Between the Bridges

Between the Bridges – by Rocky Berlier ©2007

Tuesday, August 28, 2007

The Well-Spring Of Art

Talking with artist friends this week, we had some very deep and satisfying discussion about the need for artists to explore and commune with other artists regarding their differing philosophies. It’s not so much about “comparing notes” (so to speak) but to cultivate a habit where one might solidify their own perspective of the world. Why is this so important?

An artist sees the world (as we ALL do) from the inside-out. We all project our sense of order and structure onto the world around us. How much more important is this for the artist? The one who spends their life in a continual effort to express creatively what they see, sense, feel and believe of this world and the universe? However, from where do they draw upon this creative well-spring? What is its source? Personally, I believe that the philosophical structure within (all of us) becomes the “cookie-cutter” matrix for the sense we make of the world as we “project it” outside of ourselves. Thus, it becomes the headwaters for our creativity itself.

Art is a nuance driven form of expression. It is one of subjective interpretations as well as deeper and deeper levels of initiation. The more one pays attention to an art-form, the more one develops a sensitivity, a deeper understanding and an “eye” for the otherwise “too subtle to see” world of this particular form of expression. Each form has it’s own universe; has it’s own heroes and heroines; it’s own super-stars and legends. Each also has it’s own landmarks & masterpieces; watersheds & pivotal moments in its history that forever changed the art-form.

Photography is certainly no different. There was a time when photography was not considered an “art” at all. Thanks to the efforts of famous photographers like Alfred Stieglitz, Edward Weston and Ansel Adams, the place that photography enjoys among the other arts today is forever ensconced for future generations.

However, through all the historical evolution and pictorial documentary of photography, the the true back-story is about the philosophies of the artists themselves that gave shape to what we know of the art-form today. Belief in principles and intellectual constructs that gave the art a substantial structure and framework that novices enjoy today without the slightest comprehension of the powerful struggles that took place in the distant past. Not wars of bloodshed but of philosophies and beliefs of where the art should go next.

When photographers like Man Ray (1890-1976) appeared on the scene and took darkroom techniques like solarization to a higher level, the philosophy behind this was based on Dadaism which attempted to reject the oppressive intellectual rigidity in both art and everyday society. Movements such as Dadaism and surrealism also influenced artists like Dali and Picasso.

Photographer, Edward Weston (1886-1958), began looking for the deeper forms within the human form. Ansel Adams (1902-1984) went in search of a greater expression beyond the human form. The Great Depression shaped the philosophy that influenced the poignant work of Dorothea Lange (1895-1965). Heroes all.

The point I am struggling to make here, is that the personal philosophy (both its strengths and weaknesses) is the inner framework that guides the “pattern recognition” of our brains to see what we see and the ways that we see it.

I am rather disgusted at the lack of depth to those calling themselves artists today. Pretty much “anything goes” and that, in itself, is a philosophy... or perhaps, an anti-philosophy. Few these days even think below the surface of the immediacy of first impressions or ever allow time (or take the time) to savor a work of art beyond its initial impact. How sad.

Few ask questions beyond “Do I like it?” and a positive or negative response. It’s all become very “fast food” oriented and “sound-bite” encapsulated. It’s either a “Wow!” or “Next!” Quick assessments and little if any time to fully process what the artist was trying to say beyond the first blush. What’s worse is the fewer and fewer numbers of viewers and critics who even KNOW how to look beyond the first layer. This is all born out of the times we live-in and has crafted our collective philosophies regarding art and how we see it. But can’t you just hear the almost tangible plaintive cry of “More, please!” from the hearts and minds of society? “We want MORE!” I believe that desired “more” is what lies in the layers below the surface.

Once someone has truly taken a earnest initial step into any art-form, there begins an initiation process to devour the next layer and level of meaning. To get BEHIND the veil of the superficial and explore the uncharted territory of meaning. The secret behind the secret. For me, this is the artist’s philosophy. It shapes the their mind; which guides their eyes, hands, body & soul and ultimately leads them to a profound masterwork.

So, here I quietly sit, pondering these thoughts. Wondering if anyone really knows or cares about such things. Hoping that even a handful do. I offer without reservation to all artists or would-be artists in any regard; FIND a philosophy about ART! Introspect and THINK beyond the emotional sensibilities. Beyond your knee-jerk response to a viewing of art. Beyond the surface of symbols and brush-strokes to the core of the artist themselves. To the nuances of meaning and the heart of their philosophy. You won't be disappointed.
~ Warmest regards, Rocky

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