The Unbound Artist/The Unintentional Artist

There is no such thing as an unbound artist.

Art is the act of painful creation whereby something that should be easy and natural is bound and therefore forced by necessity through a convoluted and strained escape transforming the very essence of the created thing.

This is why I think human beings are art.

Often the artist is not even aware they are an artist…they unintentionally and through circumstance find themselves thrust into the role. A role of communication through pain and  censorship.

It is a cliche that the best artist is the suffering artist. It is a cliche because it is assumed by many that one can impose suffering on oneself. The reality however is that self-imposed suffering is not suffering but the achievement of a desire. To put it another way – the one who places the shackles upon themselves is not bound but rather free…good art does not come from freedom.

The problem with much art in the west (it has been a problem for a long time) is that it is unrestrained and unbound. Art rises up out of the culture and reflects the culture. Western art has become fat and lazy.

The question then arises what of the artists of the Romantic era? What of the poets? How could anyone call Lord Byron a bound and censored person with the wealth and freedom he had.

Ah but he had one thing (as did the previous poets) – a culturally imposed set of very tight restrictions and boundaries to work within such as rhythm, rhyme and meter. Restrictions which have long since been thrown to the wind.

These restrictions are nothing in comparison to the bindings that can rise up in the mind of the artist. Consider Edgar Allen Poe, Vincent Van Gogh, science fiction writer Philip K. Dick and others – all struggled with mental illness and paranoia that bound them in ways that forced an incredible art.

Art shows up in many forms, some recognizable and some not. Bill Watterson, the creator of Calvin and Hobbes cartoons is, in my opinion, an artist. After 10 years he stopped at the peak of his career – why? He felt he had said what needed to be said. He was at a point where he could sit back and create whatever he wanted because it would be easy and so he stopped…because he knew it would not be good.

J.D. Salinger, author of The Catcher in the Rye, published his last book in 1963. He died in 2010. Why? Why no more? Arguably because the Catcher in the Rye was the centre of his art and he recognized that he had nothing else to offer.

Unbound creative freedom is death to art as far as I am concerned.

Movie directors fall prey to this all the time. They come out of nowhere and create some spectacular piece of movie art and are given complete license for future works – all of which fail miserably. Why?

The unknown director like M. Night Shyalaman before The Sixth Sense is provided with limited budget, limited resources, and tight production controls – in short their freedoms are very limited and in order to achieve the artistic vision they must become expert and subtle contortionists.

What happens after enormous success? Freedom to do whatever they want, however they want. The best thing that could happen to a director like Shyalaman would be for the controls to be back in place.

Art is art because it speaks truth. But anyone can speak truth. I can say “the world is pain” and this is true but it is not art. Truth becomes art (and vice verse) when expressed through poignant irony and bound circumstance.

To find the words “the world is pain” scratched onto the walls of Auschwitz by a Jewish teenage girl is to find art.

Art is bleeding truth standing right in front of you declaring itself whether you recognize it or not.

Art is the unbound sun of the same Jewish teenage girl if she had written “the world is joy” on the same wall.

Art is life and the west is dying…but in the death throes of our culture watch what wondrous art will flame to life.

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