By dmitrizzleHeader image credit: Suzan Fastre
In his 1934 paper on aesthetics "Art as Experience", John Dewy offers to look at art as a relationship system. A bond between the audience and the expressive object. And its effect on the lives of each. Leonid Tolstoy in his essay "What is art?" (translated excerpts here) referred to it as "activity", "expression" and "feeling".
I grew up in a family of Russian artists. Not too happy with the kind of life our birth country was offering we moved to Canada during my mid-teens (in the late 90's). We were somewhat well-off in Moscow but in Toronto neither of us had jobs and life became a struggle. So, as a result, my ambitions began to skew towards utilitarian professions and ideals.
As a kid, I was fascinated by computers, digital animation, and website design. Still fresh in my memory are the tears of sorrow and frustration when I couldn't get my parents to buy me a PC (I was 9). A year later, when it was finally mine, my world started to shape gradually as of someone who is incredibly passionate about working in front of a screen. I've hand-coded my first website before turning 16 on a Windows 95-powered metal can. Pretty soon engineering and science became my thing. Art became an extra, with no apparent meaning or purpose.
My mind kept changing with passing time. By the end of high school, it was all about being a manager and working with people. During the graduation day at University of Toronto, it all came full-circle. There was no other purpose in life for me besides being an artist. Today, it's a little bit of everything.
I am now a strong believer in required collaboration of disciplines to create (anything). And so art (being the topic of this article) can't exist without a help of another human method.Design.
I talked to my mom about this. She described being an artist as "a wanderer in a garden looking for a divine fruit". Only a true creator can see it, get it, peel it and present it. An artist is a medium between the ether of creativity that floats around us and the material world that we live in. In unison with her, Victor Wooten writes about being a musician in his book "The Music Lesson":
Nobody really owns music. Some of us can hear it and play it out, but it comes from out there.
Have I, as a photographer, writer, musician then became someone who's just a messenger? After all these years of working my ass off at getting good, is this all that there is to being an artist?
Probably not. Creatives know that inspiration isn't granted, it can't be just tuned to like a radio station. Sometimes it fails to reach us even if we have trained for years to just do that. It's elusive. But even if the glimpse of a beautiful song or an amazing visual appears before us, bringing it to life could be difficult. So many times have I heard a tune that sounded totally wrong on my guitar.
And what if we create something but fail to show it to the world? Olga (mom, artist) says that the fruit has an expiration date. It will wilt and become irrelevant. Meanwhile, someone else, perhaps on the other side of the planet will find it in a different form and bring it out to the people. There's no proof of course for this philosophical concept, though it does sound familiar. How many inventions do you know that happened simultaneously in two or more different countries? There are at least a few. I bet many more have failed to see the light of day.
An artist is a medium between the ether of creativity that floats around us and the material world that we live in. Which implies that he or she must not only see, feel or imagine that beautiful tune image or photograph. The final transaction must be made to complete the transaction. And that is to "materialize" it and exhibit it to the world - thus creating the relationship between the artist and his or her audience. Otherwise, that person is only a dreamer. I'm not saying that being a "dreamer" is bad, but it isn't the same as being an artist.
Milton Glaser (1974) argues that there is a fundamental difference between art and design: "Whereas a design must convey a given body of information, the 'essential function' of art is to 'intensify one's perception of reality.'" There is a problem with that statement, however. Isn't art, in its essence information? A composition and color that a photographer saw, snapped and printed - will it not transfer onto our retinas as data in biological "bits" which are our nerve pulses?
There must be some very close interaction between the concepts of art and design. I would even go as far as to say that artists are designers; our ability to see the creative ideas and bring them to live is dependent on us being to package them for consumption. Because otherwise it would just stay in the mind, making the person (again) a dreamer - not an artist.
We design our creative experiences, perceptions, and artistic ideas for them to be perceivable by our peers. Just like a painting needs a frame (or, at least, a medium and materials to be drawn).
An artist within will listen and find the "fruit." The designer will draw it and bring it to life. And the human will present it to the people. Thus completing the necessary objective of developing a relationship between an object and its audience.This article is an edited version of what was originally posted on June 27, 2014.