Wednesday, July 28, 2010

What is an Artist?

I've decided to spend some time writing some essays as an attempt to express some ideas and to try and understand better what comes from inside. I am hoping that laying them out in writing might help me better along the path of understanding, whether it works will remain to be seen but here goes anyway!

Although I'll put them here on my blog it isn't really to make them public but more to record my thoughts and inner wrangles in a chronological order along with my sculptures. But then isn't that what a blog is for?!

So feel free to read them if you wish or ignore them altogether instead (although as I am still talking to you I guess I am assuming you are still reading this) but expect rambling, inconsistencies, gibberish, random musings, much whinging and confusion. I hope that they may be some humour too but that will depend on which way the wind is blowing! If you have ever read any of my notes that accompanies a sculpture then I guess you will be quite familiar with all those things so perhaps I should stop making excuses and get on with it!

It has dawned on me that until only recently I didn't really have a clue what being an artist even was and certainly had never considered I might become one. I dismissed the subjects of concepts or the meaning behind art as the arty-farty ramblings of the artists. I have stood in front of many artworks and experienced indifference, sorrow, joy, insight and plain wonder but I didn't really question how this happened. I understood the skill of the artist to be in sculpting or painting, of removing stone from a square block or painting strokes onto a canvas but the search for meaning that every artist is consumed with passed me by, how they put their life into each thing that they make was hidden from me. Each artwork – good or bad – has the experience of each artist up to that point in the life put into it.

That is what I am starting to understand now is what it means to be an artist.

So how did I work this out? I wasn't told it, I didn't read it anywhere, I didn't learn it at college or school but instead I started to feel it. The scoffing cynic inside of me rankles at this but still it is true. When I started on this path I was simply, overwhelmingly inspired by Andy Goldsworthy's artwork and I wanted to use that inspiration to create my own. I believed it was simply an exercise in aesthetics, making beautiful things and enjoying doing so but ever so gradually I am learning that it is so much more than that.

Art is so many things – known and unknown – and yet I only have the merest grasp on what those things are. Whenever I find the answer to one question I find ten more questions that need answers.

But surely that is the whole point of life? To learn, to discover, to search and experience. To question what you have been told and open your mind to new possibilities. Art is all of these things to me now and I expect that it is also a multitude of new things that are invisible currently and that I will perhaps discover some of those in the future.

Does this mean that I've gone all serious? Perhaps I am now taking myself too seriously? Am I taking the fun out of what I do and what I share? No, definitely not. I've also come to realise that someone's art is a reflection of their inner self. I look at my own art and it shows me a little of what I am like. It affords me a window inside myself. And I like to have fun, I like to laugh and play and see the wryness and quirkiness in things, I like to be and act like a child, I like to see through a child eyes. But kids also want to know why things are, how things work, they want to know everything about everything! So surely we all start out as artists, searching for meaning and revelling in the intricacies and beauty of our world and then somehow some of us lose it.

Well I've found mine again and I feel absolutely driven to express it, not to impress anyone, for acclaim or kudos but because the kid inside me wants to know WHY!

I feel blessed that I found the art of Goldsworthy and through following it discovered my inner artist and child. Just as I did in my childhood I want to be out in nature discovering all about her infinities. Whether this art comes through in what you see in my sculptures, I do not know, whether it appears purely as craft, creating without discovery, I can't say, as art can be in the eye of the beholder. But for me my personal experience is art as I feel driven to discover, to experience all I can out there. To hold up a lens to the natural world and reveal something new to myself and if I can do the same for an audience then all the better too.

Perhaps this has all been done by those who have come before me so it isn't important out there in the world. But it is important to me, I haven't lived those other artist's lives, lived their experiences or made their discoveries. I need to make my own whether or not they have been made before as it is your own experience that counts.

Good artists are able to add to your experience through their own and you feel that you have lived some of their life through them. If I ever reach such a lofty pinnacle then I shall have done those that have inspired me some justice. One day I hope that will come true.


EmandaJ said...

Thank you for the insight into your artistic nature. As I was reading this post and the previous one about your visit to the Yorkshire Sculpture Park, I was looking at the computer screen with one eye and out in our back garden with the other to see a Cooper's hawk taking a spritz in our bird bath!


Richard Shilling said...

Thank you Emanda I am honoured that you chose to read it. How cool to see the hawk! Mother nature never fails to surprise and delight. I saw a Little Owl on a post earlier and it made my day. Never seen one before.

Take care.

ArtPropelled said...

Your ponderings help anyone who reads them to see within themselves. Having read said ponderings and having studied the photographs of the incredibly amazing work you do I have a glimpse of Richard Shilling the artist and man which is a privilege in itself, so thank you Richard for sharing what you do and the thoughts behind it. I get quite emotional thinking about the meaning of art in my life. As you say it is so much more than the surface. It has become a spiritual thing for me. There is so much I am learning and so much more to discover. We have discovered merely the tip of the iceberg. I imagine working so closely with nature as you do fills you with the wonder of it all.

Richard Shilling said...

Thanks Robyn. I find it quite intriguing what art practice dredges up from my unconscious. It does seem to tap into something that then takes quite a while to work out afterwards. It is something I never expected and it is endlessly fascinating. Thanks for stopping by.