Studio Life

Michèle LaRose, a blog reader, asked me the following question:

“What role does contemplation play in art these days? By the artist when creating art, and by the viewers of art. Given the breakneck speed of life nowadays, is serious contemplation even possible, or seen as a useful part of creativity and seeing art? I have been reading the recent book on Agnes Martin and find her arguments for isolation and uninterrupted time in the studio compelling, especially for today. And yet the move towards participatory art and movements like relational aesthetics seems to suggest that such focused contemplation has gone the way of the dodo bird. What do you think?”

In my opinion, contemplative withdrawal from the world, from time to time, is a good thing, and can be productive. Your practice can benefit. It’s not mystical, but really pragmatic, because, as you suggest, society is a bit too much sometimes. However, my experience has also shown me that the benefits of quietness and solitude don’t necessarily include improved work. Just because you feel good about your own process doesn’t mean your work is any better. Objectivity is also necessary, and in art, unlike in science, that can’t exist without other people.

As to the other question, for me all forms of art are equally participatory and interactive.

However, blogs can be more or less interactive, so I’m glad about your question.

Agnes Martin's studio

Agnes Martin’s studio

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2 Responses to Studio Life

  1. Michèle LaRose says:

    I realize in re-reading my questions to you that it would have been easy to think I was most interested in the artist’s contemplation. (I think my comment about Agnes Martin served as an inadvertent red herring in this regard). However, I am more interested in contemplation by viewers and the seemingly diminishing attention span in society today. I agree with what you said on your blog, but am still wondering about the future of art forms that need time and contemplation to get the full measure of their intent.

    • Michèle, I think your impression that the ability to focus and pay attention is diminishing in our culture is probably right. It seems that way. But there are still plenty of people who can and do. Nasreen Mohamedi, mentioned in an earlier post, was apparently very well received at the last Documenta, precisely because her work made demands on the attention and intellectual energy of the audience. I guess you can’t really know what goes through anyone’s mind. Or how quickly it goes.

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