Wednesday, March 3, 2010

Can Too Much Information Prevent Unique Individual Expression?

 
I went through a somewhat traditional gamit when I was learning to express myself as an artist, I started drawing at a young age, found I had a talent for realism and portraiture, and then focused myself on learning how to draw from life...  I went out and took lessons, looked into reference materials on how to do different things and learned the proper ways to execute a portrait, draw a still life, paint a landscape, use of different media for art...  In other words, I relied heavily on input from authority figures on my subject of interest, art, and pretty well took it as gospel.

When we look through art history at people that never followed any type of traditionalized art training they are often called 'primitive' artists.  What this means is that they weren't influenced by any one art school or artist in particular and their personal style evolved in isolation.  There are many pros and cons to this approach, one of the pros being the art is new and distinct unto itself.  One of the downsides is that often the composition of their pieces are off kilter in some subtle or even a major way, and it can be uncomfortable for the viewer.  But in a way, that's pretty cool as well, because if it disturbs you, it can reach you as nothing else can!
All of this verbal meandering has a point to it, as I'm edging towards a personal philosophy about artistic expression that I've been forming for myself over the last couple of decades...

When I was fourteen years old, I changed the style of my paper works by trying something new.  Basically, I left my own comfort zone and reached for a different style of self expression.  I must admit I was probably influenced by Dali and Gervasio Gallardo, but I was trying to develop something more personalized in the process. In light of my favourite artists, and for the lack of better categorization, I called my new stuff surreals...

I tried to chuck everything I thought I knew about art and rules of engagement and cleared my mind and went for it! Probably, after years of rigidity to get things just so, I wasn't truly able to do that, and the final result was a mishmash of everything under the surface of my consciousness. While I was only partially successful in what I set out to accomplish, it was a start into an evolution, and over the course of many decades, I did develop my own distinct style!

It's my belief that if you don't leave your comfort zone and push the envelope, art can become a chore and no longer have the life and passion we need to nuture ourselves as artists...  Not to mention that it can really contribute to some interesting new developments in art if enough of us do this.

Over time, I've revisited this idea over and over, and it's taken a bit of a different turn for me.  If I needed to shuck what I knew in order to develop a different style of self expression, did I really need all that training in the first place? 

Which brings me back to the primitive style of artist... Perhaps in many cases we are interfering with something unique and valuable on it's own when we introduce a training path for artistic expression.  Couldn't we be delaying or preventing the invention of some of our own more unique styles and genres by directing them into a path where teachers tell them how things work?  A lot of abstract styles are about pushing the boundries and crossing borders. If the artist isn't aware of the borders and boundries, he/she might never even visit that territory!  They might develop something unique on their own that is highly personal and distinct within itself.  If you look back at history a bit,  it seems to me that unique genres used to pop up much more regularly.  The communication network around the world was a lot less efficient and more people were discovering their artistic expression in isolation from their peers.

Thinking that over, I think that we might be exacerbating this process by the introduction of so many sources of input, IE: television, computers, the internet... 
On the other hand, maybe not.  It might just create new art forms as an end result, as there is so much information out there the confusion tends to drown out the component messages.  It's hard to treat what's on your screen at any particular moment as the last word on how you can approach doing something when there are literally dozens and dozens of dissenting opinions on it. 

This can apply to just about everything, actually!  Say you do a search on something you want to do using Google...  The search results will rank the data returned for you (thanks Google!) but it's using numbers, not any specific criteria of qualification.  So if you pore through those results, you'll be looking at a gamut of answers.  I sometimes find that figuring things out for myself ends up being less of a headache and I go that route!

My writer friend and I have many discussions on art, it's a somewhat hot topic for us and the ideas we end up bandying about can be way out there.  I'm leaning towards the idea that most of us crave artistic expression and the introduction of rules and criteria can interfere with personal artistic expression for the everyday soul...  Maybe if you don't have to make what you draw/paint look like something, you'll enjoy it more and continue doing it when you're an adult.  Why does art have to be an achievement instead of a passion? 
Personally, when I tried going my own way with art, I found that I did it more often. I had been subject to painter's block sporadically for years and found that pursuing a new direction definitely alleviated that problem.  On top of that, it was very freeing to finally be at the helm of my own personal expression journey, and it created many new ideas of where I wanted to go with it. 

Images by Teresa Young:
1. Still Life Sketch - 1980,  2. Portrait of a Boy -  November 1997,  3. Cats Emotions - August 1998,  4. Rebecca's Gaze - February 2004,  5. Closeup - Fields Of Flurry - January 2010,  6. Emergence - September 1998.


Enhanced by Zemanta

6 comments:

SF Girl said...

I find the question you pose in your title very topical, particularly in light of how communication and associated self-expression in our culture (at least in North America) is evolving and changing so rapidly with cell phone texting, internet blogging, social networking and google.

It begs the question of what IS unique individual expression and how is it achieved in this current over-rich arena of information-expression.

I feel that artists need to remain emmersed and yet apart from their culture in order to fulfill their role as commentator. It's a fine balance (keeping one foot in and one foot out)to be relevent to -- and heard by-- one's society.

Your readers may be interested to read my post on the evolution of language and associated expression (which includes artistic expression from writing to abstact art) and what it might mean to the artist of today...

Here's the link: http://sfgirl-thealiennextdoor.blogspot.com/2010/03/is-our-language-going-to-pot.html

I guess this brings up for me that cliche question: in light of our information-expression rich society today where everyone and her cat (private joke here for those who know me) can share and "publish", what IS art NOW?

Dalifan said...

Maybe that's the first question we need to ask ourselves on the road to self-expression. What art really is personally...

Certainly it would be something that would help in developing more unique forms of artistic expression as the answer to the question would form a basis for the expression itself.

Thanks for the comment!

Teresa.

Kevin said...

You are totally right about information and expression, but I think it's only harmful for artists. For non-artists, I don't think rigidity and curriculum are harmful. So the problem is, how do you free the artists and continue to train the non-artists (a situation in which everyone benefits). In other words, I think freeing everyone from information overload can be harmful too, in the physical sciences, for example.

Dalifan said...

Hmmm. It's an interesting thought, but not one I'm sure I totally agree with.

If we left rigidity of curriculum in place for technical people, then the internet itself would never have changed and grown at all...

Not to mention evolution of science. Science is constantly changing because of people that consciously put aside what they know to think outside the box. It's much the same process and ignoring a wealth of known processes to create a new art style...

Thanks for the comment;-)
Teresa.

SF Girl said...

As a practicing scientist and a published writer, I can't disagree more with Kevin's assesement. From the standpoint of science, these two -- rigidity and curriculum -- are what are wrong with science these days. It locks scientists into what IS, rather than what COULD BE and negates imagination, creativity and risk-taking, which are the very basic tenets of ground-breaking research. Of course, a certain amount of self-discipline and standard methodology is required for science to prove itself. But this is a far cry from "rigidity". You see how this brings us back to LANGUAGE and how it is evolving...

As an artist -- a published writer of novels, short stories and essays, I submit that "freeing" the artist is equally unbeneficial to both artist and those to whome the artist is communicating. There is a great deal of self-discipline and integration of world/culture for an artist to remain relevant and heard by his/her community. Chaos without order is anarchy and order without chaos is tyranny... hmmmm... you can quote me on that... :) (I'm a writer, after all)...

It is BALANCE that both scientists and artists should strive for...

Which brings us back to LANGUAGE. Go check out my link (I give it in my comment above)...

SF Girl said...

p.s. pardon my spelling errors... I'm a scientist and writer... not a grammer expert... (Where's Toulouse when you need him!)