Love art in yourself and not yourself in art. – Constantin Stanislavski
When you are being artistic, what are you doing? Or, even when you are experiencing something you acknowledge as art, what is it that makes it artistic? Why does the perception of something or someone artistic vary from person to person? Why is it, say, what Madonna did three decades ago is considered to be art now and not then? Is calling something or someone artistic the ultimate validation? The ultimate badge of honour? You may have heard people say that so and so makes curry-making an art. Or sex an art. That Steve Jobs maybe a scientist or a businessman or a visionary, but, most of all, he was an artist. So, my question to you again, when you are being artistic, what are you really doing?
It isn’t merely a question of beauty. Our perceptions regarding beauty are too subjective and vague, even when we consider the most obvious subjects for beauty evaluation, women. If I am being artistic at any point, I am not thinking of myself as beautiful. If I am gardening, I may have grown fresh, pretty flowers, but they should also have something more in order to be called artistic. It isn’t a question of design, though it has been popular to think so. It is generally agreed that beauty is simply a question of symmetry, presence and absence thereof. It maybe subjective, but you can still draw some commonalities. But, when I sit down to make a beautiful or artistic object, my motivation is not simply governed by whether I want it straight or crooked.
Then, there is the whole soul business. When I am being artistic, I am supposed to be imparting some personality into what I am doing for it to be called art. Take the example of contemporary pop music. There is symmetry, where a simple electronic dance track that obeys all the rules is enough to be considered a purely beautiful, consumable object. But, then someone like Adele or Norah Jones pops in with something that is considered more personal, human and intimate. Will either be called artistic? Or is it safer to say that both are art? But, you have to clarify by saying it is pop art, and so, not as artistically up to the mark as, say, opera. Adele could probably sing those operatic notes, but she chooses to do something less grandiose. But, then, aren’t both high and low art propelled by the same energy of being artistic? Or is the former more art than the latter?
Can you really be an artist when you are making art? Is there a specific form of consciousness for the artist when in art-making mode? A consciousness that is different from when they are doing other things they don’t have artistic talents in, such as making tea? I find Stanislavski’s instruction very telling. For those of you who may not know, Stanislavski constructed the ‘System’ for acting from which Lee Strasberg derived the Method, which is what actors like Robert De Niro and Al Pacino are claimed to be doing when they work, though it differs from actor to actor. But, the above quote is something Stanislavski repeatedly stressed on in his classes. This affectation of “being artistic” or “feeling artistic” was so pronounced in some students who were trying to “act”, it hampered, if not completely destroyed their performances.
This state of mind can be so lethal for an actor and yet, at least to me if not to many others, acting is an art. I don’t know what makes it an art, other than its ability to charm and move me, often at the same time, when I see it. For the actor, I suppose, is the ability to create what wasn’t there before, that speaks something about humanity. And, whether you work up to that consciously or not, you can find that drive, that motivation, in anything you do that you call art. Even if it’s about flowers or aliens or robots lost in space trying to find their true love ( I’m thinking Wall-E of course ), there is still the definition and re-definition of something human. And when we see it, when we recognize it, possibly relate to it, we sense that beauty we look for in art. Even when we call it ‘above human’, something spiritual, divine, we feel profound happiness at our luck in being able to see it or hear it or feel it. It is so intense, it makes you want to stay alive. To keep going. To keep chasing it or try to make it last. We call it something indefinable that goes by the name of love, but, essentially, it is a puzzle we can’t work out. I’m not sure I’d want to work it out either.
What does being artistic mean to you?