The Significance of the Creative Process

October 31, 2012

Art in the modern-day perspective is often unnecessary. Two opposing polarizations that yet share this implication of unnecessariness are the “down to earth” who see it “realistically” as a mere nice thing that gives some people aesthetic enjoyment, and those who see it as mere self-expression accompanied by warm feelings. In either case, it can be regarded as trite. My experiences irreversibly inform the following views, and others may disagree with the role of art. No doubt it has more than one use, and we will see different possibilities for its influence.What I am showing here is how a creative process–not any particular process–is not the spitting out of random ideas without purpose. Even automatism understands that there is a source of its unpredictability: the psyche and/or spirit. Art is not merely a luxury inferior to mathematics and business; it is communication. Communication takes place between people (loosely speaking) through a piece of art if there is a viewer, but the direct communication takes place regardless between the artist and herself, as well as the viewer and himself. Each person engages in dialogue with art through the act of interpreting it. This relationship influences, proportionate to the level at work of art is received at, the individual or cultural mindset and expands it or calls it into question.

I suspect one reason many don’t take creativity seriously lies in its association with transitory emotion. Regardless of whether a feeling is fleeting or lasting, subtle or apparent, it doubtless informs human action. Emotions tend to overwhelm the mind until they are filtered through by deliberation. Yet those passions that invade the mind to a point of muddling it, captivating it as a tyrant, can only be released through outburst. As such there can be no emotional release from creating a work of art, unless I brace myself to accept the thoughtlessness of it afterwards. Art becomes something to contemplate after the fact in this case, a drive or even impulse that contemplates meaning after it comes up with something. But it is also a means for figuring out the point through the process; both direct articulation, i.e. speaking in everyday terms, and indirect articulation, art, compare themselves to one another to find and understand what is driving them.

The reason for art being indirect articulation, as opposed to everyday language with its straightforward denotative meanings, resides in implication. Herein lies art’s supposed inferiority due to supposed lack of exactness. Art is often difficult or impossible to figure out from the point of the viewer (and perhaps the artist); this has come to be viewed as a mystical emotional ejaculation and nothing else. There is a tendency to mistake clarity for exactness here. A work of art may well be less clear and exact than direct articulation. But clarity, the skilled use of denotative meanings, is so apparent that it 1) fails to make the Other draw the connections herself 2) does not grasp the ineffable. Clarity itself is unable to bring light onto that which words cannot say. Yet the use of implication, through metaphor, symbolism, parallel, diction, aesthetic association, tone, etc, communicates in ways clarity cannot. Exactness, by which I mean exactness in method, is a separate concept. Technical exactness varies among artists based on intention and natural or cultivated mechanical skill–this is not the defining qualification of artistic ability. How much exactness in planning there is for a work of art depends on the process and goals of the artist. For many surrealists exactness may be irrelevant. For Leonardo da Vinci and classic Le Corbusier it’s essential.

There are some who disregard the importance of the ineffable experience. Experiences are irrelevant to them; they want to know facts in full clarity and avoid art’s wishy-washy ambiguities. But experiences inescapably compose the world as one knows it. There is no looking at things “as they are,” much as some sciences would like to believe they strip themselves of subjective influence in order to see only the thing itself, perceiving it raw. And as close as they may get to discovering objective truths about “outside reality”, their belief about the world is limited to the method they use, what is worth considering, and how conventional standards organize information. In short, everyone is prejudiced by ideas and feelings, regardless of the degree to which he is an individual or a vessel of culture. If these ideas and feelings are taken for granted, if they are ignored, their influence on our interpretation of the world goes unrecognized.

This is all related to art because art, being a different approach toward discovery as the approach of history differs from that of psychology, which differs from that of mechanics, which differs from that of literature, sees the world by a different lens. All of these, psychology included, have what Foucault would call an episteme as well as what he called discursive practices. There are structures both inherent to the study and inherent to the paradigm of the study given the culture of the study. Different studies can overlap on anything–you could study World War II from a sociological standpoint; you could study mechanics from an artistic standpoint. Where art potentially separates itself from these studies is in being a means of discovering and evaluating our experiences. It would thus be a mistake to think art as communication is not expression. Rather it is through the act of expression that ideas are exchanged “between” people or reflexively back to the self.

If art is passively received without thinking about interpreting it like one thinks about interpreting direct articulation, it nonetheless communicates to the viewer. The same could be said for the artist and his thoughtless creation. Being a person is to be not only a homo sapiens perceiver but also an interpreter. But considering how and why one is interpreting as she is, as well as more thoroughly considering what to interpret, gives opportunity to glean more.

If I do not thoughtfully interpret a work and its creative process before, after or/and during its creation, whether the thing is long deliberated over or automatically produced, I fail to use the opportunity as a means for understanding. Where straightforward language fails to articulate correctly, any form of art can put a subject into unexpected lights; it draws parallels, spots paradoxes, makes connections, implies the ineffable, and exposes the artist with or without his intending it.

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