22 March 2014

Hiding work (and self) away

The title of this post could be "Can anyone create in a vacuum?" - or, "Does anyone appreciate my work?"
It's about how important it is to have your work seen by other eyes (or heard by other ears); how important it is to "get it out there" in some way, and to have the benefit of having it looked at, acknowledged, recognised, validated. Not necessarily to show it in a proper exhibition ... and certainly not having it "critiqued".

This being-seen probably requires being part of a group, or having friends with similar interests (which friends usually do). Friends are likely to be kind and non-judgmental, but showing to groups can be more difficult. Why do people hang back? "My work's not good enough to show to people" is a fear we all have; "they'll criticise it, they'll think bad things about me, I won't be able to face them again." (Really? Is everyone so judgmental and/or rude?)

What's more likely to happen, especially in interest groups that have been set up for camaraderie and support, is that people will find something to like about the work, and will comment on that aspect. They know about "do as you would be done by", after all. Having the work seen, and hearing a comment or two, will acknowledge our efforts and feed our motivation to continue making.

I think everyone needs that acknowledgment: even the obsessed artist who seems to thrive as a loner  doesn't want to be overlooked.

These thoughts arise from something heard in the excellent "Essay" series on Radio 3. Sarah Walker was talking about the composer John White (bbc.co.uk/programmes/b03y3bx0), and about the importance of composers' "buddy system".

The disparate elements in White's work are held together by his enthusiasm, she said; he's
"part of a community of composers who operate on an ethos of mutual support: 'I'll play your piece, you play mine.' I believe that this is a key factor in his creative success. John and his composing colleagues ... have a sort of buddy system: it's not to do with feedback, it's to do with listening. As John once said to me, "when a friend speaks to me, I don't criticise their conversation, I listen." So every new work has at least one pair of ears that are longing to hear it, just as a friend longs to catch up with your news. I've come to suspect that the buddy system is a crucial one in every art form. Every piece of work needs a non-judgmental recipient to complete the circuit, and the idea of non-judgmental is very important. I once read a fascinating bit of research where it was discovered that young children, and chimpanzees, who were given paints and paper would create balanced bands of colour in a state of blissful concentration - but when a reward was offered for the work, everything changed: the painter would now produce only the bare minimum that would satisfy the rewarder. The state of intense passion would die away, and greater rewards - or punishments - would have to be offered for the now boring activity to continue."


Diane-crewe said...

mmm .. food for thought X

CERULEAN said...

You are so right with this!

Olga Norris said...

It's an interesting dilemma this wanting acknowledgement - because I think we also feel the need to grow, and therefore know that we should have constructive criticism as well as positive. Of course we want it from those whom we respect.
I came across a blog: Art in the Grey Zone http://www.artinthegreyzone.com/
which describes a swapping of sketchbooks rather like the music exchange you describe.

The Idaho Beauty said...

This is so interesting and I recognized myself in that quotation from the Essay series. When I'm not working toward having something to show at art group or an exhibit deadline, I can lose myself in that blissful concentration described. Not so passionate always when that reward is dangled and less apt to go beyond the bare minimum. And yet, it is often the buddy system thing that pushes me to do anything at all. And perhaps what's behind my blogging. What's the point if no one is going to see what I'm doing? A buddy or two is definitely crucial for me. And then there are the few repeat customers I have. They too act a bit like a buddy system, praising my work and buying it to give it a larger audience.