Art, what is it?

Discussion of Joseph Campbell's work with an emphasis on the personal creative impulse as well as the sociological role of the artist in today's global community.

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Post by Zikar » Fri Feb 23, 2007 3:22 am

Campbell speaks of what is and also is not Art, proper.

Campbell discusses this topic in many of his lectures.

The points given in these lectures are well understood in this group, and therefore it is not necessary to mention all of Cambpell's discussion points on this topic.

But my question to the board is, who do you find is making true Art today?


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Post by Mark O. » Fri Feb 23, 2007 3:22 am

Zikar,

Welcome to the JCF Forums! Sorry this isn't a response to your question... just wanted to let you know that within 24 hours I will be moving your post to the "Mythos: For the Creative Community" forum. The focus of that forum is a
Discussion of Joseph Campbell's work with an emphasis on the personal creative impulse as well as the sociological role of the artist in today's global community. These conversations will clarify and validate the role that the artist has played throughout human history.
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Post by Martin_Weyers » Fri Feb 23, 2007 3:22 am

Hello Zikar,

thanks for asking this question, since this is one that moves me since about 25 years. From my point of view Campbell's emphasis on the concept of aesthetic arrest is to narrow. True art can conclude also dramatic movement. I agree with Campbell that most of the art being presented today in the art galleries is pornographic or didactic. This kind of art is inauthentic, because it's intention is just to help people, who are watching or buying it, to get an even more swallen ego.

True art is authentic, and it's beauty is not of a decorative kind. It comes from the depths of the psyche, but is brought into a final, valid form. That's why there is no art without a craft. (You know, this is what Campbell says too.) You need a craft to put it in a final, valid form.

And what is special about the art of today? From my point of view it's wrong to intend spiritual art concsiously, that is to paint a Buddha or to copy other symbolic forms, if it does not come out of the depths of your own psyche.

A final, valid form can grow only out of an authentic approach. So I respect artists who are still working hard both on their psyche and their craft, though have not reached perfection yet.

On the other hand I'm sceptical about artists who are going the rather direct way, and just copy symbols. And it's absolutely wrong to believe that the function of the arts is to reflect society. This approach is one of the reasons why art has degenerated to pornography and didactic indoctrination.

In an e-mail conversation with an art historian I said a few weeks ago, that true art does not mirror our times, but goes beyond all mirrors. It's timeliness is based on its authenticity, not on any conscious attempt to be timely.

And who is doing true art today? Just a few examples, reflecting my own preferations (and not even all of them):
It is remarkable, that many of these artists are transcending the limits of their own professional medium in their work. Glass, for instance has been involved in the visual arts and visual presentation of his works ever since; Wilson is not only a stage director, but also an incredible drawer; etc.

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Post by Zikar » Fri Feb 23, 2007 3:22 am



True art is authentic
<font size=-1>[ This Message was edited by: Martin on 2004-03-02 14:44 ]</font>
[/quote]

Yes sir. That is what I am looking for. Honesty. If an artist is honest in his/her works, then the archetypal images will shine though. They cannot be borrowed, and must generate from within the artist in order for the radiation to shine through and connect to the authentic psyche of the one experiencing it.

That's another thing. The experience of art. When another person, a stranger unmet, experiences true art, that person draws from a well of common human experiences. In that connection between artist and patron is The Work itself! That person, in the presence of this piece, that is himself, is drawing an invisible psychic line between himself and the the artist.

The artist is the one producing the art, and it takes an artist to experience it. Many people will disagree and say without thinking that you do not have to be an artist to experience art. But I say that once a person is hit by the full experience of an artistic work, in that participation he/she is indeed an artist and is also a part of the work itself. The connection produced by the art and the viewing (hearing/seeing) is a work! And this is another sign of true art, since only when the artist is honest as possible about their experience can they have such an effect upon persons unknown, and for centuries to come!

The timelessness of a piece is due to this very thing, that the piece is speaking to the essential human being, no matter what place, no matter the period of history. These types of pieces are forever contemporary.

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Post by ALOberhoulser » Fri Feb 23, 2007 3:22 am

inexplicable beauty in the provided light
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Post by Psyche » Fri Feb 23, 2007 3:22 am

Cheers, Martin and Zikar!

I agree with much of what you say. True art is both authentic and timeless. It comes from honesty and knowing/exploring one's psyche. It's not always a forced use of symbols. This is didactic; or in some cases exploitive, as you both mentioned. Further, it doesn't resonate at deeper levels.

I don't think that we have to immediately dismiss 'didactic' art; high art is full of this; alot of it is also quite clever in an intellectual game kind of way. and yes, much of the contemporary art from the last decade is pretty devoid of soul and probably not worth mentioning - in some cases, that is their whole point. Not exactly earth shattering: just a critiquing mirror.

But for the better ones, they can be fun to work out - but they require a good knowledge of art history and issues being dealt with - something not currently taught in schools. High art also has forged its own language since the early 20th c; most notably since Greenberg's call to art for art's sake (which was also the yelp of others...for better or worse). But I don't see this as entirely detrimental: actually I think art history should be taught in schools - esp a socio-political angle. Some paintings, for example, can be incredibly rich in content. Gericault's Raft of the Medusa is an excellent case in point - a political disaster for the French government. So would the Impressionist's work - as it foresaw the rise of bourgeoisie as well as beginning of capitalism's facades vs reality. We can't ignore these examples of Excellent art - didactic yes, but covert.

mid 20th c painting was following in the steps of, and trying to immitate, music - the 'pure' art form since it is innately abstract. It reaches deep into us: it is easy to think of a piece of music that could bring us to tears, or promote enthusiasm, colour the air with sadness, or help with healing a sad heart. This is amazing art.

But I think that painting and music (and dance and poetry etc) have alot more in common than is directly evident. Each posits rhythm, tensions, harmonies, disharmonies, resolutions, balance. In music, this is obvious as in dance. In painting and drawing, it is line thickness, saturation, colours juxtaposed, texture, tone, and subject matter. It creates perhaps a cacaphony that must be investigated to being to 'see' the melody and feel the tensions and resolutions. It may have an amazing attractive quality, but the reasons for are not describable in words. It just is so. I figure this is a noble goal. This is one of my own goals, anyway.

Creativity, by nature, involves the conscious (structure, finding the how of putting things together, education, skills, linear) and the unconscious (chaos, making new and unusual connections, talent, innate structures, non-linear). Art done purely by the conscious is likely quite clever and intelligent; or mere copies. Art done using only the unconscious is therapy. Authentic art requires both, I suspect.

I also suspect that, like writing and poetry, one must learn the skills and the 'vocabulary' and even some history, just to get a grasp of some kind of language and context. To make advancements, for example in literature, one must learn a language, understand previous great works, and have some understanding of one's own position and 'voice'. Despite how intellectual this sounds, I also think that it is invaluable for the unconscious - it has a working lexicon - now the new stuff can begin. The skills are an absolute requirement - trying to render one's ideas is very hard otherwise. this also involved connecting/coordinating mind and body.

I hope this doesn't sound like a manifesto....its just stuff i've worked on for years as I have been developing my own art practice. Other ideas always welcome - i'm happy to be challenged!

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Post by Psyche » Fri Feb 23, 2007 3:22 am

I found something that Martin wrote in "Holy Grail - myth for 21st century" ....

it's an eloquent statement, and quite to the point. I had to repeat it here:

"So the Wasteland is a world in which ambitious art is not reaching its audience and those artworks which are reaching the audience are not touching the deeper spheres of the soul."

To the journey...


PS...here are two quotes I found years ago and just recently came across again:

Jasper Johns once said: "It may be that focusing on the making diminishes thinking about what one intends the work to mean, leaves the unconscious with room in which to operate, allows meaning to accrue without interference."

Cezanne once said: "...if I get all distracted, if my concentration lapses, above all, if I do too much interpreting...if I start thinking while I'm painting, if I intervene, then crash! Bang! the whole damn thing falls apart."
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Post by Martin_Weyers » Fri Feb 23, 2007 3:22 am

On 2004-03-17 19:31, Parcival wrote:
I found something that Martin wrote in "Holy Grail - myth for 21st century" ....

it's an eloquent statement, and quite to the point. I had to repeat it here:

"So the Wasteland is a world in which ambitious art is not reaching its audience and those artworks which are reaching the audience are not touching the deeper spheres of the soul."

To the journey...

Thanks for quoting me, Parcival! It was a strange reunion. I can't remember to have written those lines, and they sound to me as written by someone, who is much wiser than I am!

You seem to have a deep understanding of the arts - am I right that you're working in the field of the arts? "Art for art's sake" - just add the popular American "it [=the artwork] is what it is", and you have the whole mess!

EDIT: Just read your profile: "Graduate student of Fine Arts and Psychology". It would be great to hear more about your occupation. I have studied philosophy & psychology at the university, but just for my own education (I have no degree). And I'm working as an artits in the fine arts, though I haven't visited any art school. I'm always highly interested in people who combine a skill in the arts with a deep interest in
psychological, philosophical & mythological issues!

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Post by Psyche » Fri Feb 23, 2007 3:22 am

Hi Martin,

I'm glad to hear from another psych/artist/philosopher out there!

Technically, my graduate studies are just beginning (shortly) in art therapy. I chose this field as it allowed me to blend in complimentary fashion my love of art, psychology, and philosophy. After reading about art therapy and its techniques, I realized I was automatically doing many of them in my art. I have an excellent connection to my unconscious - or at least the liminal area where the conscious and unconscious meet. I also seem to have a near 50/50 balance between creative and analytical brain stuff. I can understand math and philosophy (my understanding of physics would be placed here) just as easily as I can understand colours, spacial relations, and symbolism.

My art training, itself, is in both studio and art history; in an intellectually rigorous environment. I also have a first degree in English literature (w/ psychology), which really feeds my love of symbolism, narratives, writing, imagination, metaphor, and playing with structure (sculpting with words).

In terms of art theory and education, I felt quite frustrated by what I felt was a neglect of other options and ideas. I took a philosophy of aesthetics course and this opened everything wide open! It went hand in hand with psychology interests.

so this was the intellectual compliment to what I innately felt was my own artistic approach.

As such, I currently paint with acrylic and (waterbased) oils; conte, charcoal, ink, and raw canvas. (I also sometimes to abstract narratives with camera and some inanimate object as protagonist). Subject matter is usually decided by some mediation between intellectual and intuitive - i just "know". Currently, the images are mostly from Gray's anatomy, but they are rendered in a very abstract way, intuitive, almost gestalt-ian or roarshach in final product. I am quite happy with this because the original image has much meaning for me, but that meaning is not translated to others, rather, I want subjectivity to reign in the audience's individual interpretations. To this extent, I hope that the images resonate at a deeper level - without a complete explanation as to why or what is so compelling, intriguing, or disgusting. (back to philosophy of beauty: aristotle vs plato...). Catharsis at a subconscious level - sure, why not? I'm sure at some level, this is also playing with collective (un)conscious, and exploring the nature of imagination, creativity, cognition (even mind movment and structure), and philosophies of mind.

Maybe its also a bit like being trained to be able to ride a horse well, but then deciding to ride out into the wild outback just to explore it, see what the horse can do, and find out how you react/survive. :wink:


I certainly wouldn't mind the images/paintings to serve as meditational tools, either. This is what I like about Joan Miro (later work - esp his "Blue" series, and the "bug people") and Paul Klee, even Georgia O'Keefe. I am really impressed by Eva Hesse also (she died way too young), and Helen Frankenthaler. Strangely, I like some of the 70's conceptual work: Richard Long, Serra, and ____ (his name escapes me right now: he's a european who moved to south america and does 'walk' art in the city...he has a famous piece where he walks all over the city with a can of paint with a small hole pierced in it dribbling a line behind him ... love it!). Oh, I also really like the Hans Prinzhorn collection of the "art of the insane". amazing... and the surrealist/dada playing with randomness, chance, words, semiotics, dreams, etc.

As for technique, I paint on the floor - kinda like Pollock - but I saturate the raw canvas in hot water and then layer and stain to paint. A bit reminiscent of spfumato + colour field application, i suppose... in anycase, the point is to get the whole body involved; i think this works a bit like walking in that it engages the critical part of the brain in order to enduce a more calming meditative state (beta or delta waves?). Sometimes I even go for a long walk before painting. And music is always playing in the background. It was really loud for awhile, but recently I want it quiet and delicate.

Soooooo...that's the long and long of it.

What about your own practice, Martin? How has it developed and what are you working on now?

You are fortunate to have so much art and architectural history to draw on - or is this a grass is greener? My own part of the world is rather isolated - NY is a 4 or 5 hour flight away; nevermind europe!!

Looking forward to hearing from you (and other artists and philosophers and ??, too).

namaste.
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Post by Martin_Weyers » Fri Feb 23, 2007 3:22 am

Thanks, Joanne, for these extensive insights in your way of working/thinking! I found many parallels and also (proper for individuals with personality) some differences.

I love waterbased oil, which I use often for the first few layers of colour. I have posted an image of one of my etchings in another thread (Original Works), which, I was told, looks a little bit like a Rorschach test (though, I can tell you, it was much more complex work to do).

My own way of thinking is also 50% analytic and 50% intuitive. I think that happens not very often. Most people think either this or that way. Most artist don't have much analytic talent.

I have problems though with mathematics, as soon as the message is put in abstract formulars. I remember when I was visiting a logic course at the university, that I had many problems with the formalisations. However, when someone started explaining his formalization (even our teacher) I sometimes simply knew that he was wrong. And I was always right at the end, though I was an idiot concerning the formalisations!

I will write a more detailed reply soon. Yesterday and today the whole day through I have been helping a friend with moving from one end of the town to the other. Unusual work for an egghead. So my delicate brain is sligtly damaged!
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Post by Psyche » Fri Feb 23, 2007 3:22 am

Hi Martin,

I'm looking forward to your more indepth account of your art practice. It is always interesting to hear how fellow artists approach their craft - and particularly so with those who also share a 50-50 brain structure!

I looked at the original art link provided and am totally amazed at the image. It strikes me that you really understand labyrinths well. This is a great etching: i think it hearkens back to one of the core meanings to be found in this symbol. I like the juxtaposition of the Goddess (Kali? Shakti?) and the lingham (Shiva). Well...this is what I see anyway. Why did you chose a square format for the labyrinth/maze? The spiral at the base is particularly interesting: I currently see this symbol as a link to the possibility of transformation, the promise of the shaman. The colours used are unusual: they are very shocking and dynamic. Red, white, and black are usually associated with revolutions and change (often political).

Or else rise of kundalini; journey of hero to survive this trial; personal revolution of the authentic self over false ego structures?

Or else revolution of the spirit over the wasteland: triumph.

You are right: there is an element of roarshach here: so many readings - death of the author, birth of the audience...nice!

That's the nice thing about roarshachs - each member of the audience is not wrong; and neither is the artist, and neither is the critic/analyst! Win/win/win... ahhh. Is this wayyyyyy to utopic and anarchistic (win/win/win = lose/lose/lose because there is not common element to bind)? I'm writing in a stream of thought here...

How big is this etching?

I'll try to post one or two of my new images in the Original Art section - though sometimes I am a technological delinquent...

I'll be working on a website for my work - for viewing and feedback - a place of dialogue is ideal.

Formerly reluctant, I now embrace the cyber-21st Century... :smile:

Joanne


PS. I remember the artist's name: Francis Alys.


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Post by Metal Gear » Fri Feb 23, 2007 3:22 am

Hi

I am an art student. I used to only paint in acrylic, but now my work has become more like writing, so I more often use Crayola Crayons, color pencils, and ballpoint pens.

I smoke weed for psychotheraputic use, and when I toke up, I always have a stack of trance/ambient cds (Master Musicians of Jajouka, Bill Laswell, The Orb, Dj Cheb I Sabbah, Harold Budd), and I draw.

When I am in my bedroom, my artwork tends to be more internally reflective. Dream imagry, mandalas - art about my inner self. When I am in the backyard, basking in the sun, my artwork is more about a communion with nature.

With the influence of weed, my artwork is automatic, and unedited. Although there are somethings in my head I can't figure out how to translate onto paper.

When I am not under any influence, my artwork is like 1950s/1960s minimalism. Its all about exploration of the materials, and the very basic elements of color and form.

I also take pictures with a digital camera. A lot of them are pictures of plants or the sky.

What I love about art, is that it makes me better at seeing - as I become a better artist, my perception of detail, and overall awareness increases. Becuase of this, my experience as a developing artist led me to Eastern philosphies and the works of Joseph Campbell. Art for me also psychologicaly heals. Art for me is a spiritual experience, and it has helped me through hard times in my life.

Art, if I had to give it a definition, is changing associations and context of an object or a moment.

I would like to reccomend to whoever reads this, looking up Paul Klee's Magic Squares, expecially "Ancient Harmonies" and also Brion Gysin's paintings.


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Post by ALOberhoulser » Fri Feb 23, 2007 3:22 am

Welcome Metal Gear!

What an interesting group discussing a very important topic...Cheers to Manny & the JCF for creating this space for such conversations to unfold.

I've not said much here because I've been heavily influenced to stray away from academic influences, or a historical study of the arts (THANKS J.W. Goethe!). I think art is an expression of NOW that might get placed on some kind of art-world-globe by critics and historians (either of which I have absolutely NO interest in being :grin: )

Happy SPRING!
AL
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Post by Martin_Weyers » Fri Feb 23, 2007 3:22 am

Welcome to the club, Metal Gear!

AL, you obviously read Goethe, so you are influenced by at least on artist of the past. And Goethe was one of the most erudite men of his time. I think indeed that there is no NOW in the arts without knowledge (inspiration by ~ / skillful negation of ~) the past.

In this sense it it's in fact an advantage to live in Western Europe if you are a painter, Joanne, because we have so many museums here with great paintings. Sometimes I think that so many people have such a bad taste in the arts, because they have never seen "real" a Chardin or Rembrandt.

In poetry it's much easier to get education: Buy some cheap books or rent them at the library and you will have success to the best works ever written. Without knowledge there is no art.

However, I agree that the typical way of historical thinking can become an obstacle in the arts. I know some art historians who are, in front of a painting, not able NOT to think of style, technics, names of artists and art schools. In this case the analytic site starts veiling the intuitive site and this leads to a kind of ... let's call it perceptive disorder.

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Post by Martin_Weyers » Fri Feb 23, 2007 3:22 am

On 2004-03-22 02:53, Metal Gear wrote:
With the influence of weed, my artwork is automatic, and unedited. Although there are somethings in my head I can't figure out how to translate onto paper.

When I am not under any influence, my artwork is like 1950s/1960s minimalism. Its all about exploration of the materials, and the very basic elements of color and form.
Metal Gear,

It’s interesting, that while worker under no influence of weed or other stuff, your paintings tend to minimalism; It might be seen either as a process of clarification or as a loss of content. What you wrote about working after smoking weed fits very well with Parcival’s observations:
On 2004-03-17 00:07, Parcival wrote:
Art done purely by the conscious is likely quite clever and intelligent; or mere copies. Art done using only the unconscious is therapy. Authentic art requires both, I suspect.
Parcival,

this is a very sagacious observation. Other than Cezanne I like to switch between both states of consciousness while working. In general I start with drawing in a rather automatic way, and afterwards try to put it in a form and to create more structure. Drawing/painting for me is rather a process of developing thoughts & ideas than an attempt to illustarte existing thoughts & ideas.

The etching in my other post is 40 x 20 cm (plate size). The idea started with a painting of a somehow fluid figure, flowing from the edge at the right upper corner of the painting to the bottom left corner. (This figure later would appear in a varied form in the centre of the etching in the form of two symmetrical figures.) The earlier painting included also the vague form of a labyrinth, that was much different from that of the etching. It was sprayed with varnish – a moving, flowing, transforming labyrinth, it’s walls or boundaries out of pure energy. It might also be associated with the form of a serpent or a complex spiral form.

The spiral, like the classic form of the labyrinth, points to the origin of all forms – the silence between the thoughts, from where all forms & thoughts evolve. (I love your “shamanic” interpretation of the spiral in the bottom section, Parcival. In its centre, there’s a little floating, embryonic figure, like a larva; I’m not sure you if you were able to see it on the electronic reproduction.)

For the etching I chose a much different labyrinth form. It was meant as a pedestal for the goddess figure on top (Flora? Kali?). So the goddess is enthroned on a labyrinth, whereas the two fluid figures underneath are flowing out of the labyrinth – creation and extension of time& space? (Don’t know. It’s dangerous for an artist to interpret his own creations. Henry Moore once wrote, that an artist should not write too much about his art, because if too much of the material is transformed into analytic language it will oppress the artistic realization of the unconscious ideas.)

So, again, there is the problem of a proper/improper relationship between a conscious and unconscious approach.

I like the desciption of your working proceess very much, Parcival! Painting on the floor, while music is playing, having long walks before, and then the saturation of the raw canvas in hot water, layer and stain to paint – a very sensuous creative process. And your paintings of bodies (or corpses?) – looking like water colours, at least on the reproductions, have both a spiritual and substantial appearance. I like those paintings where the spiritual and substantial are coming together. From my point of view, these works are both formally and symbolically more subtle than Gray’s paintings. (But it’s difficult to judge on the value of an artwork if only reproductions are available, and I absolutely respect Gray's approach. It seems to touch & affect many people directly, especially in the US.)

Your report inspires me to experimentalize with some of the technics you suggested, in a way that is appropriate to my own artistic approach. There must be another of bale of raw canvas somewhere in the stockroom…!

<font size=-1>[ This Message was edited by: Martin on 2004-03-24 10:41 ]</font>
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