What’s the answer?
To some people art must seem like a senseless act, cluttering the world with more ‘stuff’. Yet for some reason makers continue to have the urge to make it – and some of these makers along with other people also want to view it and buy it. What is the dynamic that makes this strange cycle continue?
September is the month of Herts Open Studios, when we put on show a fantastic range of experiences, emotions, reactions and observations in the form of art. We put them on show to sell - but what’s the purpose of these pieces?
Clearly creating art is a basic human need. I say this because art is evident in every culture. Civilisations may rise and fall and what they leave behind is often, perhaps even always, their art.
I found a contemporary reflection on art in our culture in the Greater Good website. An interview with seven various types of artists - some of them visual (drawing and photography) - reveals a lot about reasons for creating. We can probably all add more reasons to the list.
So why do you or I do it? Whatever art we produce it’s a product of the world as we know it. But it doesn’t stop there. Do you find that once you create a piece you keep looking at it? I think that's because the piece becomes a being in its own right with some surprising things to say. It doesn’t just tell you what you’ve seen or been through to produce it. Instead it shows you how you’ve reacted to and what you’ve learnt from seeing. With some pieces I find I want that conversation to continue for a long time and I can’t let them go. Luckily not every artist or maker suffers from this gridlock!
But anyway, slowly or quickly we all come to the time when we are ready to show it, share it, sell it, part with it. Now this is where things get really interesting because I’ve found that buyers of art are rarely interested in what I’m saying in a piece. They often don’t want me to explain – so these days I don’t. What’s important for them is that they bring their own meaning to it – and they want it because it’s talking to them about their experiences, their emotions, their reactions and their observations.
It was only this year, when I went to St Albans to see the Olympic torch being carried, that I thought about the people who carry the flame. Every torch bearer was chosen because of their own achievements – and maybe that’s what they thought about as they ran their miles. And maybe that explains the mystery of art that I’m talking about.
Just as the torch means something different to everyone, so does a piece of art. So our buyers aren't outsiders looking in – they join our process by adding their meaning. They will take our object home and it will become part of their family – and each member of the family might add their meaning too. If it’s seen as an heirloom piece it will be passed on to new generations who have a new eye and join the process that we as artists started.
It’s an intriguing and strange journey. Though clearly necessary and valuable – otherwise why would we all keep on doing it?
If you have thoughts about this strange cycle of events, or any tips for selling work to potential buyers - do share by commenting...