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March 05 2011
The history of mankind is filled with beliefs firmly and widely held because we didn't know any better, because our elders told us to believe these things, because it was fashionable, because we are weak and unable to think for ourselves, because everybody else believed these things. Even in the face of overwhelming evidence to the contrary, people continue to believe outrageous things. I understand there are still people that believe the earth is flat. There are people that believe in ghosts. There is a growing group of Americans that believes Barack Obama is a Muslim who was born outside the territorial boundaries of the U.S.A. And don't get me going on religion.

The more comments I read in artists' blogs and internet art forums, the more I think a large segment of the art community holds beliefs about their chosen field of endeavor that are seriously suspect. Artists go on about the importance of "following your muse", of producing work that will stand the test of time, of listening to their "inner voice" without consideration for what the "market" may want. They seem to believe that their work should make important statements about themselves and the world we live in and that a career as a painter is some sort of higher calling. And yet, when I look at the work these artists produce (and I've looked at thousands of works on their websites) there is nothing particularly original about most of it, nor earth-shattering in the importance of any statement it may think it is making. If I had $1,000 for every one of those artists whose work will actually be remembered into the next generation, I would still be a starving artist. I'm not saying their paintings are bad – very many are very good paintings, but they are just paintings.

I'm not downplaying the importance of great art in our evolution as a society, and certainly there are some artists that have the intellect, the clarity of vision and purpose, the drive and the talent to make their mark on the world for many generations. There is always room at the top for those that have the right stuff, but the number of aspirants that have what it takes to climb into that rarified atmosphere is so small in the grand scheme of things as to be negligible. And to those of you that may think it remains important to strive towards a higher purpose I say rubbish. Trust me, if you actually had something really important to say through your art, you would be saying it. If you are writhing with angst about your work, you actually don't have anything important to say and are simply suffering from the false belief that you should be making some sort of statement with your art.

A recent Robert Genn letter about an artist in New York (George Condo) currently making tons of money from his rather grotesquely funny paintings elicited such visceral reaction from some people that those reactions themselves struck me as being humorous in an equally grotesque way. Many artists contort themselves with angst about the meaning and purpose of Art, what constitutes Good Art, and their own struggles to achieve stratospheric levels of importance with their own work. They engage in passionate arguments about What Is Art endlessly, believing this to be an issue of huge importance that needs to be settled, despite the fact that it has never been settled. They have no sense of humour about this subject, and I suggest their perspective on reality is seriously out of focus. They are in real need of a reality check.

REALITY CHECK: Virtually every single painting produced by even the very best artists amongst us serves absolutely no other purpose than to decorate a wall in a home or office. Read that line again. Live with it. Our paintings are placed on those walls to provide some sort of pleasure and satisfaction to the owner and will never alter the course of history, shake the foundations of society, or elevate our thought processes to a higher plane. We just create décor accessories, and the sooner many of you swallow that pill, the sooner you can get rid of that angst headache and get on with just enjoying what you do and having fun with it.
Posted by Peter Kiidumae at 01:56
Ann said...
Good article Peter! All too true. Some artists are just one of the many fields of people who feel the need to pump themselves up by proclaiming great self importance. Ann Mar 16, 2011 12:26
Dolores Delgado said...
My you are a realist, aren’t you! But it is so true. Often the very act of producing art is a reward in itself. More than that is just icing on the cake. Yes, do love that icing though! Apr 05, 2011 07:46