Though art must stand up for itself and find its way alone in the world, I have been provided this opportunity to say a few words in its defense just the same. Too often contemporary artistic efforts appear directed externally at a transient knowledge and, to me at least, tend to feel like an incredible distraction from the vital issue which is readily at hand. The problem might be that what ought to be sought is too close, too intimate to be fully appreciated by those professing to be artists, let alone the rest of society.
This makes me appreciate (and want to emulate) all the more those old brush and ink painters and poets of China – to strip the artistic act down to the most basic elements and to focus on the approach, the attention and, yes, the openness and vastness of life.
I have noticed that often people seem to seek special moments of intense feeling, but perhaps the secret lies instead in the most banal of instants, those unnoticed parcels of time which slip quietly past leaving only a world in their wake.
Not that the world holds an answer, but rather stands at the threshold to the state of wonder. To put it crudely: the world bears only the unfathomable, and it is the unfathomable itself that is the answer.
Many years ago, in an attempt to get me to exhibit my paintings, an artist friend of mine said, “Exhibiting one’s work is an act of gratitude.” I’m not sure what exactly prevented me from stepping out into the world then, partially it was my own self-criticism, but most likely it was simply that I was too vain and selfish. Fortunately, however, over the years our high opinion of ourselves gets beaten down and with age comes the wisdom that even the smallest of gestures can have a profound effect.
To close I would like to share a little story with you that I hope might clarify this a little more. One day in a poor neighborhood of Toronto, I was standing outside a store waiting for a friend to complete his purchase. There was an old dog tied to a post, softly whining, looking quite lost and abandoned. As it lay down its eyes never stopped searching for a glimpse of its owner through the store windows. Just then a shabby homeless man came staggering up the sidewalk. The dog looked sadly up at him and, as it sat up, gave a small wag of its tail. Already bent by alcohol and untold tragedies, the man bent over a little further and gently patted the dog, who leaned warmly against his leg. That moment, that small, unheralded moment, seemed to contain all of life: all the broken and suffering, as well as all the joy and grace of which we are capable. And it is that moment which I believe to be the true seed of art.All images are digital drawings and copyright © 2015 by Michael Tweed.
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