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Thread: Oscar's Artist Statement

  1. #1

    Oscar's Artist Statement

    The following is Oscar Wilde's preface to 'The picture of Dorian Gray'. I thought it might serve as the starting point for a worthwhile discussion.


    "The artist is the creator of beautiful things. To reveal art and conceal the artist is art's aim.

    The critic is he who can translate into another manner or a new material his impression of beautiful things. The highest, as the lowest, form of criticism is a mode of autobiography.

    Those who find ugly meanings in beautiful things are corrupt without being charming. This is a fault. Those who find beautiful meanings in beautiful things are the cultivated. For these there is hope. They are the elect to whom beautiful things mean only Beauty.

    There is no such thing as a moral or an immoral book. Books are well written, or badly written. That is all.

    The nineteenth century dislike of Realism is the rage of Caliban seeing his own face in a glass. The nineteenth century dislike of Romanticism is the rage of Caliban not seeing his own face in a glass.

    The moral life of man forms part of the subject matter of the artist, but the morality of art consists in the perfect use of an imperfect medium.

    No artist desires to prove anything. Even things that are true can be proved. No artist has ethical sympathies. An ethical sympathy in an artist is an unpardonable mannerism of style.

    No artist is ever morbid. The artist can express everything.

    Thought and language are to the artist instruments of an art.

    Vice and virtue are to the artist materials for an art. From the point of view of form, the type of all the arts is the art of the musician. From the point of view of feeling the actor's craft is the type.

    All art is at once surface and symbol.

    Those who go beneath the surface do so at their peril. It is the spectator, and not life, that art really mirrors.

    Diversity of opinion about a work of art shows that the work is new, complex and vital.

    When critics disagree the artist is in accord with himself.

    We can forgive a man for making a useful thing as long as he does not admire it. The only excuse for making a useless thing is that one admires it intensely.

    All art is quite useless."

    Oscar Wilde 1891
    Dominic Rouse

    "Almost everything is art. Almost nothing is fine art."


  2. #2
    artist speanburgarts's Avatar
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    Re: Oscar's Artist Statement

    "All art is at once surface and symbol."

    "Those who go beneath the surface do so at their peril. It is the spectator, and not life, that art really mirrors."



    There is some correctness in this. Art is a language, we use it to make expressions, to communicate to others but what is communicated must always pass through the senses of the spectator. Just as I may use written words here to express an opinion one can also use visual language to express an opinion, in both cases however the artist, the origin of the expression, his opinion can never be totally comprehended and is dependant upon the factors within the other persons mind that they use to form an opinion in their own right.


    I write the word " hello "

    you read it.

    I make a photo of a hand waving hello.

    you see it.

    I say "hello", you hear it.

    However each viewer holds a unique, subjective definition of what " hello " means to them. It passes our through our senses and enters our brain, it is then processed through our own unique filter made of every fibre of who we are, our experiences, our emotions, at the end forming an opinion.

    When we stand before a artistic visual expression our opion says a great deal about ourselves.


    Art is the most useful because it expresses thought, thought being the foundation of the idea, a man without ideas is lost.
    " truth is at its most potent when it is on the knife-edge between dark and light." -Graham Ovenden

  3. #3
    Abuser of God's Sunlight
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    Re: Oscar's Artist Statement

    Quote Originally Posted by speanburgarts View Post
    However each viewer holds a unique, subjective definition of what " hello " means to them. It passes our through our senses and enters our brain, it is then processed through our own unique filter made of every fibre of who we are, our experiences, our emotions, at the end forming an opinion.
    And some of that filter is simply cultural. You and I see a wave hello, but someone in another time or place might see a gesture that means "I have just stolen your daughter and burned your village."

    In the case of the photograph, it might even be hard for you and me to know it's a wave hello without some other context. It could also be a wave goodbye, a request for five of something, or a signal to stop. It's possible for all of these possibilities to exist within a single image.

    This is one reason that artists who work in small forms (photographs, short poems, songs, stories—as opposed to novels, operas, symphonies, epic poems, etc.) typically feel the need to create bodies of work. Many pieces can provide enough context to narrow the possible interpretations of each individual one.

    These basic nuts and bolts of interpretation ... "what is the artist showing us?" ... come into play even before we get into the murkier waters of what it means to us.

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