A Question, A Long Flight and Time to Think

I work with brilliant bunch of curious people.  The folks at Bigvisible (this is not a plug for them, but they really do rock! Check them out sometime).  We have a hugely rich dialog on Yammer and on our internal work support email.

Once such thread was enquiring on Art.

What is Art?  What is the relationship between Art and Craft –  is there one?

I have often pondered this myself – and I don’t feel the conversation on my work thread sufficiently answered it for me – at least not in a way my brain could relate to.

On my recent flight from London to San Francisco – I had the perfect storm of time and desperately boring and emotionally retarded seat mates (that or they were both Benedictine monks sworn to a vow of silence!). This presented a great opportunity for me to sit and think about this topic.

Those who read my blog, not many I admit, would know I generally speak from my gut, more informed by intellect and heart than citations from the recorded word of others.  I don’t often cite books,  studies and stuff (unless that’s your kink!). So don’t expect any weird citations of how many cats and baboons can paint.

As I sat in my cramped United 955 airlines seat (exit row – great leg room!) I considered the topic and this is what I found.

Art is Thought

Art is creative thought.  It exists only in the mind of the person having it.  It is singly and entirely contained in the mind of the artist.  I’m not proposing that every thought is Art.  I am saying that all Art is thought – entirely. Got it? Good.

From Leonardo’s Mona Lisa  to Munch’s Scream.  From my doodles in my notebook during a unneccessary meeting to the delightful creations of Ruben – my 3-year-old son.  It’s all thought.

And thought is intangible. There is nothing to hold, behold or condemn.  It simply is.

Art does not mean good, valuable, beautiful or imply any such attributes at all. It merely means something is created and not necessarily something brand new either.  I can think of something radically different from anything that has gone before or simply a  novel interpretation of the old. But if it results in anything that doesn’t exist in the world in exactly the same way, shape or form – then it is Art (hmm…I might have to read that bit again!).

As a connected side note – I think it is impossible to have absolutely original creative thought,  impossible for Art to be unconnected to something that has gone before – be it other Art, a problem, something in nature, people – whatever. Impossible.

Craft Is Expression

If all Art is nothing more than thought and thought is intangible then why can I admire Henry Moore’s bizarre but beautiful sculptures. Why can I walk around them, caressing their form and consume them as Henry intended?

The moment Art crosses the border of being intangible to being expressed – craft happens.  Craft is how  Art is expressed in order for it to be consumed.

More accurately, craft is the act of expression – not the output of expression.  It is the ‘doing’ not the ‘thinking’ ; the ‘how’ not the ‘what’.

Craft covers any and every form of expressing Art – writing, painting, physical acts (of love, hate, anger etc) – if it is driven by a creative thought – it is Craft.

All Craft is connected to Art – either directly (for example, when artists paint or improvisers jam) or indirectly (think production line of millions of cars – many years after the design is created!).

Inspiration and  the Magic of Feedback

So if Art is thought and Craft is expression what happens when Art is expressed and consumed?

Well, that bit is inspiration.  Inspiration is what happens when Art is consumed.

Inspiration can result in more Art, more expression of Art or simply expression ( a clap, a smile or the spontaneous acts of love and other emotions etc).

Not all Art inspires, not all Inspiration comes from Art. Perhaps it is possible to not have any reaction to an expression of Art – I cannot imagine that.  Even a raised eyebrow at Tracy Emin’s untidy bedroom (replete with post coitus stains) is an action inspired by consuming it.

Is there more?

This exploration has provided enough of an answer for me to not have to think about this any more, at least for now.  I have shared only enough of what I thought about to help you understand where my head is at.

There is more on this topic – examples mostly and I would love to sit, drink, think and talk through this with anyone who is interested (and well past closing time too!). There is also the minor issue of where Art sits in relation to Science (which I have mentally crafted but not expressed – muhahaha, now I have cooked your noodle)

For me, this realisation has opened my mind to many other possibilities (inspired me!). Basically it is all Art, in some way or another. Everything we have in our lives, in the world is directly or indirectly from Art.

One lingering question for me is how much Inspiration is springing from all this Art,  and what might the World be like if we had the greatest possible Inspiration from all the Art that is expressed around us?

What has it made you think about?
How might it change how things work for you from now on?  I really would love to know.

So comment please or better still let’s discuss on Twitter or in person (I’m at SFAgile2012 in San Francisco until June 6).

Thanks for reading and be well.


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