The gift (or the curse) of the artist is to be able still to see things after they have been named, even when those things still only exist in the artist's mind.
A Personal View
Fiigurative art, landscape painting, abstract art, are categories defined by artist's interests but codified and elaborated upon by the new professionals hired by patrons to relieve them of the agony of choice. Arbiters of taste who have established themselves between artists and their patrons have, in our century, assumed a role in the creative process due more to power then to talent. Theirs is an art in itself and some have contributed insights which would not have entered the minds of artists too involved in using their gifts to have an overview of the larger contexts in which they work, but most of them merely develop their skills in attaining and exercising the power to influence taste in an age in which art patronage has become dependent upon the corporate decision making process.
Still, despite the temptations and restrictions of a small but affluent "art world", the true artists, who produce the real capital of the economy of that world, must each for his or her self, select their ends and their means, not necessarily in that order. "What kind of work do you do", the interested layman asks. While the artist is searching for words (not his usual medium) the layman probes further; “figurative or abstract?"
It is an indication of the power wielded by the intellectuals of the art world that, for the majority of painters and sculptors graduated from art schools during the last half century, the choice is as simple as that.
Great artists are not professional intellectuals. This does not mean that they do not have intellects. Neither are they ecstatic natural prodigies debauching themselves in creative passions they are not capable of understanding. Nor are they merely artisans who have learned their craft. Nor are they merely gamblers choosing which square upon which to place their great or tiny talents.
They are born gifted. Like everyone else, they are born in a manner and in a time and place not of their choosing. Like Adam in the garden of Eden, like all human infants, they are surrounded by wonders - and Adam named all the creatures - Adam, the first taxonomist.
For most of Adam's breed, giving a name to something allows it to be no longer seen. The gift (or the curse) of the artist is to be able still to see things after they have been named, even when those things still only exist in the artist's mind.
Nov 27, 1996