Wednesday, February 4, 2009

Is beauty necessary?

I was watching a video yesterday of potter Eva Zeisel talking about her long life as an artist and she said she had always engaged in a “playful search for beauty”. It had been one of her main goals.

I started thinking about whether art should be beautiful and whether one should be working playfully. In the richest sense of the word “beauty” (not the worn out trite usage we’re so familiar with!) Art should be, I think. Beautiful or, perhaps, shocking – but even the shocking must engage the eye, must lead it around the image or form seductively inviting us to stay the course. If you just looked at Guernica formally – as a pattern of neutral tones, blacks and white without the meaning being read, you could see that it is a beautiful painting.

Everyone loves to look at beautiful scenery, would love to live in a beautiful house, or be with (or be!) a beautiful person (and by that I don’t mean looks!)…so it would make sense we would like to look at beautiful art.

Beauty is not trite, pallid, commercialized, pastel, greeting card taste – that is mere prettiness and can hold one’s attention momentarily. If that. Which reminds me of a story I love to tell (two nations divided by a similar language) – when we got on the plane to emigrate to the USA, the pilot said “Hi, folks, we’ll be in the air momentarily!”

to the Americans on board, that meant we’d be leaving soon,

to the Brits it meant we’d be in the air for a moment and then down again!!

Colours, shapes, lines etc don’t have to be “pretty” or “sweet” to be beautiful; music played in a minor key can be just as (if not more so) beautiful than a major one. Nobody wants to listen to a harsh monotonous banging noise, but something that engages our spirit makes us feel good. Feeling good leads to better health!!!

Beauty can be fresh, or mature, bold or soft, quiet or loud, startling or soothing. Many things! I always think about poor old Bilbo (0r was it Frodo?) talking about his pocket contents: “Lots - and nothing at all!” Art is lots of things (decoration, communication, information, honour, inspiration), but it has to be one thing first: something that holds our attention, something we desire, something that can lead to immortality? Well, perhaps no, but longevity certainly! Think about the things (landscapes, skies, pictures, photographs, music). What is about the ones that stay with you? What qualities do they have?

If it’s beautiful, we’ll look, we’ll engage, we’ll stay, and we’ll remember.

And now to try to reach that creative goal…playfully!

If you have been, thanks for reading!



Jackie said...

Beauty is essential for quality of life! Absolutely.

Barbara Strobel Lardon said...

But we must remember the old saying...."Beauty is in the eye of the beholder."

Marina said...

I agree completely that art should be beautiful, but am I still thinking. Why is this beautiful and that is not? I feel that our attraction to beauty deals with recognizing order where we did not see it before.
I think of the Universe like a text or a large number of texts and to be able to read them we need to learn the language. Art, I think, helps to do that. A good artist notices patterns and translates them into composition or color harmony. This process needs the artist’s energy and when successful creates a new sense which did not exist before. A person who responds to the artist’s creation increases her sense of the world’s possibilities.
For example in your industrial landscapes, to me, you removed some insignificant details, “played” with constructions, and gave it a personal feeling through color. So, you saw an order which existed and combined it with your personal view to provide people with a new image and when in the future they now see industrial landscapes, they will be able to see beauty in it.