Return to Thoughts aloud



There are (at least) two aspects to the artistic experience: First, the creative process itself. Second is engagement by the viewer. 


Whether I am in the studio, or elsewhere indulging my imagination, I let impulses, feelings, images, even gestures arise within me. I call this Entering the Dreamtime, which has resonance with the Vision Quest, Walk About or Trance Dance. In the studio, I begin to capture these affects and images in a form or medium that can be experienced by others. This is the process of creating ‘a work.‘ Call this the primordial aesthetic. As an activity, or action it is a choreography of sorts, a pas de deux, between an originating inspiration and one’s own body. It is the way paint, brush or tool, and other media, are physically engaged in response to the inner movement of vision and subtle energy. Here technique may be improvised, discipline brought to bear, and the fire of inspiration stoked through the ‘dance.’ It is a delicate interplay between the virtual and the actual. And, it is a precarious engagement as there are competing forces, some not so benevolent to the creative process. The inner critic may frown upon this play, whisper disapproval and counter with injunctions to 'Grow up', 'Get a real job', etc.

The second aspect of the artistic experience is presenting ‘the work’ in a way that engages the viewer and illicits an authentic response. Returning from a walkabout or vision fast in the wilds of nature the artist re-engages with the community, with the world. The work, if it succeeds, reveals what has been experienced or discovered on that journey. For this, one needs an opportunity, a venue, thus the exhibition: the gallery experience. The gallery aspect is the experience of viewing the result, contemplating the work itself. This second aesthetic completes the process of bringing the vision of Dreamtime into real time, into the social world, even into the political. Engaging this aesthetic completes the integration and carries the ‘dream image’ or artistic piece into the context of one’s present lived experience. It is not for mere judgement about the piece: ‘This is good or this is bad.’ (That happens of course!) It is the discovery of its effect upon the viewer and its possible significance now. This may happen instantaneously, or unfold in its own time. This second aspect reveals more cogently the personal, social or transformative dimension of art which is equal to the making of it.


As viewer are you willing to be affected or transformed by the experience of viewing art? Will you come to the exhibition to be moved, to be affected? And then what will you do about it?