Thursday, 6 December 2012

An Aesthetic

My illustration of "The difficult pleasure of the present tense" quote from Stephen Petronio

Dear Written World,

I've spent the most wonderful day with my friend today visiting exhibitions in Manchester both of which I highly recommend (please visit links below). They encouraged to think about beauty, truth and purpose since D has just finished her dissertation on beauty.
Portrait of a young man c Johan Oldekop

We spoke about our passion for our creative practices to swing back to what we both believe that art should mostly stand for: beauty. For a long time, the notion of the untroubled artist and a simple appreciation of an aesthetically pleasing work has seemed taboo to both of us. The mythology of the suffering artist is strong and, even in pop culture today, contribution to the creative realms is deemed more valuable with a traumatic back story. Now before you think that a smoking piece of coal sits behind my ribcage where my heart used to be, of course I recognise that there is a value in expression from hideous circumstances. Some of my favourite singers are reported to have suffered greatly. However, it's equally valid for expression of the reverse to find consideration even though it may not seem as weighty.

D argued from her research that too often admiring a beautiful image was seen as a past-time of those who aren't of an intellectual nature, those who lack sophistication and want to be instantly gratified; on the other hand, the person who is required to reflect deeply on a more challenging piece of work (that wouldn't be considered to be beautiful) has more merit. I can see truth in both but, in my experience, work that I have presented tutors that celebrates, say, the simple beauty of a sunset or a field of flowers has been considered twee, lazy and 'needed developing'. In order to push boundaries or broaden perception, if those qualities are in the repertoire of art's functions, is it necessary to go beyond imitating and interpreting the obvious?

As much as I enjoy debate and the written word, I recognise a time to just look, enjoy and relax with a piece of art that has captured the primal beauty of a moment at least in the eyes of that artist. No need for explanation, no need for analysis; you can just like it.

We continued to think about belief and the appreciation of certain values like beauty and its objectivity. For example, when it comes to education, without core values being drummed into them like kindness and patience being taught, would children become selfish ignorant savages and run riot? What one person may consider beautiful or kind, another may disagree. Is there a consensus on beauty? D has spent the past few years working in projects with the Catholic church whose members strive to live their core beliefs. Without religion, can we be trusted to get on with our lives ethically ... without stealing, lying and killing our neighbour? Personally speaking, I feel at my freest and happiest when I live what I consider to be beautiful...simple things like eating lovely fresh food, getting lots of exercise and spending time outdoors looking at the nightsky and sunrises, spending time with friends and family, debating, travelling to new places, listening to music and dancing. If we trust that everyone we know and meet is working towards their own version of a beautiful life, surely that will make for a very beautiful world. And that's the most obvious and fundamental message.

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