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More Freedom from Content

Originally posted on January, 24, 2008

My previous article, Freedom from Content, as well as an article posted June 15, 2007, Big Answers, approach the same problem from different directions. At the risk of being repetitious I will broach the subject yet again. Hopefully my attempts to get my mental teeth into this problem will be of interest.

Goethe asserted, “All that we perceive is simply raw material.? This short statement not only answers a basic philosophical question, it also states clearly a basic reality of life. There is an important and significant time lag which normally people ignore. Immediately following our perception of something a number of things happen at such a subtle level and so quickly we jump at the thoughts which come to mind. We all do it. It’s easy and comfortable. But it is these missed sensations, internal body processes, perceptions, etc., which make up the palette of life, the building blocks of experience. The artist is the person who intervenes in this sub-thinking process. The sensations of Cezanne and Matisse can be understood in this context.

Among the important things Cezanne said, “Art is a harmony which runs parallel with Nature – what is one to think of those imbeciles who say that an artist is always inferior to nature? Cezanne could say this because he understood his sensations. They were body sensations which he translated into colors and paint.

There is a delicate balance between a disciplined approach and intuitive pursuit. Likewise, we have the distinction between the world of aesthetics and psychological values as well as between reflection and experience. As an artist becomes less concerned with the final result and focuses on the creative process he finds there is a sharp razor’s edge separating these apparent opposites.

When we are dialled into the process, in the moment of observation we perceive directly what is visually there. Before the days of deconstructive art artists were concerned with recovering the immediacy and innocence of the eye: what Matisse called “the condensation of sensation?.

The painting of recognizable subject matter fixes the viewers attention. This brings forward the question of questions. What exactly is our relationship to the outside world? the connection to the world of Nature?.

It becomes clear when we reflect on this that we do not think at the level of perception. Somehow the internal physical processes are organized into intuitive perceptions which are, in turn, abstracted into the symbols we call thought.

So, the artist becomes quite aware of sensations. In a very concrete sense nature is thinking through him or her, as Cezanne said. The artist, the true artist, does not look for content in his thoughts. He or she becomes aware of internal processes and refines or defines this in terms of the medium at hand. This person is tuned into that nature which is both internal as well as external: the microcosm and the macrocosm. Thinking continues. But it is a new order of thought.

Published in french as Plus sur la liberté vis-à-vis du contenu

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