Integrity and disintegration… (Whilt 18)

From time to time, and recently quite often, I catch myself as being innocently and profoundly ignorant as to the meaning of some concepts, ideas, words, phrases… It’s got something to do with the English as an adopted language; even if it’s used completely naturally and fluently – there is always that surreal quality of putting on a mask, a costume, going on stage each time I have to or choose to communicate in not-my-mother-tongue… What’s interesting, that after years of being cut of the sophisticated, literary and everyday usage of Polish I’ve lost that absolute ‘feeling’, that innate sense of my first language… So, I’m somewhere between; and even craving – I’m not able to create a decent fiction or poems in either of codes of expression… not yet, not without a considerable struggle, at least…

So, I’ve come across that concept of the artistic integrity – first I had to check in five different dictionaries (of three languages) extended definitions of the notion; each one had a slightly varying shade of meaning attached; so I felt like juggling between them composing the balanced outlook…

Then – the tougher bit came when I asked myself – But what exactly does it mean – to be an artist of integrity? Does it mean the same as being the man of integrity, or – can the professional integrity coexist with the personal disintegration and vice-versa? Is integrity ‘merely’ a virtue you possess or not like courage or modesty, or rather a fundamental component of any individual, without which a serious trouble creeps into your life?… And  how this noble talk relates to the contemporary postmodern ethics (or rather non-ethics) of making/dealing with art? Who has, who can afford now to keep his/hers artistic integrity over time, when sometimes one call from a hated curator or a critic you disregard may be a life changing event? And so on, and so on…

Quite recently I’ve unwillingly provoked one of my tutors (calling my new paintings ‘a mess’) to form and challenge me with ‘the tough question’: If you won’t have an integrity with your work – who else will? To have an integrity with one’s work – that means to be unified in terms of the intent, concepts and the general message; or does it? If I call my own work ‘a mess’ – publicly and honestly – isn’t that enough to prove my solidarity with it? My demanding, yet compassionate unity with a piece of art which happens to be as confused as its author? Does it always have to sound ‘assertive’ and ‘confident’; ‘positive’ and ‘grand’ – like in salesmen’ slimy talk where even obvious downsides are clothed in sweetish-easy ‘solutions’…

And why is ‘integrity’ such a sought feature in an artist after all? I bet it suits perfectly some particular ‘breeds’ of professions – lawyers, doctors, teachers, intellectuals – sure… I know men who are a book-like example of the whole phenomenon – they’re noble and loyal, creative and open-minded; yet there is something vital missing in them – a spark of imagination empowering to jump in the dark, to take bold risks and challenge barriers or even rules, if necessary; they’re the guardians of the gates – and no artist should aim at that domain (not only, not merely, not predominantly).

An artist is a man of integrity chiefly via the creative act – by doing what he was born for – in the best, most dedicated way he/she knows and can apply; what comes to the world from that act is another matter – yet so-called integrity has nothing, or little to do with that.

If my work’s integrity comes from its conscious and chosen disintegration and subversion who can prove it wrong, and on which grounds?

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About kasia

Born in Poland. Lives in Ireland, Cork. Visual artist. View all posts by kasia

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