Thoughts & Insights
Artists are Like Clouds
Why does someone want to be an artist? What drives him or her to look inside themselves and want to or indeed have to create something called art? And how do they cope with such a form of life, because that’s what it is, a separate form of life? What distinguishes artists – apart from their special gifts – from all the other people who might love art but live in a completely different world to those who actually create it?
Interest in such questions is nothing new. It’s produced a great deal of speculation about how closely madness is allied with genius and what strange bed fellows pain and beauty make. The diaries and letters that we know, for instance, from Mozart and van Gogh can give us genuine insights. Only much more often our information comes from their friends or their children, people who knew the artist when he or she was living. Many biographies are so deeply immersed in the life story of the artist that you could believe that the authors had known them. And great empathy is a way of becoming closer to someone. Yet nothing more than that. After all, who really understands another person, let alone an artist?
Particularly when what’s important to an artist mustn’t necessarily be important to the rest of us. Some artists have been relentlessly encouraged and pushed from earliest childhood whilst others have had every possible hindrance set in their way to stop them from realising their gifts because their parents entertained quite other plans and expectations. They had to encounter and overcome the most bitter opposition. Yet by overcoming it they also freed themselves of the need to please others in what they did. The uncompromising pursuit of freedom is probably one of the main characteristics that most artists share.
And now brain research is trying to find out whether and indeed to what extent the brain of an artist differs from the brains of other people who are not. It’s an attempt to try and understand what makes or has made artists what they are. An attempt that goes beyond art to explain and understand the artist him or herself and even perhaps the very nature of an artist’s life. Yet will the path taken by comparative brain research lead to results that really do enrich our understanding of what an artist is? I very much doubt it.
Picasso is supposed to have said “Everyone wants to understand painting. Why is there no attempt to understand the song of a bird?” – a statement that needs no explanation because it’s self-explanatory. It can be applied equally both to artists and art itself. Other artists withdraw from public life and seek seclusion where they can dedicate themselves to what is most important to them and what makes them most deeply human in their lives. They rarely give interviews and if they do they never speak about themselves.
All the more astounding then that Richard Tuttle, an artist well known for his subtle minimalist art recently gave an interview on the Louisiana Channel in which he talked about himself, the story of his life and the meaning of art both for himself and society – a rare interview that’s as authentic as it’s fascinating and certainly well worth watching. He sees artists as something akin to a natural phenomenon, like clouds that appear in the sky. “Artists, they´re from nature. They come out of nature. They´re like a cloud that happens“.
It’s a comparison that I think very much hits the mark. Even if we use all the resources of science to investigate and explain the phenomena of nature, they still remain natural phenomena. They simply happen, they suddenly appear, they’re there, uncontrollable and without the aid of any human agency. In the last analysis art and artists remain what they are, a phenomenon, a marvel and sometimes a puzzle. And this is how it should be for this is what creates necessary respect. What artists leave behind them are their works which continue to inspire us and enthral us and give us what we need – without any need for us to necessarily understand this or explain it. So it is with OUBEY and his artwork. And so is the ethos that the work of the MINDKISS project follows.