Prose by Wayne Visser
~ Art is the mirror in which we see our truest self reflected ~What space does art occupy in your life? Is there a medium that you are drawn to – maybe drawing, painting, photography, sculpture, ceramics, tapestry, carving, quilting, or something else entirely? Which artistic styles do you best relate to? Do you have a favourite artist or piece of art? The answers to all these questions say a lot about you. Not only about your likes and dislikes, your tastes and interests, but also about your moods and musings, your hopes and fears. Do you prefer realism or abstract art? Impressionism or fantasy creations? Romanticism or ethnic influences? Each reflects a fundamentally different view of the world, a different set of beliefs about what it means to be human, a different perspective on aesthetics and beauty. Some artists try to faithfully reproduce what they see, to give a factual account, while others attempt to capture the emotions of their subjects. Some use art as a mouthpiece, to get a message across, while others use it to reflect their own inner state. All art, however, has the power to transform those it touches. We say we are moved by a piece of art, which means something has shifted, we are changed forever. Art is a catalyst. It sparks new insights, evokes dormant feelings. It gives flight to angels and stirs slumbering demons within. It does this not by providing us with answers, but by asking questions. Every work of art is a slice of life, a freeze-frame in time, a snapshot of reality. At first, we are fascinated by what the artist has captured – the scene, the characters, the play of light and shadow, the contrast of colour and tone. We are implored to ask the obvious questions – why this place, these objects, those people? But we know we have only scratched the surface. Our curiosity piqued, we dig down a layer – what can we tell about the mood, the emotion, the atmosphere? As each new shard is uncovered, we piece together artefacts of meaning. What about the relationships – between the setting and the actors, the background and the objects, the artist and the work of art? The more we chip away, the more we realise that what is revealed is only a fraction of what still lies hidden below the surface. We cannot help but ask: What came before the painting? After the sculpture? What meta-narrative informed the quilt? What threads in time wove together to form this knot? It is as if art is the view we get looking through a keyhole. We are voyeurs of another time and place, eavesdropping on other people’s lives. But what we see is only a miniscule part of the whole picture. W hat we hear is only a fragment of the entire conversation. Art gives us a mystery to solve. The clues are all there for the enthusiastic detective to discover – in the art piece itself, the genre it reflects, the life of the artist, and the historical period in which they are located. As we investigate, we find that the plot thickens, and though we may develop hunches and hypotheses, the mystery remains forever unsolvable. And so it should be. We are free to create our own enigmas as well. We are all latent artists. Have you discovered your talent yet? What kind of art do you wish you could do, or do better? Our artistic nature cries out to be nurtured, but more often than not, we neglect it. Like an unwatered plant, it shrivels inside us, until we stop believing we have any artistic inclinations at all. Perhaps we are intimidated by what it means to be good enough? But art is an experience, not an outcome; a process, not a product. The value of engaging in an artistic activity is in the act of creation itself, the journey it takes you on and what you learn about yourself. For far too long, art has been rendered inaccessible by snobbery and given marginal importance by modernity. It is time we take back the power. Art is our natural heritage, our birthright. Until we embrace it, our lives will remain poorer, shallower in spirit, less human. So why not make some space for art in your busy schedule today? Sneak a peek through the keyhole and you may be amazed to spy fantastic worlds that you hardly dreamed existed, not least those inside yourself.
Wayne Visser © 2005
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