Discussion 2 – Artistic Process
Who makes art? Do you think artists have innate ability or acquired skill (or both)? How do artist’s roles change with different cultural considerations?
Reading the opening statement: "The reality is that artists rely on a support network that includes family, friends, peers, industries, business and, in essence, the whole society they live in." for this section of the course really got me thinking. Three aspects (‘support network’, ‘family’, and ‘the whole society they live in’) really ring true.
Artists are both dependent on their respective support networks and are certainly influenced by the society they live in. Moreover, the statement “…artists rely on many different materials in order to realize their work,…”.
A remarkable example of this can be found in one important color used to paint one of the most important artistic artifact ever found – the Terra Cotta Warrior and that color is han purple (sometimes called Chinese purple).
This color was significant in two key aspects. Firstly, the color purple represented a very high level of status in Chinese society at that time. This could have been attributed to the fact that it was a very difficult color to produce given the available pigments used for paint at the time. Secondly, it was extremely difficult to manufacture. The original recipe to produce this particular color has been lost but scientists have gone to great lengths to both find its original properties as well as try to reproduce it. Some have even experimented its manufacture by extracting chemical compounds found in mussel or oyster shells at very miniscule quantities and have painfully discovered just how much raw material and labor would have been required to produce even small amounts of the dye.
One can wonder why so much trouble was taken to include this particular color to paint the works. Was it the menacing insistence of the one who ordered the works, namely the first emperor of China Qin Shi Huang? Or was it the artists who took it upon themselves to ensure that their creations were the best they could be? We may never know the answer. But the point is that artists or the process in which artworks are created will see no limits when the goal is unswerving.
A few other examples that come to mind when considering ‘family' and societal influences’ can be found with the following cultural traditions of courtship.
Love spoons in 17th century in Wales
During the 17th century, young Welch men would offer love spoons they carved out of wood to announce their love interest in prospective mates. The intricately hand-carved wooden spoons were decorated with various symbols and were thus a means by which the young men could show their artistic talent. At the time, good woodworking prowess was in high regard and certainly in good favor of the potential father-in-law. Such a tradition represented a strong societal influence which influenced the art making process, even though this particular tradition has become passé.
Embroidered “Hebao” (荷包) Silk Pouches in Qing China
Similar to the courtship ritual of Welch Love Spoons, young Chinese women also sought to attract mates by demonstration of their artistic skill, namely with the creation of Hebao (荷包), or Embroidered Silk Pouches. These beautiful little pouches were intricately embroidered in silk thread and decorated with auspicious flowers, birds, human figures, or Chinese characters. Particularly during Qing dynasty, embroidery skills were highly praised and viewed in high regard when choosing a marriage partner. So once again, societal influences also seem to influence and motivate the Artistic Process.
The influence of Family
Finally, the third aspect I find particularly significant to the Artistic Process is that of family. Regardless of the work of art – whether a painting, sculpture, or performance – the influence of family is an inseparable component of the artist’s creative mood. It can directly or indirectly affect how the artist feels at the time the creative juices are flowing.
The famous Chinese violinist Lu Siqing (吕思清) perfectly embodied this very notion in a recent interview on CCTV. He said that his interpretation of any classic song changes throughout his career. The inspiration and emotion expressed for the same song was different when he was single, when he got married, and with the birth of his child. All these events have changed his views and how he interprets and expresses the music. The same kind of changes can easily be observed with many famous painters and other artists throughout their lifetime. We are in constant change and family is an integral part of such changes.
Dan Fournier, 2015-09-28