Saturday, August 04, 2012

The Ego Is Always At the Wheel

A few months ago I had a conversation with an art collector who is, by profession, a doctor. We got to talking about ego. She said that doctors don't regard themselves as superior to their patients. They are simply humanists who, having acquired specific knowledge of how humans 'work', regard everyone as equal.
She was somewhat shocked when I told her few artists were like that.
Art is about ego. So are artists. We don't hold much truck with science (even if we're intrigued by it). We're smart but sometimes not very educated. And yet we presume that our ideas, emotional perspectives, and above all, our expressions of these, are of interest to others – that others will want to experience them repeatedly, and even possess them through the objects we make. Artists want their work to linger with us long after their deaths. It's a quest not just for immortality but reverence.
An artist who uses their self in their work, as I do, pick through everything they have – their memories, desires, fears and so on – to transmit very subjective insights. There may be references to 'fact' (which should never be mistaking for knowledge) but they are, in every instance, filtered through the artist's own, egocentric 'interpretation'. I'm arrogant enough to believe that I'm able to do this with a modicum of originality, even when I'm developing the ideas of artists who have gone before me.
My work has been called self-absorbed. It is, but it also has meaning to others. My focus on the self reflects a facet of a contemporary social and cultural environment: social media has taught us to document our own lives in public – and to believe we are nothing if we are not seen and heard almost constantly.
But the deeper effect of sharing myself in my work is that I connect with the viewer through their interpretation of my experiences, even if these are merely fragments interpreted by the viewer as being 'shared'. At worst, for a moment, it enables the viewer to feel less alone.


Marilyn said...

"We're smart but sometimes not very educated."

Another generalization has occurred upon a world full of talented artists. Artists, musicians, performers, sculptors, painters, and the list ever expanding, Art is often permeating boundaries everywhere.

Ego or not, there are millions on millions of 'Educated' artists. And its been the purpose of artists in history and present to overthrow the envy of others who may regard the purpose in art to live an indulgent less academic life.

Its probably the one area of life regarded with such critisism its grown tired of affirming the baited statements with retaliation. Its not required to be educated to be reasonable at anything much, but to be a great 'anything' is often a matter of educating the mind consistently and laterally. There are many skilled people in life we know this. But art is such a phenomenal world of gift , ID and smartypants, this line just doesn't fit in comfortably, and hope it was a humble nod to science. Educated WE ARE - profusely so :)

PS Your work is brilliant HD.

rino breebaart said...

finding the universal through the personal - is as old as expressive art itself? If art isn't relevant to the artist's ego in some small way, it's more or less craft, and perceived that way. Personal truths often have the sympathy of being truths for other people too - this is what makes the 'personalities' of the art world so appealing, seemingly powerful, and empowered with the license of attention - for good or ill.

Look how many self-portraits Rembrandt painted - isn't that self-absorption too? But look what he achieved through them. I think he learned to see (as a painter) through them.

All the great seeming-egotists of art (and writing: Henry Miller, Philip Roth etc) will tell you that what seems like ego is just an other - but that's also the creative gateway.

Ultimately, the more you are you, the better your art. So proceed, with full egotistic measure, I say.