Is an Artist really a free-spirited being? There indeed is a freedom of expression in the thoughts within the individual works of an artist, but considering the artist’s lifelong career, making a progress in his/her works is almost the same as creating a ‘game.’
It is almost as the responsibility of a contemporary artist to clarify his/her outlook on the world and to boil it down to one united topic relegated under a fine logistic system. Simply put, it is possible to highlight about the artist when there are is substantial topic and a clear logic to support that. This gives artists various difficulties: first, choosing a relatable topic, second, deepening the studies of that topic and third, being in the inseparable state between artist and the subject matter. To put in other words, artists search for this singularity while controlling the unfocused multiplicity within themselves.
However, can a single linguistic topic define the oeuvre of the artist? Alternatively, must an artist find their identity in a single ‘thing,’ i.e. ‘the subject / the object’?
I do not think the identity of the artist lies in a single subject/object that the artist has chosen. We have all seen this so-called ‘magic box’ in math class when we were young. Once we put a certain number to its mouth, the algorithm of the box works to compute out the calculated answer. The artist’s identity relies on the function of this box; how can the artist creates an output through his/her formula from bits of the information of the world we live in. The subject/object could be anything but the artist’s competence is to make the function of the box sturdy while limiting the errors. As if they were programmers coding a program.
Nowadays the artist writes an artist statement, introducing themselves and what they are interested in (about an object/phenomenon/medium). It is focused on how deep the research has been of the object/medium that the artist has chosen. ‘the back of the ordinary scenery of city,’ ‘the life of an individual in a massive city development,’ ‘questioning the limitations of the medium,’ ‘the relationship between history and representation’ etc. are the common chosen topics of the contemporary artist. Commonly, the word ‘practice’ accompanies the research and the various methods in approaching the topic. The sign of a good work of art is usually about how in-depth the research and how creative the outcome has been.
What is usually agonizing to artists including myself, is to trim so many different ideas away and choose whichever is consistent in order to effectively construct the apparent identity of an artist. It is because, as I mentioned above, deemed almost desirable to see an artist that focuses on a single ‘thing,’ ‘subject and object’ in the long run. However, what if the artists ‘algorithm’ itself is an identity of an artist? Whatever the artist takes to make is less important than putting attention on the interpretation process in deducing an outcome of the artist.
The study of singularity (or study of an ‘essence’) is bound to be confusing as it gets deeper. What I mean by the ‘essence’ is the outcome commonly desired throughout the long research and study on a single topic. An artist needs to bear two things as they proceed to search with the belief in ‘essence.’ One is the bearing of the distance from the reality (as nothing exists singularly in this world). Also, the desolating futility felt when chasing for an ‘essence’. To trace the essence means that to deny whatever that does not belong to what the artist defines as the ‘essence of the world.’ However what I believe, is the fact that a world is constituted of numerous ‘could-be essences’, and if they are not, it does not matter, they are continuously changing themselves in time and space. Maybe it is not about the focused singularity but the artistic chemistry of numerous experiences in our fragmented world that matters. Moreover, the artist’s role here is to make the algorithm sturdy to process that chemistry successfully and creatively.
Not all artists must find the legitimacy of their practice in social issues and conflicts.. As we need more specimens to deduce a better output, we need more artist specimens in order to better understand contemporary world.
The healthy freedom that I mentioned in the title must be found by the artists themselves. To keep going on producing work; maybe there should be a childlike satisfaction to be felt. If there is a duty, it is that the artist must carry the feeling of fulfillment, which is primary when making art.. Not from defining and trimming the possibilities but when an artist is driven to create work for their satisfaction, unadorned, complimentary pieces may legitimize themselves as a whole.