not imply that art is absent of the digital scene. On the contrary it seems as if the computer was liberating creative talents as never before. Along my surfing trips searching on the web, I discovered under the inflation of egotic postings a vibrant world composed of many technically skilled and talented creators. I guess that my firm conviction that the artists could be the free thinkers/philosophers of the 21st century has been, in part at least, germinating and growing in that primitive pool of life that is the web.

Until here I spoke exclusively about the content of art works but what about their form? I think that mixing of techniques and most of all digital works will impose themselve as the leading forms used by visual artists to express themselves in the years to come.

I do not believe one instant that technical skills or mastery in one technique are automatically confering artistic qualities to a work. Saying that technical mastery confers automatically artistic qualities to a work would be like saying that physical beauty in a persone is what makes a person beautiful. We all know that a beautiful person has a lot more to offer than her physical beauty. But let us not fall in the absurd, it is also clear that the absence of technical mastery will never allow a work to become a work of art on the merit of its content only. We all know that an interesting person does not necessarily render a person beautiful but we all also know that an interesting person that is physically beautifull is undoubtedly a beautifull person. In other words, an artist has to possess some mastery of his technique in order to express himself with ease. How could one without technical mastery be able indeed to express himself unhindered? Mastery I believe has to be understood as the result of practice not necessarily of schooling because schooling without practice will never procure mastery. I furthermore think that mastery is the result of a process combining work, experience and personal internal maturation. From my personal experience, I deduct that content and technique have to be blend into art form. What I mean here is that whatever technique is being used to express whatever content, the resulting work must be harmonious. Harmony is the general state of our universe, of our cosmos. It is not something static, all the contrary, it is permanent change: transformation from one state to another state. These last centuries, western artists and thinkers concentrated on the idea of an absolute truth and they lost themselves in a sysyphean act of the snapshot for truth. We must now discover the sequences between the snapshots that give sense to each moment of our lifes. Somehow I indeed believe that what constitutes an art work comes out of the essence of what composes each moment of an artist's life. In that sense it's the artist's life that confers interest, artistic qualities or no interest, no artistic qualities to a work.

In the 21st century an artist is someone deeply involved in his time, someone who tries to understand what's going on around him and who searches to make sense of his life and of life in general. He is curious and feels very deeply that he is a walking moral conscience. He thus constantly observes the society in which he lives without being attracted by the political decision making process nor by an entrepreneurial endeaviour, all things by which he would indeed very rapidly feel constrained. Notwithstanding his staying out of active responsibilities, he is often driven to express his critical standpoint which more often than not lands him at loggerheads with the people of his time. This marks a huge historical evolution in the position of the artist. For exemple during the Middle Ages in Europe, the artist had no freedom at all, the only thing he was allowed to represent was what the church judged right and artists would in no case confront the church for fear for their lives. Artists thus became craftsmen whose only possible pleasures were limited to the technical execution of their works. Here lies the explanation for the extremely finely executed artworks of that time. The same mechanism is at work today in dictatorial countries where the artists are living under censure. Living in China from 1986 to 2002, I took the habit to visit the annual selections by the Museum of fine arts of the best Chinese paintings from all the land. I always felt a great delight at those exhibitions regrouping hundreds of paintings and returning home I could only wonder at the reasons for such admirable technical skills showcased by all those Chinese painters. With the advent of the opening of their country to the outside and their newly gained freedoms, young Chinese artists began to drift out of the classic canons and it did not take long for their creations to reflect upon their life conditions as well as the social and political conditions around them. The freer they became in their content the worst their technical skills evolved and in the end art in China became pure bullshit. Real talented Chinese artists are to be found in the generation that grew up during the cultural revolution and who also benefitted from a traditional art education. Most of them had to leave China not for political reasons as is too often implied by Westerners but simply because they could not find a receptive audience at home. The members of today's Chinese elite have money, the only thing that moves them is money and they are not interested by art. They can eventually attend a concert or show up at an art exhibition but it's to show up not because a passion for art.

Art creation is a kind of marginal activity that in essence is elitist. Artists are seeing themselves as different from the mass of toilingmen as a result of their free dwelling in areas never visited by toilingmen.

Art and design do not cover the same function.
Art is an individual undertaking that is unique, that brings some new understanding of ourselves and of our universe. In that sense, art is a risky undertaking focused on coming realities and only a small part of an artist's works will ever reach functional status as art works. Buyers of art works are few, they are a cultural elite with money and viewed from the standpoint of demand the offer of art has to remain very limited.
Design is kind of a vulgarization of the spirit of art works at the attention of larger segments of consumers. We could also say that design is the merchandisation process of the substance of art works that will introduce the spirit of the works of art into the interiors of larger segments of the population.

Laodan.




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