BY DEFINITION I posted a status update on Facebook yesterday that got a few mixed comments and I thought it would be worth exploring a little further.
"I find it so frustrating that beautiful works of creativity seem second rated to the darker side of creativity! The dark side of human nature and mental behaviour is just another topic of choice. It's just another 'box'. Be yourself. And, if you're like me, and enjoy and are highly rewarded by creating beautiful, uplifting and soulful work... go for it. Artists don't have to be dark souls, just creative ones."
As an artist I've been creating deliberate works of Art since the age of 7. As I grew up I started taking my art more seriously, and with the unquestioning support of my parents, I went on to Art Collage and then went on to study Fine Art at the Nottingham Trent University.
I started off, as most children do, around the age of 7, painting and drawing pretty pictures that pleased me. I continued Art as a subject at school and enjoyed painting and drawing landscapes, pretty cottages, flowers and animals. All of which gave me a deep sense of satisfaction and personal accomplishment. My skills and abilities progressed and matured granting me top marks. Then, the big change happened, I went to collage! I was pushed to look further 'within myself', to find stronger emotions and depth from which to draw inspiration. I did as my professors required and within a year my work had shifted dramatically.
I took the easy option! Tell any teenager to draw on deeper emotional subject matter and there is always one topic that jumps to mind, death, pain and suffering! So that's what happened, I started to photography grave yards, painted huge crucifixes and isolated figures. Although I drew on those so called 'deeper emotions' they weren't my experiences and couldn't relate to them. Yet, it worked! There was no more 'pretty' left in my work, no more me, yet up went my grades.
I graduated collage with a Distinction for my work and set off to University. Pretty much more of the same followed and after another year or so, I was more confused about my work than ever. Deeply disconnected and depressed I was ready to walk away. However I was saved the day I walked into the Tate London and stumbled upon the beautiful work of minimalist American painter Robert Ryman. I experienced a 'light bulb' moment when I realised beauty, simplicity and 'pretty' could be, intellectual! My work again was radically shifted, out of the darkness and back into the light. I became interested in surface textures, use of space and quality of light. My photography changed as well and I started photographing patterns of light in reflected spaces. I was liberated, I was connected again to myself. The deference this time was that I was working outside of the preconceived ideas and notions that come with the label 'artist'. (at least by my university professors). I was working more as an architect might, seeing in dimensional terms and creating 'spaces' that provoked a kind of liberation through a simplistic beauty. I thrived once again.
Looking back I can see how my work was distorted by an inability to 'see' that being creative or an artist, isn't about behaving in a predefined way. It isn't about 'doing' the expected. And, it's most certainly not about jumping into a 'box' that I though was nessecary to define me and my success. It was about being ME! (Yet knowbody every told me that!)
For me (and I not saying it's for everyone) pretty can be sophisticated, it can be intellectual and it does show as much about the human condition, and our connection to that condition, as anything else.
My frustration is that even in this new age of the 'creative mind' we are still pre defining the 'Artist' in our education. When creative design and innovation seems to have pulled itself out of the darkness of self-imposed suffering, visual art still seems to be inflicted with this 'condition'.
Can you beleive I was only reminded the other day, that visual artists have an obligation to show us the 'real world'! But why, and what 'real world' are we referring too? I could go on and on with this topic! But here is my argument, or frustration, in the smallest nutshell I can put it.
As designers, innovators, and creative people we need to tap into the greatest source of inspiration and that means tapping into ourselves. The true and authentic self we are before it's educated out of us. We have to 'un-know' how to behave and work. And work from a place of truth (whatever that looks like to you). Your work can be dark and thought provoking, if that's your honest intention, just like it can be uplifting and spiritual, if that's your intention. The key here, is understanding who you really are, beyond the trappings of education and society's pre-determined 'identity box'.
We need to teach and support true individuality, through authentic creative expression, and that means stripping back all our pre conceived ideas as to what 'something' should look like, or how 'something' should work. Perhaps my experiences have lead me full circle and given me a very grounded understanding of who I am. Regardless, I'd still like to see more of a shift in how creativity for artists is supported, percieved and taught.
"Believe in your creativity whole heartedly, know your creativity and express it, for the good of all. Artists don't have to be dark souls, just creative ones". Sx