Monday, May 4, 2009

What makes a work original, visionary, and creative?

What makes a work original, visionary, and creative?

There is no simple answer to this because it changes from artist to artist. I would also like to add that even armed with a full working knowledge or understanding of what these terms mean in no way guarantees that a given juror will appreciate your work. Juror's have their own preferences and prejudices... and when choosing work for an exhibition they will also often select work with some concept of how the various art pieces will function together. Sometimes this may mean selecting works with a degree of common elements. At other times it may mean intentionally seeking out great contrasts. A quality piece of art can get left out simply because the juror feels there are already too many landscapes, too many paintings that are predominantly green, too many paintings of the same scale, etc...

I might suggest that the answer to what vision, creativity, and originality mean (and all would seem quite similar, if not interchangeable in meaning) relates a great deal to our dialog on Jeremy Lipking. Lipking, it might be argued, has a distinct "vision"... he is clear upon how he wishes his art to look... what he wishes to communicate. He is not bouncing all over the place without a clear unity to his work. He may be quite masterful in his drawing, his handling of paint, and his mastery of certain formal elements. Where he falls short (IMO) is in the realm of creativity/originality. Looking at his work there is little that stands out as being unique to Lipking... so much so that I would question the attribution of many of his works to any number of other artists... even to Sargent or Zorn.

Creativity and Originality need not mean something extreme... the sort of novelty that many contemporary artists confuse with true originality. Originality does not mean that one cannot build one's work upon a foundation of favorite artists of the past. It does mean, however, that the vision is something more than to merely mimic the art of one's idols. It means building upon and expanding upon one's predecessors until the work becomes uniquely one's own. Picasso, for example, clearly borrows from medieval Spanish art, Greek and Roman art, African art, Gauguin, Goya, and numerous others. The end product, however, will never be confused with his models. His paintings are always uniquely Picasso. The same is true of a far more conservative painter such as Lucian Freud. His paintings owe much to Frans Hals, Velasquez, and Rembrandt... but they look nothing like the works of these eminent masters.

The world is continually reborn anew. The lighting, the colors, the experiences and the predecessors under which we work are not the same as that of our artistic predecessors. How each of us sees the world is unique. Great art is that which gives form to this rather than merely attempting... however competently... to replicate how someone else saw the world. That is the goal of the craftsman and the restorer... not the artist.