Monday, March 31, 2014

Artsy Fartsy

So vast is art, so narrow human wit.
                                                  -Alexander Pope

“So you’re scared of the masters?” Sir J. looked at me with calculating eyes like he had known me for a long time, while in fact we just had the conversation for ten minutes. “I am 58, and believe me when I say that I was only enlightened about art two years ago”, he made sure that I am looking at him and continued, “I dreamed of them, you know, Michelangelo, Da Vinci..Rembrandt, and in my dream, although I am quite old I saw myself as a baby.” I just nodded. I have heard of those stories before even in music, most successful musicians claim to have had dreams of meeting their own masters; Dylan, Elvis, Marley…you name it. Sir J. really looked sincere with his story so I didn’t have a choice but to listen. “Our realm of relativity – the idea that beauty, which is the purpose of art, is weighed by subjectivity, is the binding chains of most artists.”

“So without individual judgments, the preferences, the criteria, how do we define what is art and what is not? Is the person who takes mud and smear it on a canvas an artist already? A rich-boy with the most expensive camera can just take a picture of poop and claim that it is his artistic creation? A writer can just write random scribbles and sell it as a literary craft? Art, although a tool of expression, must also require skill and aesthetics to communicate excellently to an audience, right?” I asked.

“Well its not just expression, art is also an escape, an alternative…it is a way of life…no it is life itself. So, yes, everyone is an artist, regardless of how people perceive their work.” He quickly reminded me.

Paraphrasing Tolstoy, I mumbled; “Saying that an art is good, but cannot be understood by a majority people is the same as saying that a kind of food is delicious but cannot be eaten by a majority of people.”

“What?” he’d hardly heard it, but I decided not to push it further. Artists, as they call themselves, are complicated people – sensitive and free, structured but liberated, exclusive and universal at the same time. Some say that everyone is an artist, yet an artist guild may not include those who do not share their eyes…or their skills, or their eccentric personalities and maybe, weirdness – that sort of kindred, they say. Universal…but exclusive, depending on who you ask anyway.

“But, you cannot become an artist by just owning an expensive camera…”

“I know that.” I quickly retorted. “Its not even the subjects, one must have the eyes you know, the skills to utilize light and time.” I suddenly realized that he is bringing out his cellphone, perhaps to show the things he took”

“See this?’ he swiped his middle finger on the screen to show a nude woman. I grinned at the joke, men will always be men, regardless if you are an artist or not. But hey, Sir J. here said that we are all artist, even that random guy you meet on the sidewalk.

“Which do you prefer, a letter written by hand or an encoded one using the MSword?” I realized that this guy may not know about the MS softwares so I quickly explained the metaphor. “What I mean is that the heavy reliance of technology in art, will kill art. Musicians use autotune a lot and it will not sound sincere anymore. Photography using too much editing will not appear artistic anymore. Instead of using the machine…” “The machine uses…us”, we finished the quote together as we smiled at the duet.

“Did you take up philosophy?” He asked. I decided to give him his own poison: “Everyone is a philosopher…everyone asks why…everyone gives his own take on everything; the existence of a god, aliens, angels and demons; the inquiry of life and death, and what happens when you trip over to a shithole. Just like everyone is an artist, everyone is also a philosopher.” Again, depending on who you ask though.

“Interesting. I  like you.” He flipped his sketchbook to explain the concepts of art which he thought I must absorb as a pre-requisite to his art therapy. The basics of lines, shapes, contrasts and perspectives, and what have you. The Irony. Discussing the “musts” of art, the requirements of beauty, the standards…and also preaching that art has no standards at all.

“ What I mean is…” Feeling that I have not explained my point, I raised my voice so he would understand that I wanted to talk. “What I mean is, I can draw a perfect dog, all the tiny strands of its fur and the complicated brush strokes on its face…and so what?” I was reminded by a craftsman who explained that not all skilled people are artists and not all artists are skilled.

“I agree, that is why I pointed out that the art’s beauty is found on the effect of it to the audience. Example, your art work was bought meaning the buyer felt a certain connection to the artwork.”


“Life imitates art, art imitates life…if he can relate to the art, maybe he finds something in his life in that art…a sort of relationship…then he would definitely take it home, put it in a frame, and hang it in a sacred space…its like adopting a child, you know…” I nodded in understanding. Its hard to let go of an artistic creation because there are memories in every strokes, time in every execution of techniques, a sort of attachment will definitely be there.

“I remember a doctor whom I talked to who visited the art village. After admiring the art works in the gardens, he turned to me to declare that if he will have a second life, he would want to become an artist." Then he searched my eyes before he continued; then the doctor asked me, ‘how about you sir, if you have a second life, what do you want to be?'"Sir J. waited for my reaction before his revelation.

“What was your answer?” I asked.

“Still an artist.” He smiled.