Half – term of the first term in the second year of my study has just approached. I found myself enjoying my time in the college much more than I could initially imagine, but this wouldn’t be possible without great people I met.
The main good points of study art in an institution (especially when you’re not quite independent financially) is that you’re being supplied with a free studio space, free tuitions (these depend on the country and a type of the institution), free workshops and an easy access to a very useful equipment (cameras, projectors, books etc.). There is obviously another issue too complex to be converted economically – you’re surrounded by passionates, both students and “masters”, who are there at a length of your arm each time you need a talk, an advise or a feedback.
And there are arguments contra, which tend to be equally powerful. Unless you consider yourself a psychologically strong person, comparatively sure why are you doing, what you’re doing, also- unless you’re able to reflect critically on your environment I wouldn’t recommend studying fine art in a structured manner. First of all, you have to function within an educational programme designed for majority – 18-years old students (with all the respect to 18-years old-s) and to fight its great potential to infantilise anyone who doesn’t need to be watched and disciplined to develop properly. On the other hand it imposes a system of dividing your time (terms, time spent in studio, at lectures etc.) and marking, which can be pretty distracting and/or confusing (because we’re all humans, we want to per for 80%, not for 40% – but does 80% make you a better artist?).There are tutorials and seminars where you’re expected to more or less make your teachers satisified by a clear, eloquent and ambitious presentation of your progress and answering all the questions, no matter how pointless they may sound (with the respect to all teachers of art). If you’re a young, inexperienced and untrained in a logical argumentation or if you’re an introvert feeling extremely uncomfortably in being publicly exposed in that particular way, you’re in a vulnerable situation.
I remember a very quiet girl who’s no longer with us, most probably because the system I study in promotes, first of all, outgoing and intellectually able individuals which doesn’t necessary translate into promoting those truly talented and aware of what that’s really mean to study art.
So – what that’s actually mean “to study art”? I’m asking myself and all of you there, studying art each day in institutions, on your own, purely for hobby, just for fun?
I still smile recalling my chat with one of my teachers:
– What’s the meaning you want to convey? – he asked looking at my set of steel tubes and glass structures.
– I’m not sure if I there’s any meaning I would like to convey.
– But there must be something you want to communicate.
– Do I have to communicate anything?
– You have to make your viewers aware of your intentions. You have to be responsible for the message you convey.
– What do you mean “to be responsible”?- I mean – he said loosing his patience a little bit – that your art always tells a story. And that you are a teller. Do you know your story well enough?
– But, if I mean my painting to communicate only itself – a painting for painting…Do I have to generate other meanings just for the sake of my viewers?
– An art for art’s sake – there’s no such thing. Art happens between you, your work and those who react to it…Just look – I see your set as a cold, austere and beautiful place. If I call dozens of people I’m sure their reaction will be identical.
– But how do you know that I consciously inscribed that meaning…I just found the pieces and I liked them so I put them together…- I answered quite frankly.
We continued in that fashion until he resigned and promised to return once I will be ready “to communicate” something.
I recall that conversation simply because it made me think a lot about my study and art in general. Especially, the imperative of “communicating something” and “being responsible” for the meaning(s) my art could generate in people.I used to work quite intuitively and even automatically, just trusting my creative potential and not caring about the outcome until the very end.
So, does “studying art” mean learning communication and social skills which would transform me into an expert in “meanings”and reception of my work? Or – is it simply a training in techniques and strategies for producing “readable” art-products? You may say – studying art can be partially both… But what beyond this? Or – are those aspects really that important?