I’m no Art Historian, but today I will link two French artists to write a little article about the Purpose of Art : Paul Gauguin (1848-1903), Painter, and Paul Valéry (1871-1945), Poet and Philosoph. Both were artists but also thinkers.
Valéry says that Art has an object, a purpose, which is to grasp, to understand, to give birth to Poetry. Not the “poetry of words”, of course, but the Poetry of things, of Art, of Life, who knows, Poetry with a capital – you and me we exactly understand what he means, right?
Poetry is EXACTLY what you can not explain with words. It’s “between” concepts, between all words. It’s above them all. It’s richer, and more complex. Words are weak, in this kingdom…
But, says Valéry, Art uses little tools, particular “low level” objects, the “things you notice” : likeness in painting, plot or descriptions in literature, energy or rhythm, in music. All artists have knacks and tricks. Impressionists used a certain way to paint. Psychedelic rock groups have a certain sound. Some photographs have a blurry style, or a particular way to use black and white. Some movie makers – choose Tim Burton – do “their thing”, right?
Why not? These are tools, the soil you manipulate, the knacks and the style you like to use. This is “you, working, doing your thing”.
The danger, says Gauguin, is precisely here.
the danger is when the audience drains in assessments
The audience is smart. People NOTICE what you do. They’re like : “Haha, this was smart!”. They see what filters you use on Instagram. They see you like slanted frames. They notice what you want to tell us in a blog. They smile, they notice the music in the film, the way you “sound” in your novel, the way Seurat used DOTS in pointillism. This last example triggered Gauguin’s remark :
the audience drains in assessments
(You can almost get the invisible rest : “And where is poetry?”)
Well, yes, “OK he’s smart”. People see and understand what you “do”. They have fun! But THIS IS NOT POETRY. Magic appears out of your little knacks – and I hope you know it!
The audience must wait. They wait for the song of life. They wait to be touched in their most treasured intimacy, with good, complex, mysterious energy. It’s about Wizardry, right? YOUR wizardry. This energy awakes things in people. And THIS is what is important. And like says Valéry :
What I hold now makes itself desirable
Hmmm, ain’t it poetry?
Thanks for reading!