Tuesday, 26 February 2013

Defending Beauty in the Age of Commodity

Ana's thought: "The depth of my soul is measured by the profundity of my art."

When we remember the defining moments of art history, we call to mind the painters and sculptors of the Renaissance - the geniuses Michelangelo, Raphael, da Vinci, Dürer, Van Eyck - those driving forces in a new age of realism who broke ground in perspective and colour. They chose to serve as mirrors to their lives and their beliefs. In the Baroque period, Caravaggio and Bernini imbued their works with potent emotion - to this day, their art is irresistible to the eye of the beholder, for it resonates deeply within our hearts. Amid the sea of splendor that is our past, one cannot help but ask what today's art world offers in response.

Today's world is one of commodity. Modern culture demands that our gratification be instant - and in turn, all things are made instantly! Our idea of success is something that darts by with all the quickness and effete of a shooting star. Media insists that our attention span not last longer than a handful of moments, and shock value and sensationalism sing their siren songs to eager ears. Among all of this disarray, it has become quite rare to find the pairing of substance and beauty. We are told to reject the idea that art was something once considered 'fine', that beauty is archaic.

In the age of masters, it was understood that art flourishes when properly cultivated. Instinct was important, yes, but true magnificence was mastered by learning. Through institutions like Florence's Accademia e Compagnia delle Arte di Disegno, promising and passionate artists were given ample opportunity to develop their skills. The modern push to constantly accelerate stifles the promise of creative souls, deprives them of the life experience necessary to awaken the greatness asleep inside them.

As artists, there are difficult questions ahead - who among us will be brave enough to rise up and answer why have we chosen to turn our backs on beauty and emotion? Why must our celebrations of the wondrous human body be distorted and turned in to pornography? What messages are we spreading through our art, and to whom do they speak? Above all, can we still expect to ignite fires that will burn forever, marking our time as something resplendent, in an age that praises only entertainment and shock value?

Saturday, 16 February 2013

To View Art From Both Sides: The Creator and the Critic

Ana's Thought: "Critic, be gentle with your words, for they are the arrows that kill the Heart of Inspiration."

For all of its magnificent offerings and dazzling opportunities, the art world is capable of such cruelty. One can pour their soul, the very essence of his or her self, into a creation, only to then stand by as it is smashed apart by a single word of opposition. For every reward shining before the artist at work, there is incalculable risk to one's identity and well-being.

It may serve as a comfort for creative souls to know that acclaim, when it is real, builds slowly. Those whose brilliance flashes in dramatic flares before the public eye will see their success flicker out - as quickly as a stray spark without kindling - and history shall not remember them. Art is a practice, requiring incredible strength and dedication to the patient pursuit of ideas. A genuine life of art cannot be solely an aim for some imagined pinnacle, particularly when the odds of securing that elusive fame are so slim.

In truth, gaining the attention that so many young hopefuls covet offers no guarantee toward a path of éclat. Many of the names in our celebrated creative canon were subject to ridicule and degradation in their own day. Van Gogh, for instance, now seen universally as a gifted genius of art, sold only one work over the course of his career. The patrons and critics active during El Greco's lifetime largely disregarded his exquisitely unique paintings. Outside of visual art, countless wonderful talents - from Carmen composer Georges Bizet to the ineffable Edgar Allan Poe - did not live to see how their efforts touched the lives of so many. The heights of success were only reached long after the ink had dried and the easels covered in dust.

And sometimes, idle ignorance is not the only slight the artist may receive! In 1877, James Abbott McNeill Whistler, a spirited painter of life, brought esteemed art critic John Ruskin to court with charges of libel after a particularly unforgiving and misleading review of his work. While Whistler saw victory in the case, the cost of the proceedings left him penniless. He, too, was not recognized for his superior vision until after his death.

To the aspiring creators who feel as though their efforts are wasted, belittled by a harsh world, recall that the eyes of time are sharper and wiser than those of man. In this very moment, there are artists and writers among us making masterpieces, but we will never know of them until their hands have come to rest. The artist is mortal, but her works are immortal. Pursue your passions with the whole of your heart in the hope that the hearts of others will someday sing of your gifts.

To critics, I advise you to be mindful of the power you possess: your craft may make or break the will of another. Be judicious and conscientious, and do not let your position inflate your sense of worth. Above all, be considerate in choosing your words - for someday, history may make you eat them.

Saturday, 9 February 2013

Love: The Language of the Universe

Ana's Thought: "My Art is born of endless Passion for the Beauty of Life."
As Valentine's Day approaches, people across the world feel moved to speak from their hearts, letting their emotions pour forth in displays of affection for those they cherish. But no paper card or expensive gemstone can contain the immense force that is Love.

In my eyes, Love is the axis of all creation. It is in the matter composing every flower and fluttering bird, every majestic ocean and trickling stream, each woman and man equally. When chaos and darkness threaten to overthrow the balance of life, Love is gravity, the uniting law of Nature that binds down to our very atoms.

Love defies all definition, for each time it is touched by light, another facet of its beauteous face is revealed to us. As such, we give it many names: the Ancient Greeks described the kinds of Love as charity (agape), romance (eros), the bond between families (storge), and friendship (philia). In the Chinese Buddhist tradition, ai indicates deep feelings of universal Love that can lead to either selfish indulgence or the purest enlightenment, while ren, from Confucian practice, is the 'everyday' Love that preserves order in interactions.

It is a fantastic power, capable of being constructive or destructive depending upon how it is used by those it leaves enchanted. Constructive Love is giving, transformative, and transcendent--the very foundations upon which civilization rests. Destructive Love is characterized by lust, jealousy, and temptation--insidious feelings that lead only to emptiness. Religions throughout time have worshiped gods and goddesses who act as avatars of these faces of Love--from vengeful Hera and vain Aphrodite to charming Krishna and dazzling Tripurasundarĩ. Each kind of Love is unique and serves its own distinct purpose, necessary to the development of human character.

Like so many generations of artists before me, I am stirred by Love to create. Love & Peace, my global sculptural project, was born from Love in my soul as a way to reflect the beauty of life. This Valentine's Day, I pay tribute to all of the wonders I have seen by giving these tremendous flowers to all open hearts, a bouquet blooming over oceans and borders in the colours of Love. For Love needs no translator: is the language of the universe, the nucleus of this dancing galaxy made to delight us. It is every joy we celebrate and every hope we cling to, the essence of Truth--all else falls away, and at all times Love remains constant.

Tuesday, 5 February 2013

The History of Inspiration

Ana's Thought: "Of all disciplines of Arts, the 'Muse' has been most generous to painting with the absence of all rules - giving total freedom to create."

Inspiration is an eternal mystery, the fountain that overflows to send rivulets of ingenuity directly into the minds of the receptive. It is as though an arrow of fire is shot from an invisible bow, cutting through darkness to bring brilliance to its target. The artist struck by this sacred dart does not know what compels her hands to move in the ways that they do. She could never pinpoint the precise source of her ideas - she only knows that she must chase their strange light. The hidden archer is a bearer of divine insight, known throughout the ages as the Muse.

The ancient Greeks were the first to give a name to the experience of becoming inspired. To them, enlightenment took the form of Zeus's three beautiful daughters, the patrons of the arts. It was in the Roman tradition that the classical Muses came to be: nine breathtaking deities who served as the guardians of talent and wisdom, from music and dance to history and astronomy. Writers and artists called upon these spirits to guide them as they set to work, trusting that their humble praise would see them through to the creation of magnificence.

With the passing of time, the idea of the Muse changed. Many of history's beloved creators and thinkers - Dante, Keats, Picasso, Manet, Rilke, and countless others - looked not to the heavens but to figures of personal ideal in their own worlds to spark their will. For the first time, the ability to inspire could be something mortal as well as Immortal! Even as definitions shifted, one fact remained: the core of the Muse was the metaphysical beauty of womankind. The notion of the Muse being such a strong and guiding force speaks to the power of women as keepers of knowledge and potential.

Every masterpiece is born of a singular moment of energy when both an idea and the means of achieving it come sharply into view: rare and fantastic, a revelation. In the hours, days, and years after this flickering instant of insight, the force of passion - a wordless and insatiable drive - germinates greatness. The Muse, the symbol encompassing both chance and destiny, sings enchanting melodies of promise into the ear of each inventor, scientist, poet, and artist. Those who listen are swept up in the song of possibility and transfigured, newly blessed with the capabilities and determination to change the world in the hope that the soul of mankind will hear their song.