What your art teacher did not tell you....
Artists, art teachers, critics, curators, therapists and anyone coming into contact with works of art instinctively know that they are bridges between the physical and the other worlds, important part of life, the life itself.
Art students are instructed in art history, periods, lives of prominent artists, techniques, etc. Art dealers know precisely what sells for best profit and can predict appreciation of art objects.
There are many opinions about art, some strong and vigorously enforced, but very little information is given to art community and general public about the most important aspect of art - its powerful influence on human psyche, personality, and any methods to evaluate with some precision its effects. There have been no tools available to critically examine the self-serving theories of the art establishment, tools that would enable art students to charter their own artistic and personal development according to a scientific and impartial point of view.
Have you ever wondered why we are attracted to or dislike intensely certain works of art? It essentially is simple. When the emotions which were the driving force in conception and creation of the art object are similar to our own, when our personalities and our points of view match, we feel vindicated, comforted, and exclaim, "how wonderful" ! If, on the other hand, there is a disagreement between our life experiences and expectations and that of the artist, it produces an anxiety and revulsion. The medium of communication here is the Universal Symbolic Language understood on unconscious level to some degree by everyone.
At the beginning of psychology as a science some individuals studied facial expressions of people of different and distant cultures in certain emotional situations and they found that they were universal. Even some higher animals exhibited identical reactions. This is the basis of a branch of psychology dealing with "body language", unconscious gestures which give dependable indications of state of the individual's thoughts, emotions and body chemistry.
The Universal Symbolic Language of art belongs to the same category. Not only it can give us important and unbiased information about ourselves, it can serve as a technique of personal and artistic development. At the Imperial courts of the Orient calligraphy and painting were used in this way, cultivating precisely defined attitudes and personal skills. This art has been lost or ignored recently and what is given in the schools of North America has exactly the opposite effect, amounting to criminal negligence.
Art in many forms has been born from a need of humans to please deities; therefore, the artist shall persist in creating works suitable for consumption by gods. It will please and educate men as well. If, due to unfortunate circumstances in life or just plain lack of talent one is forced to create a work falling short of this standard, he should have enough self-restraint and conscience to confine his artwork to the deepest recesses of his closet.
On the oft-misspelled subject of pornography, I subscribe to a following rule of thumb: An art object that originates in or inspires beauty, auspicious thoughts and actions, cannot possibly be called pornography. As Beauty, pornography too, is in the eyes of the beholder.
Beauty - Plato or Aristoteles
There are strong and scientifically supported indications that human emotions and basic reactions to emotional situations are universal. Art, which is a common carrier of emotions and beauty logically must have universal and inherent qualities regardless how and when it acquired them. Sorry, Aristoteles, you were right in many other important matters.
When an art feels good it is good? Not necessarily, it just may be that the artist and the viewer are the same kind of perverts. Subjective feelings, however strong and real, invariably are a product of classical conditioning; an identical stimulus can produce most varied reactions depending on the often accidental temporal connection in the past. It must be obvious it cannot be used as a dependable means of assessment. The universal rule is "You shall not steal"; it matters not how many thieves operate in the neighborhood and how good they feel about thievery.
Beauty which cannot stand on her own is not be the Universal Beauty, rather an opportunity for deception and discord. This creates a dilemma for the artist. Should he, provided he is able to, stick to the Universal and starve?
August 22, 2003
Going to Art Show and Still Keeping Friends?
People whose artwork I like never ask me about my opinion. The trouble is the other kinds want to hear it. As a professional in the field of analysis I am perplexed; how to be polite and tell the truth at the same time? It would infuriate them, touching upon their most secret thoughts and most likely without any benefit. People who are forced to defend themselves are not perceptive to a well-meant advice.
September 11, 2004
Beware of Stain-Glass Windows !
Little knowledge is dangerous. However, since this subject is such an interesting one and clear-cut there is a little chance of misunderstanding.
In a church, we are awed by the brilliance and other-worldliness of the windows. Being born of spectrum, with minimal modification, the pure colours represent pure emotions. There is no element of deception or self-deception. One who designs and makes such works of art is certain to be free from a custom of modifying facts, whether for profit or as a means of protection from imaginary enemies. A crook is very unlikely to work in this field unless he is planning to rob the church. Straightforwardness is an important element here to consider.
On the more negative side, the sharply divided sections of the artwork intensified by the contrast of lead speak of a need to categorise and divide. This is the basis of analytical process. Nothing wrong with the analysis itself, except the way it is often being used. Correct and advantageous analysis is a transitional thing, once the facts are examined, considered from different angles and the values compared the records should be discarded. One needlessly persisting in it could be compared to a surgeon who keeps on cutting the body apart long after the surgery is successfully concluded.
Wherever the stain-glass patterns appear, we should be on guard. Everyone of us have some wounds and the process of analysis may serve as an unconscious medium of keeping them form being healed, contrary to what we want to believe. This seems never being understood, unfortunately. Termination of analytical process is an important issue. In praxis, it is desirable that the mentioned patterns should become gradually less prevalent, the patches larger, fewer in number and transforming into more life-like objects of nature or human form. If we see the opposite tendency it perhaps is a time for an intervention. My recent experiences were a man abandoning his family to build an atomic shelter in remote mountains to survive the end of the world and another joining a cult moving to an obscure city to save the world from spiritual decay. An able portraitist, painter and friend of mine switched suddenly to abstract involving fragmented shapes after two heart strokes.
The troubling aspect of the stain-glass windows is their permanence. Their symbolic language, unfailingly, documents presence of dogma, an essential element in religion. The thing that disturbs me is that it is contrary to natural laws which teach us everything is in a state of flux, forever changing, developing. Mother nature may punish us severely for such transgression.
April 24, 2005
Sounds somehow better than Nudism. The compulsion to take one's clothes off and go around naked is not new. Only few people do it to shock or offend. Some are oversensitive, they get upset by a sight of a mother breastfeeding her baby in a park, even completely covered by a scarf.
Naked body contains a powerful symbolism. It represents a yearning for the original purity and freedom unencumbered, free from impositions and abuse from the society; searching for truth, transparency, simplicity and predictability. It may also signal a deep resentment of restrictions which we did not asked for, considering them incorrect and immoral.
A time ago I read some Japanese company provided effigies of their executives for their employees to punch and vent their anger and stress on. A wise strategy applicable to nudity. It definitely would instill, deep in our souls, feeling of accountability and appreciation of honesty.
Nudist philosophy seems to closely approximate that of Anarchist, misunderstood and misinterpreted. Both, in philosophical sense, are not out to offend and to destroy, but offer an olive branch to their fellow men, telling them they believe in their fundamental goodness, their civilised nature. They believe everyone should adopt the simple I-let-you-you-let-me-live principle. Perhaps they are naive.
During my artistic career I have done many foolish things, tried multiple techniques and media and found it easy to imitate the old masters. Conte I stopped because it seemed to promote mannerism.
Most artists, when using oil on canvas, think themselves a bricklayers building a beautiful house. This is not how I feel about the medium; touching the same spot twice I would admit a failure which I try to cover up. I am willing to suffer for my sins instead of pretending nothing happened.
LIFE DRAWING - A LESSON IN HUMILITY
As a person active in Art for some 3/4 Century, with professional training in symbolic language of graphic expressions I may have enough credentials. Let me start this section with my previously published article.
Drawing Nudes : A Look Behind the Scene
( previously published in ARTSbeat magazine )
Drawing on a continuous basis of the human body is accepted as a necessary and very essential part of the artist's education which helps him keep in shape in the same sense as training of an Olympic athlete enables him to compete with the best.
Not only general public who often lacks detailed information about this kind of discipline but sometimes the artists themselves do not appreciate the full significance and benefits of drawing. Many art teachers were not taught or are unable to draw satisfactorily, therefore are not much qualified in this respect. The pupils' development in their most important stage of learning then flows in the direction of least resistance and many artists continue to actually believe that the undistinguishable marks they make on paper are exactly what they wanted to draw, that it is their personal style deserving a recognition. It is most unfortunate that art students are frequently encouraged to skip drawing and hurried to "express themselves" without learning the alphabet first.
When the student is able to draw reasonably well he graduates to living figure, eventually nude.
Why a nude? Most objects a student draws are not particularly demanding on their shape and proportions. Looking at a painting of a chair, we are not able to appreciate its fidelity, one inch shorter will not make much difference.
In a living, particularly nude body, an infinitesimal deviation in angle, proportion, accent, tremor of hand and positioning of skeletal form is instantly recognisable as an error because we are conditioned to make such fine distinction in our species. In following the smooth curves enormous amount of information is processed by the brain in extremely short time period. Simply it is a difficult task, an exhausting mental work with constant disappointment, constant pressure to quit.
In an athlete, his training apart from medals have another benefits. Gaining professional skills and personal qualities, will power and purpose, healthy life style, etc. The same and much more comes to an artist who persists and bears the pain.
Anything beautiful and valuable has a price. Not just any drawing will do, as any kind of training will not produce a top notch Olympic competitor.
Beside building an increase in craftsmanship the nude's symbolism exerts a powerful influence on the psyche, in very specific ways. A child who grows up among thieves eventually accepts their lifestyle and becomes a full-fledged criminal; a person who surrounds himself with and practices auspicious symbols and activities will adopt their values.
A nude, particularly female, contains apart from the biological also graphically produced symbolism of creative power represented by convex lines and shapes. The smooth, gentle and difficult to reproduce curves are antagonists of straight heavy lines which are a result of insufficient skills, arrogance and aggression.
Violence we witness every day is not as much a learned habit as some social scientists would suggest, but qualities naturally filling a vacuum where a higher, more difficult skills and attitudes should have been learned. A growing child progressing from a trike to a bicycle will not want to use his tricycle any more. A person who once learned with a great effort and pride a desirable behaviour will not slide back to a sub-standard one. Guaranteed.
October 6, 2005
If my drawings done in most active period are piled up, compressed, on best quality bond, they would reach to roof of two-story house. No profit of any kind. You may calculate the cost of material and fees to models coming to my studio at least once a week.
This should indicate how much dedication is required to get to the top. Here in the Philippines , 8 years later, no chance to practice, no studio and no suitable group is to be found. I got advice to go to the Dr. Sketchy.
I am compelled to say that art and entertainment do not mix any better than marriage and prostitution. Sorry, Dr. Sketchy. It all depends on your goal in life. Line drawing, more than any other discipline is superbly suited tool for personal development.
In my effort to share experiences I contacted several professional art therapists only to find that they are in need of psychiatrist themselves. You can find quacks everywhere; in politics, religion, science, art.
Line drawing, specifically life drawing is not encouraged by the Institutions of learning because some professors may not be really qualified, second, it would take much more time than that is allotted. If you look on art of some celebrated and rewarded artists you will puke - if you have the intimate knowledge of the line symbolism. It follows that if your ambitions are beyond being appreciated by the dull majority you must expect difficulties and take "law into your hand", so-to-speak.
After bland start as a kid my conscience towards art and its symbolism was awaken during my military service in a training in Morse Code. I have not gotten it right away, only after professional training later as handwriting analyst. My ordinary writing was illegible and I was shocked seeing the forms comprising 5-letter groups which were supposed be encoded messages so perfectly filled with my handwriting. I must give credit to my elementary grades teachers who, from the first moment, gave us pen with flexible metal nib and ink to write and enforce such habit persistently. Never a pencil and eraser. This left an indelible mark upon our personalities which usually snowballs.
Later I have discovered the reason for the perfect writing. Due to the hard training, the sound of Morse Code became directly perceived by the brain as letters of alphabet, WITHOUT INTERFERENCE OF DEFECTIVE OPINIONS ingrained in my personality. It simply bypassed them. This, I believe had the same effect as intensive training of a monk intent on enlightenment.
It was fully confirmed in my studio. Drawing from a model, I usually use a low table. After finishing the drawing done in ink and oriental brush I lay it down on floor to look at it, happy or horrified.
I put a drawing on the floor and starred at it in disbelief. This was the first time I really saw it - it was done in a trance o sort. I understood perfectly then the advice the Zen master gave to the pupil; (Zen in the Art of Archery by Eugene Herrigel)
Knock the arrow;
Draw; - but
Do not shoot - " IT" shoots.
"It" drew the picture.
An artwork is a cross-examination at the Court of Life. The Judge hears the testimony and notices demeanor of the witness, how long it takes him to answer a question, he looks for shifty eyes and other telltales to determine if the witness is telling the truth, how reliable will be his next answer. The conduct of the witness may be more important that his testimony because the facts can be corroborated from other sources.
We appreciate, stand in awe before the old masters, their Testimony. Yet, we fail to notice the process, how they conducted themselves. We do not value the fact that however brilliant their work, it reflects the inadequacies of the era; over-concern with the results on expense of the philosophy. Theirs is a belaboured testimony, a testimony of troubled souls, of inner conflicts which are passed on us, unsuspected. Besides a fresh breath of Renaissance we absorb some of the persisting habits of self-deception and fears.
If the destiny of man is to become more advanced in moral and spiritual sense, we must keep the old masters' work as a historic reference, not as a model to follow. An artist whose ambition and inclination is towards enlightenment of the nation must choose a medium which reflects it. An ambitious and ethical artist can be compared to a mountaineer scaling the peak of Matterhorn, carrying minimal equipment and knowing well that one wrong step may end his life. He is both determined to live and resigned to death; no room for illusions.
October 20, 2005
Beauty Pageant. Pageant of WHAT ??
One who deals with beauty every moment of his waking hours, sometimes in sleep, ought to know the difference between beauty advertised and delivered.
In order beauty to be recognised and understood it must be defined first. A daunting task.
Superficially, in perception of majority, symmetrical form, smooth surface and glittery texture is all that is required. To highlight the superficiality of this, one must look at Japanese. The more knurled branch, the more crooked and rough surface of a cup, the better appreciation. Why such seemingly stark difference in definition of beauty? Make no mistake, there is no contradiction. In the imperfect shape and texture there is a reflection of time and desire for its continuance where adherence to tradition was more important than life. The stability, loyalty and dignity of a gentleman and samurai, security of strictly organised society. This is viewed as object of admiration and worship. Natural, unaltered forms of life and earth as expression of revulsion to any modification of truth.
When we look carefully and analytically on events, products and relations in everyday life we cannot miss the concerted effort from some quarters to lower our understanding, appreciation, expectations of and desire for beauty.
As in taking temperature of someone with fever the thermometer, the sick person and the value on the thermometer scale cannot be separated the beauty of the pageant's contestants cannot be separated from its setting, from its purpose. The cultural damage is not done single-handedly by this one event, therefore it is futile to protest it while consenting to other innumerable instances occurring on daily basis. The pageant's purpose and circumstance is dismal; the beauties cannot be judged by their beauty alone, but in conjunction with the supreme goal of profits for the conglomerate of organisers conspiring to extinguish any consideration of ethics, dignity and real beauty. It simply gives an impression of meat market.
There are some women's groups who bitterly oppose such events. It is doubtful they will be listened to; the profits are enormous and so are the wounds. In order for any progressive thought, any revolution to succeed it is not enough to criticise the old one, there must be an alternative worked out beforehand. It is not correct nor wise to tear down your house before securing a lot, plans and building material for a new one. This is the fundamental error all good-intended people make. Instead of fighting injustice, they should cultivate justice in their vicinity. Instead of despairing over ugliness, the ought to create beautiful things and relationships.
Some object to the pageants because invariably the ladies appear scantily clothed. Clothes or no clothes is not an obstacle to nor promoter of beauty.
I have worked as a photographer for the director of Miss Nude World the late Carl Alkerton. The ladies, usually within a naturist resort, were much dignified, for simple reason; there was no motive other than promotion of nudism.
The artist's job in defining and disseminating beauty is relatively simple provided he has the ability, personal and professional. In painting or sculpting one of the beauties he can eliminate all the nonsense which take away and in the end completely destroys, by association, the elements of beauty and go directly to the heart of it - to the universal values, their symbolic representations free from the encumbrances.
Whether or not I will have an opportunity to lecture on ethics in art, I have prepared some questions for the students.
An actor walks out of set after filming a scene which subject was violent and immoral and is confronted by a person: "Do you think what you do is right"?
He answers, " I am not the director or producer. I am just an actor doing a job in order to feed my family".
The question for the students: Do you think it was a correct answer ?
As the ring sounds I leave the answer for the next day and will also ask their comment on one possible answer.
"The answer is an excuse that is commonly accepted in a corrupt society. Among civilised people it will not be accepted. The activity will not be illegal, because in an enlightened society the law is also enlightened, but it would be severely censored by the citizenry; there would be no audience".
I would hope, upon finishing the unit, to make it clear that it is the duty of the Government to provide an example in morality, but it is the duty of the citizens to enforce it.
August 26, 2006
Here comes another chance to loose friends and make enemies. There is a display of huge abstract photographs at the SM Megamall. They have a board there eloquently promoting abstract art. I almost got convinced. Except for the experience of the contemporary society being already permeated by deception and cowardice, do we really need promotion of art which apologises not taking a stand, always leaving a back door open, explaining one's action in whichever way it is more convenient and profitable?
March 27, 2007
People often ask why I do not particularly like working in oils.
In an oil painting. the composition, colours, subject matter, etc., all attest to the artist's skill, are undisputable proofs.
In brush-painting oriental style on white absorbent paper in black ink there are similar telltales highlighting quality of the creator. There is no single atom which can conceal anything, all is undisputable.
In oil painting. however beautiful and artistic, the last, most important action of actually laying the pigment on surface of the canvas has no witness. No way of telling how many mistakes were made, how many times the artist changed his mind and wiped the stroke off. This is disputable and I am not a friend of disputable, that's why I refrain.
June 3, 2008
Who is an artist? Examples abound. Albert Schweitzer who was brilliant organ player, lecturer and expert in musical and theological fields, Nobel Prize Laureate, left fame and comfort to build a hospital in Equatorial Africa; Emile Zola, prominent French writer shouted to the face of the Nation, in midst of anti-Jewish frenzy involving army officer Captain Dreyfus, "This man is innocent".; In various fascist or communist regimes, artist risked their lives to protest Government actions and lack of freedoms; Jose Rizal, hero of Philippine independence, etc., etc..
These are artists. Leaders in community.
They first made sure that their own personal sense of balance, beauty and spirit of servitude to the Nation is in high orbit.
Nowadays, people clamor to be called artist who have no redeeming qualities. Imitating retarded monkeys, lying, dressing themselves funny like 8-year old kids, creating junk and actually selling it to unsuspected public which shows clearly their receding moral and mental abilities. Without a sense of shame.
A true artist may, during long winter evenings, create some works of art. However it is not a pre-requisite.
September 6, 2008
Artist Delivers State of the Art in Arts Address
Using accepted statistical tools,
contemporary art cannot even remotely compare to Old Greeks.
September 1, 2008
Besides introspection vehemently rejected by psychologists of the West but expounded in the East Symbolic Language is one of the most valuable source of information about personality.
Explorers from out of space landing their flying saucer in Acropolis, Greece, can perfectly judge, using the symbolism contained in the architecture, character of the Greek culture of 500 B.C.
It affirms flawlessly the ancients' desire for balance and beauty. The austere sophistication of the Doric style combining with obvious veneration of perfect human form spells out in Universal Language, "in healthy body healthy spirit".
Symbolic Language is all-pervading. When I order 'halo-halo' in a restaurant I try not to notice how the other diners feverishly pound it, as if their life depended on it, downgrading the contents to a formless mélange of indefinite properties. This is how they see their fellow humans.
My spoon enters the bowl carefully, not to disturb the chef's arrangement which he built with loving care. In one movement, it picks up representative sample of the dessert, without assaulting the rest.
Whether you care or not about Universal Language, this exactly is the way I want to relate to my co-travelers in this valley of tears.
Had their spaceship landed somewhere else, where the edifices look like towers of pancakes clearly horizontally separated they would know that this is a strictly stratified society which forbids hanging socks to dry on the same line or in same height as the trousers.
Looking at Gothic cathedral they may understand the repression, inflated egos and fear of action besieged by this culture. Going back to Planet X they ought to wish us good luck, hope that Earth can bounce back. Still, they have not heard the sounds...
April 2, 2009
I am scared to say I am an artist. Not by choice, by destiny. I draw life. Not by choice, by destiny.
My friends wink. I do not know how to wink back, only they know.
Aah- naked ladies?
It is good, it is good, but why don't you put some colour in it, just a line?
How to educate them gently? Here is an example, I say. I am drawing letter "a", musical note "a". It has pitch, colour, taste, emotions. It has all you ever need to know.
Drawings? Just a line? It is life, for Pete's sake, it has heartbeat, place in the Sun, soul.
It has all you ever need to know.
Nowadays people like to embellish, they hate simple. Simple is true, truth is painful.
If they dare to suffer they will become accomplished persons. How do you spot an accomplished person? Simple. You ask them a question and the reply is - I do not know. I do not have that information, the information is not available at the moment.
Everyone else tells you a tall story, fairytale. Entertainment fairytale, scientific fairytale, political fairytale, religious of philosophical fairytale, with lots of details. The more details, the better fairytale...
May 25, 2010