Does Some Art Make You Anxious?

The Energetic Effect of Original* Art

As a Reiki Practitioner I understand the power and effect of energy fields. If that smacks of the New Age then think about energy fields of electricity, radio, micro and the tangle of waves that we live with. Some we’ve harnessed and some we have yet to discover. But they are there nonetheless. We intuit energy – get vibes from people or places and we are affected by energy that is either positive, negative, annoying or neutral.

What does this have to do with art and anxiety? Just this: A hands-on genuine work of art has an inherent energy of the artist’s creative process. Studies have shown that a work that moves us in its beauty or complexity causes an emotional response which releases endorphins similar to the sensation and euphoria of falling in love. The work may be abstract or representational. It is not judged by the mind as to what is beautiful or clever – or what even makes sense. The work will emanate a presence that transcends our logical mind and slip into our place of feeling perception – the heart or the solar plexus.

The level of development of the artist and his/her integration of skill, talent, passion and inspiration will determine the clarity of the message we receive. Now, unless the piece is allegorical and has an obvious theme, the message imparted by the artist may not be the message we receive. Art, after all is subjective. What happens is on a subtle level – the channel of communication is opened between artist and viewer to share an experience of a moment in time captured in the work.

Art condenses the experience we all have as human beings, and, by forming it, makes it significant.  We all have an in-built need for harmony and the structures that create harmony. Basically, art is an affirmation of life. (Trevor Bell)

These influences are on a sentient level – a level of feeling and perception. It is the interpretive software of our observing self. But we are also physical beings with a limbic or primal brain. This means that elements of a work will be resonant or dissonant based on our hardwiring to the patterns and harmonies of nature. An animal runs swiftly through the forrest completely attuned to the natural order of the terrain. It will stop short on high alert when it perceives something out of order – smell, sound, shape.

An animal is fine tuned to survival but we are not. Our instincts are overridden by our adaption to urban dwelling. However, when something is in our own space, what we may override in the first place we will subtly let in to our conscious awareness over time. Actually, we don’t ‘let’ it in – awareness of disharmony will ultimately impose itself in due course.

You can probably think of occasions when you have let people into your life, whose character over time through behaviour – subtle or overt – emerged as unpleasant or downright deplorable. The mask drops and what was attractive in the first place has shown its deeper nature. A work of art is just the same. And here, I believe, is the deepest confusion in the understanding of the definition of art.

A painting may catch our eye for its subject, colour, craftsmanship. It may amuse, shock and otherwise stimulate us. But it is over time that we live with our art choices and it is in our private living or work space that we invite them in. Over time a work will prove its character. It will be uplifting, disturbing, tedious or null.

Uplifting:

When you see a fish you don’t think of its scales, do you?  You think of its speed, its floating, flashing body seen through the water.  If I made fins and eyes and scales, I would arrest its movement, give a pattern or shape of reality.  I want just the flash of its spirit.  (Constantine Brancusi) 

These are works by artists who are devoted to the balance of talent, skill, passion and inspiration. Again, these works transcend genre and may be ancient, modern or avant garde. Art is an expression – a presentation of thoughts and feelings in a language we sense rather than know. But language it is and the more articulate the artist is in using the elements of communication; talent, skill, passion and inspiration the more successful the piece. What is immediately evocative will continue to reveal aspects more subtle and hold its allure. The marketing romance is sort lived and the day to day relationship will tell.

Disturbing:

You can fool some of the people all the time, and all the people some of the time; but you can’t fool all of the people all of the time.
(Abraham Lincoln)

This is not a judgment of subject or content; some concepts welcomingly jerk us out of complacency and that might be desirable. Challenging pieces that depict struggle or angst can draw us in to the artist’s process and assist us in our own resolution and integration of complexities in our own life.

One disturbing aspect I refer to is the imbalance in the elements of skill, talent, passion and inspiration. The tilt in one element that dominates the other three will inevitably let us down. Our primal awareness will perceive disturbance to pattern and form.  We will inherently detect the disconnect.  

For example, pure inspiration or concept will be too much in the head and is often the art that we just ‘don’t get’ from the get go. If the created work requires an explanation of its meaning then the disconnect of intellect from feelings is exacerbated. As whole or holistic beings this distortion will often play out in our lives in expanding waves of discontent like two mirrors facing into infinity. It can be hard and reflective.

This art usually has more to do with our external life – it’s value is in status or prestige – life as a marketable commodity.  Art as commodity over communication is disturbing as it is marketed counter intuitively and raised in stature on art babble and hyperbole. We are left feeling we have been mocked.

Tedious:

The Damnable thing about bad art is that the insincerity which lies at its roots is not perceived by the artist himself.  (Quentin Bell)

This art often exhibits talent but the artist lacks inspiration – creates from images rather than experiences. It may be skilled and illustrative but show no passion. It may have elements of skill but lack the maturation and devotion to discipline that leaves the communication elementary and uninteresting.  After the first glance the work has said all it has to say.

When passion is lacking the artist’s process is avoided. When an artist isn’t challenged and interested or confident enough in his/her own painting to play with the elements of light and dark, negative and positive space, colour, pattern, texture, in an original and balanced composition then the communication drops like a stone.  We would soon disregard the book which overstates or is neglectful of grammer and spelling.  

If the emerging artist gets stuck in the incomplete stage – which sadly often happens with moderate or even minimal success they will miss a great opportunity for creative excellence and the personal gratification that process and development brings. The potential of an incomplete piece can never be realized. Something is left unsaid or too much is said which leaves the viewer out of the conversation completely.  

Null:

Is not life a thousand times too short for us to bore ourselves?
(Friedrich Nietzsche)

This is purely decorative art – hotel style. It utilizes the same media as genuine art but its value lies in colour, shape and size. Does it match? Will it fit? These are the criteria. It may pull the elements of a room together but it will lack any resonance. It will merely blend with the wall and soon disappear from notice. It is not a creation but a production and so has no energetic evocation.  These pieces neither detract nor enhance a space – they merely offer a void – a place where something might have happened but didn’t.  A missed chance.

*Original Art?  Art that is created with the deepest respect for skill and tradition, blended with confidence for a singular and unique expression.  This is the art of inspiration, inventiveness, exploration, trial, discipline, devotion and the willingness to endure the process of individuation.  This is art where the tools are used with dexterity and experience to hone a work to its essential communication.  Art is communication and like a well crafted poem opens us to a deeper knowing of ourselves and our world.

 

 


 

 

 

 

 

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