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She Picks Up A Brush, And Paints
forioscribe




Lately I’ve been thinking about art criticism.

"Men do not know why they award fame to one work of art rather than another." --Thomas Mann

Mann is correct because an aesthetic absolute, against which works of art may be evaluated and placed in a hierarchy of value, does not exist. Therefore art criticism can be nothing more than expressions of personal preference. To which ALL--however brilliant or stupid--are entitled.

Related to this is that virtually any work of art--or proposition, for that matter--can be successfully defended or attacked, provided one has a sufficient grasp of rhetoric. Smoke & mirrors, in other words.

An absolute aesthetic theory is one that is sufficient, can't be refuted, obtains in all cases with no exceptions, and therefore requires no amendment. Personal preference, on the other hand, is rarely sufficient, easily refuted, obtains in only a few cases, and never stays the same.

Can it be said that an aesthetic absolute existed in late 19th Century Europe? Hardly. There was this chap Van Gogh. You know the story about how many paintings he managed to sell in his lifetime. So obviously the creation of an aesthetic absolute came afterward. But exactly when? Where? And by whom?

Those who insist an aesthetic absolute exists never take the trouble to prove it. They make vague allusions to the ancient Greeks and Romans, but without citation. Even intelligent and educated people desperately cling to this absurd notion not because it exists, but rather because they WISH it did.

A true artist doesn’t bother with any of this. She picks up a brush, and paints. She finds what is entirely HERS and thus is entirely comfortable with it. She does not second-guess herself because she knows doing so would be toxic, and would eat her heart out. Second-guessing is what critics do. They feed on the works of artists. They are the parasites of culture.


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This post could very possibly lead to a massive fledgling of an essay for all its concerns, but:

An absolute aesthetic theory is one that is sufficient, can't be refuted, obtains in all cases with no exceptions, and therefore requires no amendment. Personal preference, on the other hand, is rarely sufficient, easily refuted, obtains in only a few cases, and never stays the same.

Thus: personal preference (of majority?) leads to absolute aesthetic theory?

or, personal (individual) preference IS Art?

or, what makes personal preference art, or not art?

I have too much to say and feel the practicalities of reeling myself in right now. I may barrage with more theories, queries later? probably. it's one in the AM here and so forth - .

or "culture" is a constant flux, give & take between personal preference and majority? McLuhan??

or does relativism vs. absolutism even "apply" to art? beauty as an absolute? really??

The entire point is that criticism is irrelevant. Both praise and condemnation are equally useless to the artist. Artists make art. Period. Everything else is bullshit.

As it happens, the New York Review of Books has a piece touching on literary criticism. Joyce Carol Oates discusses a book of collected essays by Joan Acocella entitled "Twenty-eight Artists and Two Saints." Read it here.

My ma is an artist.. and a critical thinker.. always posing the question .. is this art? and I have never understood it.

to the creator.. of course it is.. it's the expression, the process, the result that drives me as an artist.. not
acceptance or critical praise.

How does another know what was going on inside me.. when I created that piece of prose, or that watercolor, photograph or ceramic?

I've always thought she somehow lost herself as an artist.. when she got her Masters in Fine Art.. suddenly, her title of Professor made all art subject to her or other's opinions.

Wow. your post sure stirred up stuff inside me this morning!
I think I'll bring my pencils to work today... and do some sketching at work.. just because I can. :D

Maybe it is that the artist, in commencing a work of creativity may start with a bit of prevailing reality, fragments brought together, 'idea', to stimulate some kind of jumping off point, but soon departs from this selection of reality and begins creating a new reality within the work, subject to it's own absolutes. It's success is in the mind of the artist and reflects the alignment of talents, influences, and the elements and materials brought to bear, and less and less on the forwarding of idea. (I come from the craft of painting).

The critic remains in the relative reality of society and the art scene, and has a need to bring this new work into a relationship with all other works, or with a body of other work. The critics "art" is a creation in the brain that attempts to find connections and establish a quasi-absolute linking of diverse and separate realities which are discernible in the new work as part of the general reality, but this critique is hardly, indeed especially unable to penetrate the works that have been created by artists who have entered a necessary new reality dictated by the revealed demands of their creations.

I think most artists (I may be deluding myself, or setting up a hagiolatry) fairly quickly reach a point in their work where they begin to be influenced by it's reality, which they discover as their mind roams within the work seeking harmony. They begin to answer to an internal absolute of their own art. It is a place that they journey to alone with it's possibilities, but also it's failures and shortcomings along the way and at the decided end. It's a journey and a process to a possibility. Only the artist and perhaps, rarely, a special type of amanuensis, can begin to penetrate and follow the process and possibility of the new created reality, while the critic (and the society of viewers) may necessarily have to shun this insight to group the work into a context in which it could be imagined to be codified or judged against a standard, and understood from outside the created artworks separate reality.

I guess while the work is being created it is a separate dynamic reality, a speculation, but when presented publicly, it becomes in the hands of the critic, a part of the continent, a lump and a clod.


I completely enjoyed this, and agree with it. Furthermore, the imposition of an academic standard to both visual and text art, I find, can often ruin what is a native talent; in trying to produce what is approved, some destroy the part of themselves that produce what is beautiful.


oh, john! i love the words. she picks up a brush and paints.
and that is it exactly
the just doing of the thing

Thanks. Too often we get caught up in thoughts of outcome or rewards, when our real focus must always be only in the moment.

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