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Maker of forms, images and poems, hopefully with deep meaning

Thursday, June 20, 2013

The Artist’s Art of Engagement


Engagement

Due to the island’s relative isolation, accessible only by ferry until 1963, Fairweather was able to engage with the outside world— on his own terms.
Angela Goddard Ian Fairweather Late Works 1953–74, Queensland Art Gallery 2012                                          http://www.qagoma.qld.gov.au/exhibitions/past/2012/ian_fairweather_late_works_1953-74

Every artist needs to set their own terms for engagement with the outside world. The shape and extent of that engagement will vary from artist to artist, but the crucial thing is to be able to control it so that it feeds, rather than erodes, the creative impulse.

Disengagement

The world has been weighing heavily on me of late: revelations about the power of corporate greed and totalitarian surveillance in the United States; the callousness of the Australian government towards asylum seekers, the usual parade of murder, rape, racist and religious violence and war.

Then I came across this brilliant article by Bernard-Henri Lévy, Why Contemporary Art Matters Now at the Daily Beast. This hit me right between the eyes:-

And God knows current events have moved me, will continue to move me, and move me each week in these columns.
But I also know that giving oneself up entirely to current events is a threat to the spirit.
...
To array oneself on the side of death and its accumulation of despair and hopelessness, or to stand on the side of life and the inner hopefulness that is always present in the work of the artist. 

Engaged how?

Every age produces art in the spirit of its times: is contemporary art merely entertainment based on techno-gimmickry? Is it the modern opium of the masses? Has it become, like sport, just one more distraction on the road between birth and death? Existential valium? Prolefeed?

So it is the 80s that we have to thank for all the exploitative sub-artistic product manufactured by Jeff Koons and his like, but also for the blatant domination of contemporary art by money and fashion (Christopher Allen Follow the Money The Australian Review June 15-16 2013)

And in the same issue

What is Koons if not an avatar, an ego overtaken by a whole system of market-induced appetites? (Sebastian Smee, Masters of invention: MoMA in Perth The Australian Review June 15-16 2013)
                   http://www.theaustralian.com.au/arts/review

Maybe, to quote Alan Watts: We have become so tied up in our minds we have lost our senses.

Perhaps we should rethink the role of art and our relationship to it:

Ryckmans emphasises the high value placed on the work of the amateur in Chinese art. A professional artist was considered merely a craftsman, working with ‘slick fluency’ and “technical virtuosity” for reward. Conversely for the amateur, painting was seen as a contemplative act of self-cultivation and spiritual discipline.
Dael Allison Isolation and Creativity: Ian Fairweather’s 1952 Raft Journey,                                                  http://epress.lib.uts.edu.au/research/bitstream/handle/10453/20424/01Front.pdf?sequence=1

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