Tuesday, December 22, 2009

A Definition of Art

All true artists, whether they know it or not, create from a place of no-mind, from inner stillness. ~Eckhart Tolle

I think its important to have a concept of what Art is before setting out to create it. In my opinion, Art is always a personal philosophy, which is to say that its nothing more than a reasoned opinion. My philosophy on Art has been developed and refined over 30 years of thinking on the subject in conjunction with the practice of it. Were I an eloquent writer I could express my definition in a succinct phrase that captured the essence my thoughts, but alas, I am not such a writer. Instead I give you a long explanation and hope you indulge me with your patience.

In my view, Art is made up of two parts: The activity of art and the experience of art. I will go into greater detail in future posts on each of these parts, but for now, I give you the summary.

The Activity of Art
Whether you are a painter, dancer, musician, writer (or any number of other things), Art arises from a human activity. As such, I believe almost any human activity that requires creativity can be "artful." Art arises from mastery. It means attaining a level of expertise in both knowledge and execution that consistently produces results at the highest level.

The Experience of Art
Whenever we view, hear, touch, taste, or smell the creation of any human being, we may potentially experience art. It is anything that someone else does that resonates with our inner selves. It is those things that suspend us in awe and does not wane with repeated exposure.

The Experience in the Activity
It is possible for the artist to experience art within the activity of creating it. It occurs when the artist reaches a state of optimal performance - what athletes refer to as "the zone" or what Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi calls "Flow." It is something many, if not all of us have experienced at some point. It is the feeling we have when we are completely focused, relaxed, and in tune with ourselves. It is difficult to reproduce those moments of optimal performance, but with enough knowledge and practice, we can improve our receptiveness to it.

For me, regardless of how well a painting may turn out, art is in that feeling - the feeling that the painting is creating itself. It is an odd combination of sensations: letting go and being in complete control at the same time.

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