Plato, a Greek philosopher believed, that art was merely an imitation/copy or his word mimesis of reality. If art imitates/copies reality, is that how art gains value through imitation? If the answer to this last question is yes, then art gains value through content: a figure, a landscape that copies either exactly – and imitation and not through reality, uniqueness, one of a kindness. That is not how I value art.
Does art need to justify itself? Or does art need value? Or should one get involved with art for the sheer pleasure it gives us. Valuing art for content. It makes art into something to be used, to be arranged, to be designed, to fit into categories. It means art can be regulated and controlled. I don’t believe art should be regulated and controlled. It needs to be free, and this freedom needs to be defended.
Artists from the 1860’s through the 1970’s challenged Plato’s philosophy of art and began breaking the rules as to what qualifies as art and what doesn’t qualify as art. Photography became an accepted media within the art arena. Artists no longer needed to imitate reality.
In the 1940’s the Abstract Expressionists created works of art that searched for a truth not only in ideas but a truth through materials and techniques. The abstract expressionists sense of line – line did not need to mimic anything, it was created for the sheer pleasure of making a line, thick, thin, wiggly, straight. Cy Twombly comes to mind here. The abstract expressionists sense of color. The abstract expressionists explored color fields and how color moved on a piece of paper or a canvas. Color was no longer controlled by realism and rules. Color comingling with other colors giving a beautiful sense of movement, these artists created explosive color, and used bold color. Combinations. Helen Frankenthaler comes to mind here with her large unprimed canvases filled with oil stained colors. Abstract Expressionists were not afraid to color the sky purple and the grass orange. Joni Mitchell comes to mind here, her garden pictures of flowers, and sunflowers. Her marks dabs of a color from a dripping fat brush that was oozing with color spontaneously placed on a canvas or paper. The reality in art became the experience it gave the artist and the viewer. Abstract expressionist artists allowed themselves the wonderful experience of expressing “self” through their work.
As many of you know I have stated repeatedly that there needs to be some objectivity in how art is valued, or art will become anything and everything because it only has subjectivity. You need to have something before you can have nothing.
I have stated some of these objective criteria could be not mimesis but uniqueness, one of a kindness and originality. These are concepts that can be objectively determined. I have also stated that this one of a kindness, this uniqueness, this originality comes for the artist and the artists understanding of themselves. The individualism that each individual artist has, needs to shine through their work in order for it to be art. The reality of who the artist is cannot be imitated. I think of Jackson Pollack’s work, Willem and Elaine de Kooning’s work, Mark Rothko’s, Franz Kline, Kandinsky and many others. Their selves, can be seen in their works through their styles. Style being understood here as the way an artist expresses themselves, their ideas, their concepts in their work.
I believe to create a work of art you first need to have your own idea,not someone else’s. The power within the idea is the artists and not another’s – it should not be taken lightly. I frequently lump idea and concept together. The idea and concept of self and a self can be identified with an individual work is a key concept in my work. I do not link the self to some mysterious force, some subconscious force as the early abstract expressionists did, but instead I link the self to the artists struggle for their own soul, their own self. The artist can never include themselves in a work of art if they don’t have this struggle and don’t have a unique original idea. If the self, the artist soul isn’t in the work, if the artist repeats what another has done, the work isn’t art.
The value of art is not found in content, rather it is found in uniqueness, and the respect for difference because of uniqueness. The value of art is found in the ideas, the concepts the artist has taken the time to figure out and express. There is no menu one can follow to create a work of art – rather art comes from the heart and soul of the unique one of a kind individual that calls themselves an artist.