The creation of art is a mystery (a holy mystery, I might be tempted to say). It has something to do with self-expression, but it also has something to do with the negation of self, and an engagement with something much larger, and much grander. Art is not simply the production of items. It is a way of thinking, an approach – a life-style.
The tension between engaging the self and negating the self in artistic creation can be seen also in the artistic life. The artistic life seeks to relate to people and to nature with both self-involvement and humility. Self-involvement is essential for a personal and warm touch. We are encouraged and built up by others, and we find safety with them when they vulnerably communicate with us. Each self is unique and quite honestly – wonderful. Interaction with another person which fulfils societal trends or reinforces popular stereotypes is hollow. Instead, it is the raw and authentic interaction (the ones that are a little surprising, a little colourful) that enrich us. I call this kind of authentic presentation of the self the Artistic way.
Consider now the consequential role of self-negation in relating to others. The self must not be allowed to dominate. At the same time that it is comfortable with and able to celebrate itself, it must not be allowed to be insensitive to others. There must be an understanding that the self (while wonderful) is small and only a speck in the greater story of humanity. And further, that humanity (while wonderful) is only a speck in the greater story of the universe. This humility allows the growth of love and service to others and to the natural world.
The Artistic way must allow paradox to exist. I have named one paradox – both self- expression and self-negation are essential for Art. Another that I wish to mention is this: Art is both for the self alone, and not for the self alone. Let me explain the first: since Art requires authentic self-expression, it must come from the private place within a person, and must not be swayed by the voices without. The second: since art is a form of communication, it must fulfil its role to communicate with others. It is my conviction that Art must be used to serve others and the natural world as much as it should authentically convey my own ideas and emotions.
One role that Art fulfils is that of healer. Engagement in artistic creation as well as artistic thinking is able to bring healing to both the artist and the ‘viewer’ or recipient. Take the art of writing for example. During a period of depression I came to depend on writing daily. It was a safe place in which I could freely voice my feelings without the pressure of censoring them. It legitimised my experiences, and having been acknowledged, I often came to peace with my situation. As with other forms of art, writing does not come entirely from the conscious mind. Through the creative process, those hidden and hurting parts of me were able to find a voice (because so often, those deep hurts are unable to be carried by ‘normal’ language). Once I bravely shared one piece of writing with my friend who was in tears at the end of a difficult week. My own creation, speaking of my own hurt, was able to meet her in her place of hurt, where perhaps I would not have otherwise been able to touch.
I am aware that this is only a very brief coverage of a portion of my art philosophy. I hope to expand more in later posts, and perhaps introduce Art as the carrier of Beauty and Truth. But for now we will let these few ideas sit: Art is a way of life; in Art exists the tension of engaging the self and negating the self; Art must be for the self only, and not only for the self; Art can act as healer for the self, and for others.