This is my first post on HE. I just found this neat society and I want to see if I fit in. So far I’ve read very insightful post and I’d love to share this post I bloged a few months back. Usually no one cares for what I think and write so I’m curious about the feed back I could get here. If people enjoy reading, I’ll post more of them :) Also I wasn’t too sure where to post this but here it goes!
**Art : social and spiritual vector**
Creativity, proper to mankind
What makes mankind unique? Scientifically speaking, one of the only things differentiating a human being from other animals is its capacity of abstraction. Its evolution equipped him with a brain able to imagine and conceive new ideas, different from the real and concrete world surrounding him. “The modern humans slowly acquired the power to imagine, to form mental pictures of things that did not exist and to imagine abstract concepts. The ability to mentally visualize a thought or an idea. The ability to reach into an imaginary world and bring forth its fruits to reality.” (1)
Approximately 50 000 years ago, this astonishing faculty made it possible to the Homo sapiens to reach what is called behavioral modernity. The rich, complex, and diversified language enabled him to reach an unequalled level of communication with its pars. The advent of pictorial art, of its oldest demonstration known to date 40 000 years ago, is a brilliant testimony.
“The MIND of mankind is an extension of Nature’s awesome power to create. The MIND of mankind creates things that Nature otherwise could not create.
They have an imagination powerful enough to become aware of the magnificent wonders of nature and to imagine the possibility of the existence of their own “Creator”. The superminds among us have a deep desire to create new technology, beautiful art works and an insatiable curiosity to constantly probe deeper and deeper into the secrets of nature.” (1)
Creationists will claim that human creativity is a testimony of God’s image in man because “The very first fact we learn about God in His revealed word, the Bible, is that He created. Therefore man also creates.” (2)
Various functions of visual art
For the last few years, I’ve kept my own classification of artwork in three parts. With time, this classification was reinforced by my research on the art of tattooing and on sociology and I saw similar classifications from other reference people in these fields.
First of all, just like its first historical purpose, art is often used as a communication mean, henceforth the pictorial language. This is what I call the rational art.
This representation system is sometimes used as an archive mean. It is useful to fix an event or a state in time (such as the religious and mythological scenes repeated over and over) or straightforwardly as a written language (in the Egyptian hieroglyphs for example).
Closer to us, contemporary art is often exploratory, empty of the characteristics found in the other categories, and often supported by a rational and complex argument which justifies its existence.
In the rational art category, just as in the following one, we can face symbolism, a concrete representation of an abstract concept or the use of an object as an allegory for another thing.
Furthermore, there is what I call the emotional art. Although, nowadays, art is widely recognized as a mean of personal expression, it is rather a recent concept coming from the Romantic area in Europe (18th-19th centuries). Responding to the rational and rigid Classicism, the Romantic Movement emphasized the emotion as a source of aesthetic experiment. The romantic artists are characterized by the claim of “I” and “me”.
Finally, there is the art which I categorize as purely aesthetic, without any other function than to represent something beautiful and pleasant to the eye. The aesthetic canons can obviously vary from a place, a culture and a time to another.
Tattooing as an art form
In my opinion, the motivations that push an individual to mark his body in the act of tattooing follow the exact same categorization.
In certain cases, the person wishes the tattoo to archive, to catalog one’s life and to do so, will use a symbolic image to represent an event, a person or a personal important matter. It is a life lasting engagement to remember. In this line of thought, tattooing was also often used as an identification mark between the members of a given group, with or without the assent of the ones displaying it (criminalized groups, prisoners, etc.)
In other cases, the tattooed one engages himself in a psychological or emotional journey. The pain itself can reaffirm the physical existence and the feeling to be alive as an individual, and at the same time, achieve the transcendence of this existence (for example, the flagellation sometimes practiced in the catholic religion).
In several present and past civilizations, tattooing was often used in varied social rituals, interlacing physical, mental and spiritual. Pain, associated to the creative act of tattooing, makes a powerful psychological tool.
David Bollt wrote: “As a tattoo artist I came out of my shell and worked intimately with thousands of people. Through countless hours of pain and blood I created images for people who were on a journey of self discovery. Committing to a tattoo and submitting to the pain of the experience creates a unique bond between tattoo artist and client. In those intense moments when a person is bleeding for art, they often reveal deeply personal truths I would never have otherwise seen.” (3)
Nowadays, as well as in certain older civilizations (for example Persian or Indian), permanent or temporary tattooing is also employed at purely cosmetic ends to modify the aesthetics of one’s body.
Art and spirituality
In a fortunate blend of the four mentioned aspects, art is also an integral part of human spirituality. The most ancient artistic representations often illustrate divine characters or the elements of nature’s mystical qualities.
Alex Grey wrote: “An artist’s mission is determined by their view of life. For each culture, artworks embody and communicate insights that help them to interpret life and take action in the world. Different works of art reflect differing worldviews and levels of consciousness, some works focus on the physical world or the emotions, some art is highly mental, other works seem devotional and heart centered, and some art seems guided by the soul’s transcendental nature. The artist attempts to make inner truths visible or audible, sensible in some way, via an external material world manifestation (such as a painting or song). To make a new transpersonal art requires an artist’s personal experience of the divine.” (4)
My artist’s way
In my quest to become a better human being, I began my own research hoping to find a solution to the social uneasiness. Without explaining the details, I came to valorize the tribal holistic society, advocating a harmonious life with all beings and nature.
In our modern society, is emerging what is called the urban tribes. They are micro-communities, sharing common ideas and interests, which are willing to sacrifice a little of their individualism to the profit of an altruistic way of life, based on common values such as trade and share. These communities are based on a morale directed by emotion rather than reason.
David Bollt also wrote: “I now see my art as connected to the broader human experience. Loneliness, fear, beauty and love now manifest as symbols and images for us all. In the past, the intention of my work was that I wanted my voice to be heard. Now my paintings have become a vehicle for me to express the deepest, most real, most raw and most universal human emotions. Before my time as a tattoo artist I felt alone and my work was about me. Now I realize that even in my darkest moments I am not alone. All of humanity stands beside me. There is a universe of experience inside each and every one of us. I create images that speak to this common experience. From the depths of my imagination I create images to touch people’s hearts and let them know that they are not alone.
The stories of my art have been woven with sharp painful needles and a fine thread of ink and blood. I have sewn a tapestry of meaning in the fabric of human flesh. Through these stitches I have seen things I would have never imagined. My heart, my spirit and my art will never be the same.” (3)
In my urban tribe of tattooed people, I came to the conclusion that my mission is to constantly become a better artist and to reach out to as many people as I can with the beauty and softness that I consciously try to infuse my works with.
So be it.
A true artist is an artist who touches everyone – Bernard Werber
The painter must tend to universality. – Leonardo da Vinci
(1) The Creative Geniuses of Mankind – Donald L. Hamilton – http://novan.com/suprmind.htm
(2) Man’s Creativity: Literature, Music, Fine Arts – http://www.creationism.org/csshs/v12n2p02.htm
(3) About tattooing and Art – David Bollt – http://www.davidbollt.com/About_the_Artist/Entries/2008/8/20_About_Tattooing_and_Art.html
(4) The mission of Art – Alex Grey – http://www.alexgrey.com/essay/mission.html
(5) Holistic public sociology – Vincent Jeffries – http://www.sorokinfoundation.org/public.html
(6) Indigenous Justice Systems – Ada Pecos Melton – http://www.americanlawreview.com/tribal_systems.html
(7) Ishmael – Daniel Quinn – Bantam
(8) The Time of the Tribes – Michel Maffesoli – Sage Publications
(9) Still Life – Norbert Shneider – Taschen
(10) Caravaggio and His Followers in Rome – National gallery of Canada
I know how it feels like not to have your thoughts and ideas appreciated by anyone, but you know – it doesn’t really matter if anybody else appreciates it, it’s you who is important! Keep doing your thing for yourself, keep exploring and learning new things about yourself and about the world. When the time is right, you will meet someone who will really like to hear what you have to say and you will get the best feedback ever.
On topic, I didn’t read your whole post, to be honest, and maybe the reason why others didn’t reply is because it’s quite long. Next time, try to synthetize your statements into a more compact representation. Also, to have a discussion going on, you should leave space for others to express themselves, by asking questions for example.
On the tattoos I have a question, since I sometimes think about getting one – getting a tattoo is quite a big decision, don’t you think? After all, you are imprinting something definite into your body, and that is going to stay for as long as it’s alive (or maybe there are methods to remove it, but it’s a lot of trouble I think). Do you have any tattoos? If yes, why did you get them and how you feel about it now, after some time has passed?
Yeah quite long. Yet there’s nothing to summarize, the whole thought is right there. I don’t really care if people read or not because I have tons of texts like this lying around the web and no one ever answers. I thought that maybe here would be the best place of all. I put hours of work in this and I feel it’s quite good. Was worth a try.
As for tattoos yes, I’m covered in them and that’s what I do for a living. The reasons to get tattoos are quite well expressed above too and I have another essay about tattooed women (though only in French). There are very good book resources on the subject as well. (Tattoos : I ink therefore I am, is a good one) I think tattoos empowers your identity and to this point I know I’ll eventually get fully covered. We could have a lengthy conversation on the subject but you might find it too long to read ;)