Art is like a children’s game

"It took me four years to paint like Raffael but a whole lifetime to paint like a child again." This was said by no one less than Pablo Picasso. Even though his paintings had long been ranked by the art world among the best ever painted, learning to paint like a child was apparently a major concern of his. Just watch children at play. In their games they create their own private world. We grown-ups perhaps don’t take this seriously and think “oh, they’re just playing”.

Yet for a child play always has its very serious side. Because in play children are working through and shaping their own experience of reality by living out their phantasies and their ideas. This is motivated by pleasure and is always of their own free will. Nobody can force them to do it.

True art can only be created in freedom

Some people succeed in carrying these qualities through into their adult lives or they relearn them as we can see in the case of Picasso to whom regaining a child’s freedom, spontaneity and carefreeness in his artistic work was of such importance. Because art which is born in freedom has its own particular and special quality and high value. For me this is precisely the vital insight that Picasso‘s remark yields.

Yet the art market follows other rules. Like every other market it is geared to a purpose and subscribes to the rules of business – and the world of business is a world of adults. Artists want to secure their existence, dealers want to make a good deal. Artists should deliver sellable works so that money can be made.

Yet how can an artist retain his or her inner freedom when the works they produce are tailored to the market demand? There’s no universal answer to this question. Each artist must decide for him or herself when answering it.

The power of inner strength

OUBEY gave his own version of the answer after his first and highly successful commercial exhibition by withdrawing completely from the public eye for twelve years. “I’m glad that I did it and I’m very pleased with its success. Only if I continue this way, I’m going to lose the spring of my art”, he said to me a few days after the exhibition opened. And then he took the freedom that he needed to continue to draw from the purpose-free gushing spring of his own creative energy. He followed the power of his inner strength. He could not and would not let himself be influenced by what the market expected.

And thus in seclusion a major body of work was created which is now coming to the light of day – with one single purpose which is to make it accessible to people all over the world.

Now perhaps you might find this some exotic artist’s story that has little to do with your own life. But that’s not what I think. I believe that it always does each and every one of us good to do something that is not linked to some immediate or material purpose. It does us good when we now and then shake off all thought of purpose and do something only because it fills us with pleasure and inspires us – quite independently of what others might think about us.