Individualism & Intellectualism In Art
12 September, 2006
The statement “Art is an expression of progressive social consciousness and political extension” is not a common assumption in my experience. True this statement is multi- faceted , yet I believe social consciousness and politics does exist in art, as well as in the artist.
My belief is all that exists is political by being. We all have social awareness. Art and artists are political simply by being. If it is intentionally expressed in the works, it may transcend beyond art, therefore redefining itself. Some art is visionary, some before its time, and some is political, sometimes with intention, and sometimes not.
I am not suggesting labels are important to attach to anyone, as every case is unique. No two artists have the same style, nor the same goals, proof of that individualism. Individualism in art is evident in the representational work itself. In the artist, we tend to see their individuality in their social behaviour, and psychological makeup.
I would propose that art more closely resembles individualism than intellectual class especially from the point of view of the artist. Art is a right brain activity, and intellectualism a function of the left brain. Perhaps we can attribute individualism to the expression of art, and the concept, or original idea to the intellect. Or is it possible intellectualism in art could be in the perspective of the viewer, and not so in the artist?
The danger of labelling art as intellectualism, would suggest it is bourgeois, therefore limiting, as labels tend to be. If art is only for the intellectual class, then the danger then exists for deprivation of the other classes, and repression. Unfortunate as it is, classes still exist in our ‘civilized’ society. Yet who needs art more than the downtrodden?
For example, though jazz music originally came from the streets an intellectualized version exists in non-mainstream jazz. The progression of this sub-culture, is reserved for the educated, & other musicians. Many jazz lovers find it beyond their understanding. Those who subscribe to this version are the only ones who find value here.
‘Raw’ feeling, as it were, transposed into musical expression beyond a universal understanding, limits the scope of it’s audience. The rest of us are left on in the lurch wondering why we just don’t get it. Despite it’s intellectualisms, the art form still falls into the category of individualism.
Consider for a moment ‘Outsider Art’, art brut, and naive art. This art is created by those who dwell on the fringes of society. Art created by innocent intuition, without regard for convention or the final outcome. It is ‘raw’ expression. It makes a strong statement, unedited individualistic, and non-intellectual by mainstream standards.
We all have the freedom to choose, and freedom to grow. Your perception tells you what is true through recognition and your interpretation. When you look at a piece of art, do you look at the emotions it emits, or do you think about the thought processes that went into the creation of the piece?
Unique in their ways, artists are intensely individual, as is their art. They place their own goals ahead of any collective goals. I see individualism in art, as artists pursuing their ideas to meet their own end.
The artistic nature is most often intuitive, unique, and perceptive in an intense way. Much of art is progressive, the creators themselves striving for betterment. There needs to be a flow between the head and heart, so that all of these forces work together. Much of the process is unconscious … the expression is the concept in action.
Art appeals to the emotions as well as the mind, to both the artist and the viewer. One cannot necessarily separate the emotional from the cognitive. My conclusion would have to be that individualism, and intellectualism co-exist in art. While many see the world as black and white, the truth is, much of the world is grey. An oxymoron indeed.
Photo © DL Robinson