Lets talk about the study of art.
Is teaching art even possible?
If I had to sum art studies into one simple sentence that almost sounds like a mathematical formula it will go like this: A feeling or an idea (works much better if both are composed together) = The what. Plus the interpretation to an image= The how.
I’ll get into that: An image is not necessarily a photo or a painting, but it could be a sculpture, installation, video, performance etc… The how is the choice of medium in which you’ll work in and the substances or materials that will transform the feeling/thought into a physical thing that will exhibit this feeling/thought in the best way.
What turns a work of art into a good work of art is much more complex, but usually it contains moments that are quiet and than a sudden burst of power.
That is something I noticed to appear in many things that most people reacts to, on many levels and in many genres. Just think of Yoga, or any kind of sport. You have those moments of calm energy sustained in order for them to burst out in a quick fine moment of truth, and then the muscle stretches a bit more, and then relaxation again.
It’s a process of transformation.
In order to get there you need to be in touch with yourself, confident- even if only for that one moment- and not less important: confident in your technique, which takes lots of practice, confident that it will express what you want to communicate the world.
Really, it’s like an atom bomb exploding. One tiny little moment of stuffed energy exploding without fear.
What makes an artist into a very good artist are many of those moments, and the ability and will to transform many times.
In order to have many of those moments you need to have many layers as a person, and within all those layers you need to have one very, if not the most important thing: love. Love= Hope.
We all heard about the myth of the suffering Artist, going out of the dark cave into the light, where he finds his death after telling the truth to all who didn’t want to hear… And now his paintings are sold at Christie’s for millions of dollars. Right?
Well… Most of us will not be that lucky, and it’s possible that we don’t really want to be.
Even when looking at the most important painful paintings of all times, even when listening to the all times saddest songs, always, at one point we’ll find a glimpse of hope, and dare I say: Beauty.
You can find it in the sad, but loving eyes of the bull in Picasso’s Guernica. You can find it Warhol’s colourful prints, you can find it in Van Gogh’s strong brush strokes.
In fact it is so strong, that the work sort of breathes it out and you can’t really point at it, but everyone feels it. Everyone knows its there, and that’s why it becomes so big.
You can’t fake it. It’s either there, or it’s not.
That’s why we can’t afford to be cynical.
Now it took a while, but here I am, getting to the point of the title of this post:
The idea of trying to teach someone just that, is cynical for itself!
You can try and talk about it- and hell knows we do lots of talking in art school- you can try and direct a student to be more attached to themselves, but you can’t teach them how to direct their feelings and thoughts from their hearts, to their minds and all the way to their hands and out.
This can be achieved only by the artist, spending hours and hours in the studio or wherever it is he/she works, but the point is that it takes lots of time and practice.
Only for few us it will come naturally and without thought, and even then, practice makes perfect.
And may I say, most of art schools don’t even front this matters, but deals more and more with what’s going on outside the studio.
And may I say that even when they deal with that there is so much potential of damage that can be done to a student.
Most art teachers I know are artists themselves. They get into teaching with their own ideas and their own perception of the world and of the students they teach. They don’t really, REALLY know their students.
So they go along with what THEY think is right, trying to direct the students through the path THEY think will be best for them.
Sometimes… Well, numbers and statistics will back me up here- Most of the times, they are wrong.
That is why most of the students who actually made it till the end of the four years studies, drops out from “real life art school”. Because it is that hard after those four years to find your own voice between all of those of your teachers, even after a year or two post art school.
So for who art school can actually work?
People who are naturally mature, have a strong sense of self, and are very focused on their career goals so that in some level are getting into art school in order to make connections with galleries, curators, other artists etc…
Personally, I never treated art that way. If to be honest, I never looked at it as a career. Not because I didn’t want one.. contradicting as it might sound… but I never thought of it as one of this things where you can follow simple steps and climb up the levels as you go.
I know it’s a bit romantic and naive approach, but believe me, I am not one to think that you can live up on air, and that art cannot be compromised into something that will eventually have to sell.
I just don’t think that is the right motivation to make art, and in a way, art schools became (or they have always been that way) a manufacture of artists that will graduate and work in the market.
I hate the word market.
To be continued...
P.S- In part 2 I will go deeper into the subject of criticism during art studies, so stay tuned.