I remember a while back, when I was faced with a very pressing situation requiring my instant attention. I was being interviewed live, on a major television station at prime time, along with showing a series of my slides in connection to the opening of an art exhibit. As soon as they wired me up, and situated me on stage, and only a couple minutes before going live, the very charming gentleman, who art was to interview me, whispered to me the following: “I have no idea what to ask you, what do you suggest?” I said, no problem, if you ask me only 3 simple questions, I will handle the rest. He was relieved, and quickly jotted down the questions. The green light came on, we went on live, and wrapped up a flawlessly smooth and successful interview. Off camera, the crew came on the stage with big smiles, and acknowledged both of us; but they praised the interviewer, for surprising them as an art connoisseur!
Aesthetics as a set of principles and branch of philosophy deals with questions concerning beauty and artistic experiences. As far as our general understanding of it is concerned it is a highly nebulous field, subjected to tremendous degree of misinterpretation, particularly in the field of abstract art. In any field of humanities where less accurately is known about that field and its principles have not been precisely formulated, the more authoritarian the field becomes. In the field of arts, with no exact fundamentals accurately developed, the techniques and approaches are wide open for the artists to imagine, explore and create their art.
The artist is also subjected to the “laws” of commerce, where various schools of divergent opinions begin to “teach” the artist “how” to be an artist and paint a certain way, citing the field’s critics galore as she listens with an open jaw in lieu of reason. The “authorities,” in the field of visual arts, most of whom have never painted any paintings themselves but are very “fluid” and “cultured” by having memorized a few standard opinions and artistic works and projects of humanitarian nature, analyze the paintings for the artist every step of the way, each time the artist presents a piece of her art for a critique, mainly to discover what’s wrong with her art and how she should fix it according to these “professors’s” brand of “expertise.”
I admit to a tad of generalization here for making a point; but does any of this ring a true bell for you? Can you think of an artist you know who is or has been on this ship? I lived and survived through it all, trusting and believing that there had to be a logical and more nurturing way to free imaginative impulses so that the artist could paint as freely as he wanted. Something within me, was telling me, that something was inherently not quite right with the constructive criticisms that were to “teach” us how to view our own world of art, through the eyes of the “critics,” excuse me, the professors. I had viewed this “school of thought” as an authoritarian method of teaching that smothered the thoughts, emotions, or efforts of the artist, but could not quite articulate the problem I was sensing at the time. I discovered later, that this mechanism of controlling thought through teaching, was only one of the elements in our society, which inherently brings about the suppression of the arts that stifles the creative impulses of the artists at the expense of the whole culture.
Artists are often “accused” of having their heads up in the clouds, and living within an unreal world of imagination. This brings about the necessity of taking a good and thorough look at just how reality bites. Plowing through several fields of study in search of a tool to measure the aesthetics and the creation processes can leave us empty handed, until we splurge into the field of philosophy to examine our thoughts and reasoning.
THE ART OF THINKING AND REASONING
Thinking and reasoning is a social activity for most people. They require the engagement of external forces as the individual is as much a part of society as the society is a part of the individual. From the moment of birth, the social labyrinth of customs, beliefs, languages, values, religions, politics, and other traditional ideas are all well positioned to mold the child into the image of those who the child is surrounded with, and it is thoroughly based upon faith and belief. So masterfully the operation is instilled into the society as social heredity that even science has often mistaken it as being genetic.
English philosopher and author Francis Bacon (1561-1626), and another English philosopher and mathematician Issac Newton (1642-1727), and others have developed ways of thinking and reasoning that requires a fact in order to be proven must be measured, sensed or experienced. And when we thrust this into the realm of mind and spirit we find our willingness reduced in accepting facts based upon faith or belief.
For this reason, in appreciating life, and creating anything within it such as art, looking for answers and solutions exterior to our own sentient qualities, intellects or experiences is to lose concept of our own truth, values and individuality. And the artist, very often, bears the brunt of this philosophy of “independent thinking” and frequently subjected to criticism by those who have a firm grip on the traditions of status quo.
But the artist moves on, knowing where the roots of criticism lie, and reasons that people who resort to “criticism” operate in the absence of true understanding, and since no knowledge can exist in the absence of understanding, there we arrive at the presence of “ignorance.” Thus, knowing the basis and the mechanism behind criticism, often serves as a tremendous source of empowerment and consolation for the artist to continue with his art on the grounds of certainty and knowledge of her art and transcend through the highest echelons of culture called: aesthetics!