Art Actually

Art Actually
By Anna Horsnell

Artists are different creatures. They communicate in a language that goes beyond words. They see possibilities and potential where others might not. Whether their chosen medium is photography, painting, sculpture, printmaking, ceramics, video, or any other visual art, artists attempt to shine a light and draw attention. They point to the beautiful and the sublime, the unjust and the controversial. They hold up a mirror, and capture the moment. They inspire and they confound. Most of all, artists mark a universal wall to say humanity was here. In this time and in this place, we lived.

Behind the scenes, the artist stands by their potter’s wheel, behind the easel or lens, or in a field, and they imagine. For most this instinct is what comes naturally, the moment when they are happiest and in their element making something new that did not exist before. The process may take hours or days, weeks or even years –years of learning and honing an artistic skill, trying and failing and trying again, always open to challenges, and asking, ”What if?” There often is an impulse to be unique, to find the answer no one found before, always reaching for the ideal just out of grasp. Creation is not easy. It is hard work. It is also joy and satisfaction and even relief. Most of all art is meant to be shared.

This is visual art. Its purpose is to be seen. In the gallery or open studio, store or museum, this is the moment when the artist steps back, the moment when the art enters a new relationship, this time with the viewer. In that pause, a connection is possible. Does the viewer see what the artist saw? Feel what the artist felt? Is the understanding shared or interpreted in another way? This is the moment of giving and receiving this visual language. The artist has spoken and hopes someone hears, understands, and responds.

The pause turns into a smile perhaps, or a nod of appreciation. The viewer may be attracted to the beauty; the colour, shape, or movement. Perhaps the piece of art expresses something the viewer has felt before but could never put into words. Perhaps the film takes us on an adventure. The editorial cartoon explains another point of view. The sculpture provides another perspective. The stained-glass window touches something deep inside. Maybe there is understanding, imagination, options, or solutions to be gained from just looking closely. Art can be all those things and more.

Laura Robinson, Dean of Arts at Acadia University, kindly shared her thoughts on what art gives us: “Before his death very recently, Sherman Bleakney, professor emeritus, donated, among other items, several pieces of original art to Acadia, a few pieces of which will go into the gallery’s permanent collection. His generous donation gave me pause to consider something intangible that we gain from art beyond the artwork itself: art is also a powerful communication from one generation to the next because it is, most often, lasting rather than ephemeral. A piece of art connects us back to the artist, to the original collector, and to a moment in time in which the art was produced, even while the art still produces meaning in the present, in the eyes of its new beholders.”

In this season of giving, art holds its own. There is a sincerity of giving from the heart of the artist and from the very essence of the art itself. Perhaps this holiday season, you’ll receive that painting you had your eye on. Maybe you’ll give your Mom that special ceramic vase she saw at her favourite shop. Maybe you’ll take the kids to see that latest Star Wars movie. Enjoy all the art around you. And thank an artist.

Image: Falling (1987) by David Gillespie