The Future of Art & Artists of the Future
A Painter’s Perspective
By C.J. Irwin
There has been much discussion of late about the future of Art; about the future of the ‘traditional artist’.
ARTS = Entertainment and entertainment feeds the hungry vein that helps fuel the spirit of all mankind. All of us are attracted to Art in one form or another. It’s inherent and lives deep within. To each and every one of us, our taste in art is as specific and individualistic as a thumb print.
Maybe it’s the emotion and power of Bach’s Cello Suite No 5 in C Minor. Maybe it’s the writings of a poet or author that whisks us away on adventure. Maybe it’s the mesmerizing moves of a dancer effortlessly flowing across the floor. A good movie on a big screen can be spellbinding. The unharnessed and collective energy of a ‘live’ concert can create a contagious feedback that everyone in the room can feel. Maybe it’s a conceptual trigger or the textural paint that is pulling across the expanse of the painter’s canvas that transports us into another world. Whatever your preferences in the arts, it’s hard to ignore an art form when it’s talking to YOU.
They say never begin a sentence with ‘but’… but this is a big BUT. What happens when we get the majority of our entertainment, our experiences, our arts from one common source? The great WWW. How do the millions of apps, the ever developing technology and the mind blowing print capabilities affect the production and mass distribution of Art? How will the value of digitally and mass distributed art be perceived as it passes from viewer to viewer faster than a speeding bullet? Is it like a fading aura that weakens with each transmission; like a sound recording that loses a generation with each reproduction? Like vinyl to CD, is a part of the experience lost? How will the original art‘s aura value change? How do Artists retain their ownership/copyright? How do Artists control the altered and passed along memes of their work? So many questions. So many possibilities. Look at the old-school music industry. It has pondered these questions for years. It lost track and control of its customers by refusing to accept and adapt to obvious change. Technology isn’t going anywhere… except in every single home, in every single ear, through every single eye and eventually embedded into every single brain. Infinite capabilities are difficult, maybe impossible to predict, even harder to control. No one really knows where it’s going because the progression is never ending.
Will the majority of art buyers purchase their Art online? They already do. Films, books, fashion, music, paintings, sculpture and more have challenged conventional retail. Art is selling well for those technically hooked up with marketing. BUT usually, marketing and technology don’t come second nature to Artists, nor do the funds required for set up and maintenance. For Artists looking for virtual online exposure, the artisphere is just as cliquey as real-time galleries, dealers, curators and agents. Competition has never been as fierce and opportunity never greater. Twitter is testament to this. Twitter is an artist’s paradise now they have added automatic photo. There is sooooo much great art to view online.
A vigilant and savy business minded Artist understanding licensing and copyright can be very succe$$ful - just like a Rockstar, but the difference between rockstar and painter is that although the painter may sleep with their muse they don’t paint for the money or the chics for free. Maybe they do :-) What was my point here? Ahhh - that the introduction of new devices, apps, printers etal is creating more dimensions and opportunities than ever before and as Artists, IF we decide to play in this arena, we must be smart, adapt and keep up. If online dealers approach with offers, we need to do our research and understand our rights. It’s easy to give our work away unknowingly. Corporate onliners like Facebook, Google and Amazon can own you if you’re not careful. Most of us don’t even read the ten page privacy statements they throw up – we simply click ‘accept’. For Artists or anyone not wanting their material hijacked online, do the research and read between the lines. Not unlike the music industry – copyright is key. Recording artists want to keep their publishing; so do writers, painters and candle-stick makers. Licensing, copyright infringement and memes are good topics for a future blog.
Will film and the movie theatre die? Film and movies will never die but movie theatres will. Will books as we know them disappear? Access will become difficult and the Library may thrive again. Will the ‘live’ Gallery experience become extinct? NEVER. The real time Gallery and Museum ‘experience’ can not and never will be duplicated or replaced, although in the face of online competition, it WILL be difficult to maintain. In all cases the ‘original’ piece in it’s virginal, first generation aura will be most valued – both in sight value and monetary value. Even if the piece has been reproduced and distributed 50million times, even if it seems that the piece has become desensitized, the original will always be a commodity. It represents the truest experience.
Until a computer can think on it’s own, whatever it creates will still lack true human emotion. Sure computers are extensions of ourselves but the results, although beautiful and well structured, seem to me anyway, to be devoid of the main ingredient. As much as this doesn’t seem to be a deterrent to some – it often is to me. I’m not saying that there isn’t a place for digital art; there IS an art to digital work and it’s a growing medium, but when I look at digital art I don’t really contemplate the process. Few understand the true symbiosis between computers and printers and because it IS so technical, even though we may find the piece aesthetically appealing, most don’t care about the process. However, when a ‘live’, unadulterated, pure piece of art is in front of me and I know that it has been created by an artist’s hand and heart, the interaction is more personal, with more appreciation. It invites me to ask questions, inquire about the process and of course relate it all to the Artist that created it. So will digital/technical art kill off the ‘traditional Artist’? Stupid question.
I’m a young artist, meaning that I’ve only been painting fifteen years. Art is my outlet, my plug-in that allows me to feed off the meditation-like process of LIFE. It’s my rhythm, rhyme and reason and without it – well, I don’t contemplate that. I love that creating art is a never ending learning, experimental and experiential process. Simply, that’s the underlying hook for artists. It’s this simple process that keeps us doing what we do. Love and Addiction. This is why we spend hours creating something that may only appeal to ourselves. This is why we can easily shrug off a failed experiment. We don’t think about the mess; sometimes not even the toxicity. If we forget to breathe while painting, our body will remind us. Sometimes our nutrition suffers because we’d rather art than eat. Materials are mad expensive. Poorly attended shows can hurt our oh-so-sensitive egos and in my case, living in the country can make it difficult to get attention. Did I mention that being an artist can also make you feel like a social outcast or recluse? How many times have I cancelled a dinner engagement or a night out with friends? “Sorry can’t make it, I’m in the middle of a major project”. Or, maybe it’s because there are highlights in my hair that aren’t by Clairol, my scent is Eau de Linseed and I have few clothes that haven’t been touched by paint.
The ‘traditional artist’ creates simply out of an innate drive. Creativity provides a sense of accomplishment, a beginning and an end. Creativity isn’t exclusive to the typical ‘artist’. Whether you are a baker, a teacher, a wine sommelier or you’re restoring a ’57 Chevy, you are being creative and the best of you have practiced your craft to a state of ART. The process and the results are the same - cerebral, soothing, therapeutic and satisfying. About the only other thing that can compete with this is sex.
How are Artists perceived? When I moved from the city to a smaller town a decade ago, even though I moved my marketing business with me and worked nine-to-five, I always seemed to be introduced by others in the community as – ‘an Artist’. Mostly I felt complimented by the label but on odd occasion I felt slightly demeaned. After all, I’m now in a much smaller community where culture isn’t rightly supported and many of the people I meet hold office or hard labor jobs. I loved my business for thirty years, but dammit, I love painting more. Does it make me a bum? Seriously, today few people take artists seriously. It’s a myth that we don’t grind as hard. Oh we grind, maybe harder and we still support ourselves and pay taxes. Many of us know we may never match the snack bracket of those in the concrete jungle but that isn’t our goal. It’s an economic designation and a choice we’ve made and most of us, even though we really do know struggle, are comfortable with our decision.
During the time of Rembrandt, Artists were held in high regard. There were no magazines, the few pamphlets that existed were hand-scribed, passed around and copied over and over. There was no photography, no television, no radio, no internet. ‘Live’ music, painting, theatre, story-telling and dance were considered magical arts. Unfortunately, today, art commercialism built by the higher tiered galleries, curators and dealers has placed much of the art market beyond reason, price or talent.
Of course it doesn’t help that Science continues to weave an association between Artists and mental illness and it’s obvious that more than a few have read the articles. It probably accounts for the summer encounter I had recently. Hot day. I decided to cool off at the local watering hole before dinner. There’s a table of eight people in the corner; some I know, some I don’t. “Join us CJ”. I sit and am introduced as local artist. Some ask questions and I get to tell people about my Gallery. But then, there’s always one isn’t there? A fellow at the far end of the table, in a too-small suit, tie slightly askew, beer in fist, balances his chair on two hind legs. He hasn’t said a word and he barely acknowledged my introduction. I’m drawn to look at him because I feel his eyes, but he seems to look straight past me whenever I look at him. When I do manage to catch him looking at me, he has that smile, you know the one that doesn’t quite creep into the eyes. Have you ever seen eyes that smirk? “So how long you been an Artist?” he asks. Before I can answer he spits out another question. “How’s it workin for ya, you actually make a living from it?”. I wait for the next question and when it doesn’t come I answer. “Well, I outgrew my suit and tie. I’ll probably never be rich like you, but I’m happy” I retort. “I dated an Artist once”, he says. “Trying to get her to come out was such an effort”. “I can’t see you tonight, I’m painting” he mimes in his best girlie voice. Inside I laugh because of the obvious. “I think she’s a bit nuts anyway” he says. “Who Jenna?” says the fellow beside him. “She’s bi-polar”. “Well, they say all artists are some kinda fucked up crazy” says the suit with the smirky eyes. And there it was, the mark of disgrace associated with being an Artist. Stigma.
Last year researchers at the Karolinska Institute in Sweden, one of Europe’s most prestigious medical universities, released an article that claimed, as many other articles have, that artists of all genres have a higher risk of anxiety, schizophrenia, depression and bipolar disorders and that they are almost twice as likely as anyone to commit suicide (as reported in the Journal of Psychiatric Research). Of course, they don’t look at the finer details as to probable causes for suicide i.e. unstructured lifestyle, addictions, isolation which can lead to depression, the struggle of self-employment, low remuneration, little security, heavy competition, inappreciation and criticism. It’s not a wonder that from time to time an artist feels doubt and fear. BUT DOESN’T EVERYONE at some point in their life? Anyone denying fear and doubt in today’s world is either lying or dead. Being an artist today is a huge gamble and if you’re going for the money you’ll definitely have better odds in Vegas. Many artists do lead a lifestyle that some may call eccentric, but that eccentricity may just be creativity and maybe that simply means – thinking in a different way.
Who’s crazier? Me or the guy in the suit and smirk that works in commerce, hoodwinking clients with commissions and financial risk. Like they say, if it makes you happy… and as Artists, creativity makes us happy. IF we didn’t have our art and expression, then maybe we would be crazy. I’ve been fortunate enough to have experienced the corporate world and the art world, ‘both sides’ as Joni would say, “and I really don’t know life ~ at all”. All I do know is that I don’t want to work or paint the same scene over and over. I want to keep it moving, keep it challenging, keep it fresh. Trial, error and fail if I must. Failing is an art too and essential to success, teaching us what works and doesn’t. And NO, I don’t want to be a techie, in fact I abhor the demands of it, but I’ll learn what I need to in order to stay in the game.
So who/what is an Artist of the future? We will continue to be a bunch of crazed lovers of an intimate universal language, determined to translate ideas, thoughts and emotions through the flow of paint, music, dance, words, film, fashion and all mediums of art. This will NEVER change. We will morph but our nature will remain. To all Artists out there – Keep on! Art is Truth. We may never be as cunning as Bansky or as masterful as Rembrandt. Or maybe we will. Maybe Banksy and Rembrandt will pale to what comes in the future. We accept who and what we are and just because we haven’t been discovered yet or maybe ever, doesn’t mean we’re not good enough or relevant. We’ll learn what we need to to protect ourselves and move forward. We’ll never feel that we must defend our vocation. Our art is our identity. We’ll feel our persona and ignore fear and doubt or use it to our advantage. We’ll feed our soul. We’ll be Happy! Albert Schweitzer, musician, artist said, “Success is not the key to happiness. Happiness is the key to success. If you love what you are doing, YOU WILL BE SUCCESSFUL” and knowing this, having the ability to create and the mere act of doing it makes us not only successful, but the luckiest bunch of people on the planet.
Cheers to the Arts!