Sunday, May 14, 2006

Art School - Rum, Sodomy, and the Lash

Gracious master and friend! It has until now been the custom in our Germany to put a great number of talented lads to the task of artistic painting without real foundation other than what they learned by daily usage. They have therefore grown up in ignorance like an unpruned tree. Although some of them have achieved a skillful hand through continual practice, their works are made intuitively and solely according to their tastes. Whenever knowledgable painters and true artists had occasion to see such unplanned works, they smiled --not without reason-- about the ignorance of these people. Nothing is more annoying to men of understanding than a blunder in a painting, no matter how diligently it may be executed. Because such painters have derived pleasure from their errors has been the sole reason that they never learned the art of measurement, without which no one can become a true artisan. It is the fault of their masters who themselves were ignorant of this skill.

It is this skill which is the foundation of all painting. For this reason, I have decided to provide to all those who are eager to become artists a starting point and a source for learning about measurement with ruler and compass. From this they will recognize truth as it meets their eyes, not only in the realm of art but also in their proper and general understanding.

Dedication of Dürer's A Course in the Art of Measurement with Compass and Ruler, 1525

My friends at Art School seem to be in the course of learning for themselves. Teachers are afraid to teach hard technique for it might kill their blooming originality. Their greatest edeavour seems to be how and how soon to find their style - their selling point. All has in fact been sold to this single endeavour.
If trial and error and constant practice is all that's left then what do you pay teacher's for? Only for evaluation against an unknown canon, and for whiping you into constant practice, like slaves and undisciplined kids might need.

I humbly propose the thesis that learning technical matters does not stiffle creativity. And that the way to not become stuck on a particular technique is not to shy away from teaching a technique but instead to teach so many different ones that the mind has no choice but to understand how wide the gamut is and that there are many more still to learn or to create or to adapt to one's tastes.

It is in fact the ignorant, "free" mind, that usually gets stuck to a fixed technique. For reaching any acceptable technique in ignorance is so hard that only the bravest will have any chance of leaving a safe ground after it is reached, and all the rest will usually settle into their first acceptable technique for the rest of their lives, and mistakenly call that their "personal style".

And I put further to consideration that personal style is not something you strive for, but something that comes from different men striving for some same altogether different purpose - for instance, for technical mastery of their field. For if different men of different abilities throw themselves against far more than they can handle, is it not clear that they shall reach different strategies to accomodate themselves, that will reflect their own strenghts and weaknesses and even their tastes and life experiences - just like one who is too tall or too short will sit on an average sized sofa in different ways, with dangling feet or bent legs according to his own habits and conveniences and physical characteristics? So will different artists unavoidably reach their own style -styles, in fact, for they will change if the artist grows- as they painfully climb uphill, facing difficulty on their way, each style being perhaps no more than a particular campfire built in the night, on some ledge where you get much deserved repose before next morning's climb.

For are the artworks themselves after all no more than a campfire - not the point of the trip but merely a witness to it, and a source of comfort and sustenance - in the financial sense even - to the climber. I have long thought and expressed the thought in these pages that art is about seeing and expressing, and that the artwork itself is no more than a side effect - the crap that stays on the paper after the act - fodder good for tourists and couch potatoes who don't dare themselves to make the climb.

The fact that the critic and his metier has become so central to the art process - taking the centerstage even among art students who will spend more time making rationalizations, excuses, justifications for their works than actually working on them - is exceptionally perverted from this point of view. For the profssional critic is usually no more than one of those pesky tourist guides writing about the shadows of a beast they never faced.


on said...

Acho que nalguns casos a tecnica vai matar a "criatividade". Mas não se perderá grande coisa...

on said...

Lets kill them all!

OMWO said...

There, there, old chap...vai um prozac? :)

OMWO said...

Desaprovo completamente esse apelo à violência contra os estudantes e professores de arte.
Porque sou pacifista. E porque alguns delEs são muito girAs :)