We have all heard that any given work of art does not need to be beautiful to be a work of art.
The first time I heard about it was in a high school art class. As a recurring exercise
we were taught to view works of art without using a ‘beauty scale’.
If I remember correctly, the idea was that it would open the students up to a wider scope of art and a ‘better’ understanding -slash- appreciation of art in general.
The assignment did not quite work out for me; at least not how I imagine it was intended.
Its practice made me more conscious about art as an experience and it introduced me to an infinite variety in possible artistic motivations. Something which in turn made me realise that I often found both artistic motivations as well as explanations why something should be seen as art to be contrived. In that respect I am not a very broad minded art lover and forcing myself to ‘understand’ something that is unable to grab my intuitive attention has always proved to be a pointless excercise.
In short, my basic bias to connect with things that I find beautiful has remained intact and looking back, I think it has only become stronger over the years. I typically spend more time -say at an exhibition- with things that attract me than with the things that do not and I enjoy that time a lot more than a few decades or so ago.
When it comes to the printed images I create for myself and end up selling to others I feel that they all begin at a place of natural beauty, a quality that is before as well as beyond acquired taste.
For most people that I meet, this particular beauty is at best a lovely theory. When it is the ongoing daily backdrop in your own life and not dependent on a state of mind, it is not even the subject of your attention, let alone a subject for a debate regarding its reality.
In my photography its persistent presence serves as a port of departure. It is the primary reason to get out of bed and shoot pictures and it is the unchanging image behind each photo that I take.
Any actual decision to depress the shutter in a particular situation is consistently fuelled by my personal preferences; my artistic likes and dislikes that seem to be sharper with every artist’s working day.
Light, contrasts, the ‘gesture’ of the scene, placement of elements- what have you. Their presence (according to acquired taste) are what lends a scene its individuality, its independence. They make a first impression stand out and compelling enough to venture a shot, something that is not so clearly laid out in some other posts about my shutter drives and -decisions.
If things work out well in producing for instance an image of a stream with some rocks,
I see the beauty of its actual existence again, celebrated as something new and mysteriously alive through ink and paper. In my eyes, a succesfull print makes the essence of all things tangible. Not at some level through or beyond their individuality but precisely as their individuality; manifest and right in front of you.
It honestly commands a sense of respect you know. You pursue your sense of beauty and you end up with something in your hands that is one step further on your scale than when you try to think things through. I mean, with this unintended sovereign quality each print tells you squarly that it is actually not yours as soon as it out of the machine. The whole thing makes you wonder if anything about it ever was to begin with.
“Now, is everybody happy? Good! …” (Quote from ‘The Good Wife’ © Netflix)