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What is art?

A short essay on art by Vaughan De Sousa

What makes truly great work is often not the work itself but the premise it stands on. To subvert reality is to create art which stands a level beyond ‘good’ or ‘impressive’ and has the ability to move people.
Is the purpose of art to move a person? Who knows. Art is already not a fully understood entity, and the purpose of an endeavour as intense as creating a piece of art one is proud of has deep psychological influence on the creator, even if this doesn’t reach the audience.

The Picture of Dorian Gray sees an artist put a piece of his soul into the painting he has created. An object of moral degradation used by its commissioner, but a creation of desire and connection. How art is used is somewhat meaningless once it passes from the artist to the surveyor. Try as we might, artists do not have the power to force their viewers into seeing their own vision. We will never see things the same way as another.
Sight, like every sense is built upon by experience. We are what we have been through, even if behind that we are the same. With our differing experiences we interact with the world, creating new visions every second. Does this invalidate the creator’s vision? Maybe. One could say that the value of an artist resides in their ability to create works which follow their intention, which transcribe the world from the brain of the madman to the eyes of the sane.

So then, could we argue that art is a language? Language is a method by which people relate their experiences with one another through a common understanding. We can never truly communicate our own world to another without a medium understood by both. This is because, as previously mentioned, there is no way for two minds to interact. Speech, signals, even expression define ways in which the living are able to relate their experiences. So too, in this way, does art describe an experience. We understand that which exists through the veil of that which is universally understood. Yet, art is able to provide an experience which is understood only by the creator.

Then does art not dictate reality? Maybe. Because what is reality other than what we define it to be. Let me explain; for us, the viewers, a piece of art may display nothing but an amalgamation of ideas, an expression on paper or a blur of half concepts. Yet to the artist this is a truth, a fundamental of their reality put into the universal world. A form of linguistic expression. The reality of this piece of work gains and loses substance depending on the surveyor, yet it exists! It is real, an expression placed into the observable reality. Meaning and value are nothing as art breaks the barrier of the mental ‘real’ and the physical ‘real’.

So then, what makes a piece of art great? I can only speak from personal perspective now; however, we have already seen that this does not invalidate my approach. Rather, this work that I put forwards is my own art. It is my expression of idea, understood by some and rejected by others but nevertheless a piece of my soul etched on paper.
I believe to move myself art must first break expectation. Whether that be in the initial glance, or scene or second, or at the end when a perspective shift changes everything. To create art which shatters the illusion of safety allows the individual to begin to ‘feel’. Before this we are simply running through the motions of experience. Everything changes us, but we are often not aware of it. Jarring processes allow introspection and a hasty desire of the brain to catch up to the new perspective, this provides a gap for art to flourish.

Think about art like waging a battle. Everything is connected of course, one could say: think about battle like performing a dance, or performing a dance like painting a picture. Everything is connected.
To win a battle at the highest level it is not enough to be perfect. Imagine two chess players of excellent ability coming to a head. To play perfectly allows the chance of winning so long as the other player makes a mistake. But these are human players. One can only think ahead so long. What if one were to play an unexpected and jarring move. The response can be a number of things: hasty, direct, winning, losing, cautious, optimistic… a previously perfect game is thrown into disarray with the introduction of a subversion from the norm. In art, there is no winning or losing, there is only the break from reality, and the chink the defences of our mind.

The surveyor is your dance partner, your enemy at war, your chess opponent and your audience. To slip past the defences created by a mind is to find the opening whereby a life can be forever altered. Sometimes this is easy. The surveyor has had a hard day, they have lost a family member, or they are ready to quit their jobs/lives. The armour is in tatters, the audience has come to the show begging for change, at this point to change one’s life is simple. We can relate an armour-less surveyor to a child. Experience weathers us, it creates layers or expectation which prevents art, and all other experience from changing who we are. Or better yet think of it like a river, causing erosion on a smooth surface. A rush of water down this surface will not change much regarding its path, as the path is already set in the ground. It may widen or deepen it, but there is no new course to be made.
The mind of a child is a pile of sand, and you the artist hold a bucket of water. You can shape this mind however you wish with the notches, grooves and streams that you may pour atop this pile of sand. And as the sand mixes with dirt and clay, the grooves you have created solidify. I hate to say with time, but that is what happens. Once the grooves are made they remain, slowly gaining in intricacy as other sources of water pour, and more sediment hardens the earth.

Everything is connected. You understand where I am going with this, I am sure. The ability for art to create or add to a stream is clearly there, but what is the joy in adding to a groove in the dirt. You want to make your own. Perhaps art is a forceful thing, the artist a dominant figure. I write this piece expecting a change in your mental state, you will change after reading this regardless of who you are or what you have experienced, if only through the fact that you will have read something. But as the creator I have changed you, moulded a tiny piece of your mind forever.
But what if I were to change this work here. And completely destroy your expectations. I am not a great artist, I do not know what I could do to do this, but imagine I place beneath this wall of text an image which shatters your illusion. A picture that shocks you to your core, making you rethink all you have read thus far.

This would be your chink in your armour. Following this shock I could place a few simple words. You may go away from this with a desire to make something new, or a fear of art and it’s grips on your soul. ‘Soul’. Mind.
With this new experience you will rework your mind, you will solidify what you have seen and heard around your personality. It will become a new groove in your earth. And you will continue on, with a line drawn into your life by me. The artist.

I believe that art, when great, stands on a premise and shatters it. I believe this allows the artist free reign of your mind. I believe that a truly great artist uses this moment to reshape you, like a clay doll being altered before being placed into a kiln.
Because death is the final point of hardening, you will not gain any experience (known by us) from then on. You are the finished piece of art upon your deathbed.

Art is not just a painting on a canvas or a clip of a movie scene. Art is the the experience, from the creator to the created. We shape ourselves and others when we form art. Art is a language, and is also every language. But then you may ask, what is the difference between art and ANYTHING ELSE.

Everything is connected.

Living

Don’t go out. Don’t go near. Don’t uncover. Just don’t!

We are living the dream.

Those festivities we avoided with such flippant negligence is now a distant memory.

Zoom. Zoom. Google Meet. Teams. Whoop!

Again.

Repeat.

What a way to communicate.

Jokes agitate as Tiktok concentrates the bored.

Meetings with half-dressed workers fade to tirades for and against the vaccines and face masks.

The sound of tumbleweed rolls across school room floors.

Stillness catches on the feet of silent students sitting through online lessons, pretending to care.

Each household occupant mesmerised by screens – all shapes to fit all sizes – fuelling the need to educate and replicate finances.

We grow as people.

News becomes the main course of entertainment; briefings from the Government is seen as prime time television. Yet, it plays out like a soap opera, portraying predictable plots with caricatured speakers grinding out soliloquies of fortitude to the nation.

We grow weary.

‘Get children back to school!’

‘Vaccinate the vulnerable!’

‘Brexit!’

‘Nothing was done fast enough!’

Hyperbole flows in rivers of information, confirmation and confrontation from all corners of the continent. Unsettled murmurs of incompetency grow as fear is replaced by anger. Explanations and apologies hold as much value as a bag of Dolly Mix.

In the meantime, we count the souls like lost teeth.

More bitter than sweet.

Life becomes hard to swallow.

Copyright ©Eloise De Sousa (2021). All rights reserved.

Coffee, or something stronger?

Good day, dear citizens of the new world. My cup is full and there’s a socially distanced seat near the bookshelf here in our favourite coffee shop. Grab your beverage and head my way so we can catch up.

First of all, tell me all about your world. What has been happening to you over the past few weeks? I am sorry I haven’t met up for a coffee or even visited your blogs and websites. There is no valid excuse other than I didn’t feel like conversing with humans, in person or online. Do you ever feel like switching off? Maybe hibernating in a cave? Well, disconnecting is my coping mechanism. Those that know me well don’t mind and those that do…well, maybe we aren’t as close as we imagine.

My news is: the sprogs have returned to school. Apparently, the sickness and flu bugs received the same memo and were in full attendance from day one. War has commenced and our learning institutions are fighting the great fight to stay open as our invisible enemies threaten to overwhelm the system. Who will win remains to be seen. I have my money on a bottle of tequila and my bat cave door remaining shut. What’s the point of placing bets on that battle? You got to know hold off, know when to fold up, know when to walk away and know when to run. Betting against these odds is a lose/lose situation.

Would you like to hear some horror stories from the front line? Well, face masks are being worn and hands are being washed. Social distancing is adhered to during line ups and lunch times. But, someone forgot to tell these bugs to butt out during the in-between times. They love killing time in bubbles, sharing anecdotes with their oblivious asymptomatic carriers. They roller coaster up and down the stairs next to minions pushing in unison to get to classes and kick off after school with those careful kids walking cheek by jowl down the country roads. It kind of reminds me of Goldilocks and little Red Riding hood on vacation from the bears and wolves, laughing that they’ll never get caught because they are too damn clever. If only the viruses understood this winning attitude and followed the rules of carefully prescribed bubbles. The battle continues. I’ll keep you posted on progress (if I decide to come back out of my bat cave).

In other news, I managed to published my ebook, Moofy and Flo. It launched rather quietly a few weeks ago, without the pizazz of repeated sharing across social media and piggy backing off friends’ platforms. Needless to say, it fell flat on its hairy a…face! So, in the spirit of sharing, I’m attaching a pic and a link. If you feel the need to entertain your tiny sprogs with a delightful tale of friendship and frolicking fun that goes wrong, download a copy. The paperback version is on hold. I am battling with formatting and will try to get that down before the world ends. If I don’t, well..no one will care, will they?

Things don’t always go to plan when you try to help your friends. Trying is what matters in the end.

Before we end this titillating tête-à-tête, I must share a rather amusing story of what happened this weekend. It’s not funny in the hilarious sense – rather, an tale of stupidity and the loss of faith in some youths. It all went down on Saturday night at about 11.20pm. We were still up, watching some dribble on the telly, when there was a screech of brakes outside the window. Next, a swooshing with the impact sound that makes your insides go queasy. I ran to the window, trying to decipher where the sound had come from, or ended up. Nothing. So I ran to my sprog’s bedroom window where a horrible scream emanated from the front of our house. It wasn’t one of those, ‘Oh my god! Someone died!’ kind of screams. It was more of the ‘Stop him! Oh my god! Catch him!’ variation.

By the time we got downstairs and out the front door (in our pyjamas), the neighbours had already assembled around the front garden of the house adjacent to ours. We live at a road junction which has become a thorough-fair for traffic avoiding roadworks and late night speed trails. While scanning the area to see what had occurred, I noticed my neighbour’s front hedge had a gaping hole in it. The grass was smooshed down in front of it and the focus of the gathering spectators pointed to something hidden beyond that toothless green grin. Just as I was about to ask what happened, I spotted a figure climbing over the hedge and dropping like a drunk bee onto the pavement. Being the good citizen that I am, I pointed to this young fellow and asked if he was involved. The avengers raised their war cry to stop this grass seed from leaving the crime scene as his friends had done before we arrived (which explained the earlier screams). Unfortunately, the hyped up youth thought it best to run through the defense line and ended up face to face with me. We both bent forward, ready to scrum. He lunged to the right. I turned and grabbed his shirt, holding on for a mere second before releasing it. Thoughts flying throw my adrenalin-fuelled brain warned me to watch out for germs and to remember the laws of the land. He stumbled straight towards the hubble who in turn snatched and released the lad. We watched him run up the road to the harrowing sounds of rage and despair. Funny enough, no one gave chase. The joys of being an adult conscious of the limitations of our wrath. The last bumbling fool to leave the car was so drunk, he forgot his phone as he stumbled over the remnants of hedge. Halfway up the road, he staggered back to retrieve his things, then walked away without anyone batting an eyelid. So much for the avengers.

I’m going to say it; if my parents were alive, the evening would have ended differently for those fine figures of society. Given the police still needed to catch them and test them for alcohol and drugs in their system before either substance disappeared, they were savvy enough not to stick around. Forget about taking responsibility and facing your mistakes. This is 2020. If you can lie, then ultimately get away with it on a technicality, you’re in the right. Isn’t that the modus operandi of politics and leadership these days? Let’s see what unfolds in the next few weeks. I’m not holding my breath for an apology from our future selves to my poor neighbour for the damage done.

Well, my cup is empty and so is my news basket. Send me your news and updates in the comments below and I promise to reply within the next few days. I hope we will get a chance to share a drink and enjoy each other’s company again soon.

Stay well and stay safe.

Coffee, Crowing and Cravings

It has been a pretty calm Thursday, even though the children finished their lessons early and have been driving me mad with their inane chatter and squeals of laughter over trivial nonsense they find online. That, and popcorn. Continue reading

Quote

Writers Club

via Writers Club

Success: A State of Mind

Success: A State of Mind

Success: A State of Mind
— Read on floridagirlwrites.com/2019/04/29/success-a-state-of-mind/

Friday’s Intruder

A dark, looming figure standing at your garden gate at 6 am is not the first thing you want to see. Unfortunately, that’s the sight that greeted me this morning, through my bathroom window. Continue reading

Happy #Wensfriesday!

The sun is shining, birds are singing and it promises to be a warm, summery day! Continue reading