Thursday, September 03, 2009
Visiting the Walking in my Mind exhibition at London’s Southbank Centre renewed for me a lot of thoughts around the act of artistic creation and the psyche.
Who is it for?
Just as they say “write what you know”, indeed art is often an interpretation of the artist’s experience. It is a very courageous thing to turn inside out what goes on in your heart and mind. Is it self-indulgent or is it a profound honesty and pure form of communication? Or is it not about the viewer at all?
Yayoi Kusama created the exhibitions iconic polka dot ’scapes. Explaining her work she states:
“My artwork is an expression of my life, particularly of my mental disease. My art originates from hallucinations only I can see. I translate the hallucinations and obsessional images that plague me into sculptures and paintings.”
Rather than hiding her disease from the masses, she has brought her experience of it to them. She has forced them to empathise and be, like her, “a dot lost among a million other dots.” Is there comfort in this anonymity? Is it more about reminding her of her likeness to her viewers rather than highlighting to them where she differs?
What is it for?
I believe that the process of creating art forces the artist to be fully present and self-aware. By confronting what is, here and now (or rather, there and then), one can work through it. “The only way out is through ultimately” sings Alanis Morissette. A significantly therapeutic exercise, it is cathartic in the least and evolutionary at best. Through making something physical or tangible you activate the transformative energy of creation in the psychological realm. In making, you give shape to (your, which is a part of wider) reality.
It brings me back to the idea of constructive selfishness. Only when the work is made for the self, will it be meaningful to others. Only when the artist is honest with him or herself will he or she be able to project truth.
What is it?
It follows that art does not merely replicate what exists but necessarily articulates a perspective or an idea. By doing so, it gives form to the subject in a way that is, and I am making up a word here, metasensory.
What I mean by this is that, the interpretation of a piece often requires more than one sense, even though the medium may indicate otherwise. For example, we assume a painting is for looking at. However a painting also stirs the sense of touch – whether you actually run your fingers across it or not. An installation compels you to consider your physical (and possibly emotional) relationship to it as well as engage your senses of sight, sound and/or smell.
It is subjective interpretation and its metasensory manifestations that enables the artist to move the work from the space of recording to the space of remodeling; reality inspiring new realities.
“Art is not a mirror held up to reality, but a hammer with which to shape it.
— Bertolt Brecht