Friday, August 19, 2011

What Makes Creative Minds Tick?

Yesterday I spoke at the Gallery of Modern Art (GoMA), in Brisbane, in a panel called 'What makes creative minds tick?'

Together with neuroscientist Jason Gallate, artists Fiona Hall and Phillip Brophy, and moderator Amanda Smith from Radio National's 'Artworks', I chatted about distraction, talent (and its lack), the labels 'artist' and 'creativity', overcoming 'artist's block', and bucketloads more.

One of my hobbyhorses was the romantic myth of the 'genius', drunk on absinthe in a garrett, divining epiphanies from on high.  Artistry is far more prosaic than this: more about honing skills than some ineffable black magic.

I also criticised the myth of one's 'great destiny': the idea that each of us has some untapped power within, even if this power is never cultivated; never put to work.  This is more a consoling fantasy than anything else: a beautiful dream, which eases the sting of its own sharp unreality.  As I've suggested elsewhere, the mortgage and television (and other distractions) have a hand in this.

The conversation will soon be broadcast on Radio National, on Amanda's 'Artworks' program.

While in Brisbane, I also visited the fantastic Surrealism: The Poetry of Dreams exhibition.  A disorienting, exhausting exhibition - far too much for my short stay.

But highlights included:

  • Miro's 'Painting' (1927), with its cheery bright blue canvas, animated by lines of force and a bluer bird-thing.
  • Giacometti's 'The Surrealist Table' (1933), a creepy assemblage of bits, which manages to work as a single sculpture.  The fortune teller is simultaneously an inanimate chess head and a vulnerable young woman.  Weird, but very compelling in the flesh. (Well, bronze.)
  • Andr√© Masson's works in general, with their beautiful, sometimes delicate, violence - unsurprisingly, Masson was something of a Nietzschean.
  • Salvador Dali's 'Partial hallucination: six images of Lenin on the piano' (1931), because I stood in front of it for what felt like ten minutes, enjoying my own stimulated bafflement.  The vascular chap is waiting for something - perhaps the ants on the musical score to discover the Lenins are dipped in honey?
  • Picasso's 'Woman reclining' (1932) (above), which has the artist's trademark ease.  Many Surrealists have highly worked, finished paintings - Dali, for example.  But they are rarely beautiful, and often a little too finished.  Picasso, for all his violent symbolism, offers striking harmonies of line and colour - but makes it look natural.  It's as if his unconscious were more relaxed than its Surrealist ambassadors...

If you get the chance, do drop in to the GoMA.  Well worth getting a pass-out stamp, and coming back after a bite to eat, coffee and some psychoanalysis.

(Image: Picasso's 'Woman Reclining (1932), courtesy of the Centre Pompidou, Paris)


Rachel Fenton said...

Yes, I often like a bite of psychoanalysis with my coffee.

I do agree about the tv and mortgage. I'm fond of a dream or two myself, though I like to think I can keep in mind their unreality. I wonder which is the bigger fib.

Damon Young said...

Yes, nothing wrong with fantasy. The trick is to enjoy dreams knowingly, rather than using them to paper-over cracks in real life.