Artist, misunderstood

12
Somebody asked me this question: What is art for art's sake?
He stated that art is only worth producing if it has value and bring enjoyment to the masses, and artists create art to please the masses; a good piece of art is one that is beautiful, enjoyable and lasts through the ages.

The person who asked me the question above is obviously not an artist. How do I know that? How do you tell who is an artist and who isn't? If someone's an artist, he won't even be asking that type of question! If you're not an artist yourself, you will probably find it difficult to understand what I mean by "that type" of question or to differentiate the non-artists from the artists. In this post, I hope to help some non-artists understand the artists a little better, if they even bother to understand.

When it comes to art, there are 2 types of people:
- the artist, and
- the non-artists.
Very simple.

If you ever had to wonder, or if you are now thinking very hard, as to whether you are indeed an artist or not then clearly you are not . (I'm not sorry if you are not and neither should you be... you'll understand what I mean when you reach the end of this post).

Anyone who produces art is an artist. If you think you're an artist, then you are. It's as simple as that. There's no criteria to satisfy. Composers, musicians, dancers, singers, actors, writers, models, graffiti artists, models, graphic designers, architects, etc can be artists. I say "can" because not all of them are. How do you tell who is an artist and who isn't? If you're an artist, you won't even be asking that question. If you're not an artist yourself, you will find it difficult to differentiate the non-artists from the artists.

The works of art need not necessarily be sold, marketed, be worth anything in cash or have mass appeal. As long as the artist thinks it's a work of art, then it is. Even scolding can be an artform. I'm sure you must have heard some someone scolding and you were intrigued by how easy it all came out in one continuous breath and how horribly offensive it was. If you say scolding is not an artform, then you not an artist. That's the beauty of art. It cannot be defined. Art is very personal but it can be shared.

Among the non-artists, there are those who appreciate art, those who falsely appreciate art only because some expert says that it's good, and those who simply don't.

Artists don't create art because someone tells them to. Of course, artists feel happy to have others appreciating their art. But even if people don't appreciate it, it's still art in the artist's mind.

Making the art marketable is a different story. Sometimes it requires compromise on the artist's part. They may think that it's better to have some part of the art out there than none at all. E.g. Kylie Minogue may need to sing more la's than she would like to sing because the producer of her album said she should.

How "classic" a work of art is (one that lasts through the ages) does it not make it any better than one that isn't as "classic". Handel's Messiah may be one of Handel's best known works but it doesn't mean it's the best. It so happens that it's more marketable and more people can relate to it compared to his other works. But if you asked Handel which is his best work, it may not be Messiah.

Most artists do what they do on their own accord, with interest in their chosen field usually from a young age. E.g. Michael Jackson and Britney Spears started performing when they were children. Some artists undergo very strict training. E.g. Chinese child prodigy pianist, Lang Lang, was ordered by his father to swallow a bottle of pills and kill himself at nine after he failed an audition to the Beijing Conservatory of music.

There is nothing to be sad about if you're not an artist. My secondary school classmate wrote in his blog that art can be a curse:
"Art is open to interpretation, and it's usually subjective pertaining to individual perceptions. However, most people associate pretty stimulus as a superlative of beauty in art. That's for most normal people. Many delved into more “controversial and ugly” alternatives so as to speak, to suggest that subtle beauty of the cool and misunderstood. That's for most normal people who thought they are different. Few however don't give a fuck but live on in their insane existence making art that only pleases themselves. If you scratch the underbelly hard enough, there are your so-called underdogs who lived in mental/spiritual fringes, obsessed with their pursuit of that very curse called art, which has pretty much forfeited them the chance of living a normal life like your average Singaporean." - June 20, 2009 http://rockinthefinecity.blogspot.com/

If Lang Lang did die after swallowing the pills, wouldn't you think of his art as his curse?

12 comments:

David said...

Yu-Kym,

You summed this up very well!

When it comes to art, there are 2 types of people:
- the artist, and
- the non-artists.
Very simple.

I agree very simple.

The appreication of art is another issue.

At times here in the States there are loud and angry debates over what is art and what is not. I will not give examples because news from the art world is full of this issue.

I can simply say, I know what I like, what I do not like, and for that reason, (among others that are obvious), I could never be an average Singaporean, in fact I am not the average American.

Good topic Yu-Kym!

David

David said...

Yu-Kym,

"If Lang Lang did die after swallowing the pills, wouldn't you think of his art as his curse?"

The answer to you question for this is no, Lang Lang's musical talent was a gift.

His father is a murderer. Forcing his soon to take a fatal dose of sleeping pills is the action of a monster, not a loving and caring father.

David

Yu-Kym said...

David, we don't understand the culture there. Lang Lang regards it as an appropriate punishment.

Anonymous said...

Hey thanks for putting the rockinthefinecity quote in this insightful article. Really appreciate it. Yee Meng.

Anonymous said...

Yu-Kym

It was an insightful article from you. Couldn't agree more.

Without an audience there could be no art... even the artist who produces art is his/her own audience.

Calvin

artistkinky said...

hmmm

just a side note... are you in the arts industry as well? =D

Calvin

Yu-Kym said...

Calvin, I consider myself to be in the arts industry (as a writer - though not all writers are in the arts industry). How about you?

Anonymous said...

i think this broadest and so liberal definition is so ridiculous! It's like saying "u dun believe in god? just have faith in him!"

This sort of liberal artist reasoning if go to the extreme can explain away any number of ridiculous, unreasonable and insensible things in this world.

Even a madman can be an artist in his own way ! Why? coz he's not mad....he's just in a higher plane or reasoning to be able to talk to god... we are mad to think he's mad!

curious cat

Anonymous said...

hmmm

artistkinky said...

yu kym,

i count myself in too... though still a practicing undergrad now. =D am into writing sometimes but heard it's a very tough genre in the creative industry.

Calvin

Yu-Kym said...

curious cat, many people of the past whom we respect today were thought to be crazy during their time.

Calvin, it's never too early to start :) And it's never too late to start either.

Anonymous said...

yes Yu-Kym. And ppl in the past believed the world was flat and as it turned out they were not wrong...the world is indeed flat!

curious cat