"There is no escaping reason, no denying purpose, because as we both know without purpose we would not exist."
-Agent Smith from the film Matrix Reloaded
In this postmodern age of mass information and globalization, often young artists find themselves lost without a clear sense of purpose or any guiding light to their art creation. We are bombarded with so much information through the internet, that we often feel overwhelmed and don't know where to start. During the Renaissance, young artists entered a guild and learned their craft by assisting a master. During the Baroque and Neoclassical periods, artists could enter an Art academy where they would follow very strict directions on how to draw, sculpt and paint. The purpose of an artist was defined mainly by the Church and State.
After an industrial revolution, the fall of the European monarchies, Independence in the Americas, democracy and two world wars, we entered into the modern age. Artists became revolutionaries with manifestos searching for hidden meaning in themselves and their art. The art world started to recognize artists not much by their effort, adherence to the rules and talent but by their originality, individuality and novelty. Culture decayed as one "ism" was replaced by another "ism" and many got their "15 minutes of fame". As progress and technology rapidly advanced, the arts had to catch up with the fast paced modern society and grab the immediate attention of the elite art connoisseurs. This attention usually had a very short memory span and as a consequence, art lost its substance and became a pure label and marketed logo. The shock value had replaced the transcendent value while deep meaning and direction was lost. Artists today are free to to whatever they wish as everything is accepted in this eclectic global age art world, as long as there is a market and audience for it. With so many options, materials, techniques and information at their disposal, artists naturally feel blocked and confused.
I find the so called "post-modern" age that we live in, most fascinating and full of possibilities where an artist is free to choose what to say and how to say it. At the same time there are so many artists and so many people who do not care about art at all. It seems there is not enough time, patience or serious thought given to art today. Consumer culture has taken care of the way we appreciate and interpret art. It has now become as disposable and trivial as any other consumer commodity. What could be the purpose for making art today? Here I have suggested just a few for those young artists who struggle to find purpose for making art today. Below I have listed seven ways of being an artist with a specific purpose.
An artist as a searcher for truth
Many artists consider themselves to still be searching for the ideal form or ideal art. They are non-conformist who constantly seek new ways of making art. They are eternal students and challenge themselves with each and every step. To search for truth in the world is a philosopher's job and an artist's one too.
An artist as a visionary/prophet
With much imagination, intuition and study, an artist can have the right sensibility to foretell the future and warn others about preventable disasters to come. As a visionary, the artist lives ahead of his time and recreates in his art what there is to come. Leonardo Da Vinci had such an intense vision of the future and he reflected much of this in his drawings.
An artist as a healer
The Chilean artist and author, Alejandro Jodorowsky once said: "Art that doesn't cure is not art." This is to say that art that transcends and becomes a memorable masterpiece is the kind of art that can move a soul and cure it. The artist who sees him or herself as a healer does not create art for selfish or trivial motivations. The artist healer may see our current postmodern condition as an illness and art is the cure.
An artist as a mystic
An artist that considers him or herself as a mystic, finds in art a way to understanding the hidden mysteries of the cosmos. Creating art is a spiritual ritual that connects the artist with the creator and with all of creation. Every movement, every color and every brush stroke carries a special energy that transcends the material level and speaks the language of the spirit.
An artist as a Myth maker
As Joseph Campbell would say, contemporary artists are the myth-makers of our age. Myths are beautiful stories that explain the nature of the Universe in terms that are easily grasped by a mind free from the chains of the logical reason and science. An artist that works motivated by mythology, constructs myths that are often relevant to his or her own time and culture. These myths are vital for any society as they provide the creative material that satisfies the need to find meaning for life and its cycles.
An artist as a revolutionary
An artist that thinks outside the box and questions the assumptions of those in power, is indeed a revolutionary. This kind of artist creates art that does not conform to the given rules or mainstream art world. His or her work is audacious and it shows us a different way of understanding art and the world around us. These agents of change often have a hard time getting accepted but their will is strong and their art eventually gets noticed.
An artist as a Chronicler/historian
This kind of artist looks more like a journalist that takes pictures and captures the crude reality of the world around him making a statement about it. By telling the story of his or her own time, this artist will aid future generations remember history and see past time through the lens of art. Every artist in a way makes history with every mark he or she makes whether it is figurative work or abstract. As Kandinsky would put it "Every art is a child of its time".
You may find yourself identified with one, some or all of these particular ways of being an artist. Feel very fortunate if you do for that means you are full of purpose and purpose is the heart and soul of every creation. Purpose defines creation.
All text on this blog entry is copyrighted material© by the artist and author Patrick McGrath Muñiz