Is it really so dangerous to talk about your art and writing?

“It seems to me, that the modern painter cannot express his age, the airplane, the atom bomb, the radio, in the old forms of the Renaissance or any other past culture. Each age finds its own technique.” — Jackson Pollock

Reflections by Adam Donaldson Powell:

After having been told for decades to “never explain or discuss your art or writing” I am doing just that here on WordPress — this in order to share with others my thought processes, the philosophical questions behind my work, and the technical decisions thereof. That also enables me to do a bit of writing — combining poetic prose with small essays as texts accompanying my visual art. As with my writing, my art is always indifferent to currently popular trends of style but always socially relevant. It is not for everyone, as I intentionally aim to provoke thought on some level. And as we know, many resist deeper levels of thought (or thinking at all beyond superficial and personal needs and preoccupations). Is it still okay to just want to find sensual pleasure in a work of art, without being burdened by many questions and socio-political issues? Yes, of course. We all need a respite from time to time, but in my opinion, Art is always about possibilities — including diverse possible interpretations.

Another thing I now do is to preview the coming attractions on my main website. I do this to commit myself to an idea and its execution. Writing and making visual art are about constant decisionmaking, and while the final results are important, they are — in my opinion — mostly a compromise between various decisions made along the way. Understanding literature and art are thus more fully possible when one understands that ideas and expressions do not always come out of thin air, or merely by chance or through innate talent. An artist and a writer are like orchestra conductors, in that we are constantly conducting a huge symphony which consists of many voices, sounds, and ideas. This pertains to even the shortest forms of literature (haiku) and art (minimalism). But do not be deceived; the simplest expressions of literature and art require the most precision and talent. As with music, all sections of a literary or visual composition must be executed with equal mastery. One section cannot seem effortless while others feel belabored. Thus many writers and artists appreciate criticism most from “their literary and artistic colleagues”. They understand more of the total process involved and most likely dare to pose relevant questions and criticisms of interest and help to the writer or artist. For me, exploring the vast area between photorealism and abstraction gives me the most pleasure. The possible degrees of semi-realism are endless. Such expression is provocative because it forces us to step outside of how we think others see us and how we wish to be seen — beyond any photographic moment that is frozen in Time, and more into the psychological aspects of our Being. There are relevant parallels in literature, eg. stream of consciousness writing in novels, various technical diversions in poetry designed to function as asides, or even just to jolt the Reader into another possible reality, etc. And then it is no longer a bad thing to talk about one’s writing process or ideas because the total process is by definition still mysterious and indescribable. But like most modern art museums, just a hint of background information can be the ticket other Thinkers need in order to accompany you on their brief journey into our own Mind and Art.

A touchy topic: artistic theft and copying.

Just a short rant here.

The literary and painting traditions have long been based upon following trends, styles and forms of expression in each successive epoch, and many art academies and literature arts schools are still recommending that students study and mimic famous artists and writers in order to better understand painting and writing. Eventually one is expected to develop one’s own signature style. But how many times removed from the original style is acceptable today? Eg. in the spirit of, in the style of, or a downright copy of another famous artist’s style? I have been copied grossly, two times that I know of. I was annoyed to begin with but soon afterwards I took it as a compliment. However, I do get impatient with authors and painters that “borrow” too much from established artists. Style-copied visual artists that come to mind include Rothko, Warhol, Pollock, Nevelson, etc. Authors get a bit more leeway (unless they grossly copy word for word, etc.). Research in regards to fictional works can be tricky, as seen by plagiarism allegations experienced by Michel Houellebecq in his prize-winning novel “La Carte et le Territoire”. With literature I am more offended by the still-taught (so-called) “rules of writing” which can subjugate young writers to generic form.

I understand that literature and painting build on historical traditions of style and technique, and that in this day and age there seems to be almost nothing left that is new and original, and also that copyright is under constant discussion in our global and digitalised world of images and texts that quickly become communal property — but damn!!! … Is the future of art and literature really so bleak that everything new is bound to have been made before? I personally stay away from reading novels when I am working on or planning a new novel, and I do not go to art exhibitions that might influence my work-in-progress. I am not afraid of being accused of copyright infringement, but I do enjoy the freedom of being unencumbered in my own active artistic development processes. Yes, I do find inspiration in techniques and philosophies promoted and used by dead and living artists. But I try not to plagiarise or copy directly. Part of the problem today is that everyone has been influenced by something or someone else artistically, whether it be images, archetypes, popular phrases or the like. The real issue is perhaps how things are used and put together in a larger oeuvre-defining context. What can I say? It’s complicated.

Here are a few of my paintings that are “inspired” by the philosophies of art movements I admire greatly (the first two by Monochromatic Minimalism, the third by Malevich (suprematism), and the fourth is a gut reaction to “Rothko-itis”:

White night no. 1 (Oil on canvas).
White night no. 1 (Oil on canvas).

Meteors in the night (Oil on canvas).
Meteors in the night (Oil on canvas).

Tribute to Malevich (Oil on canvas).
Tribute to Malevich (Oil on canvas).

A Wrist Cutter's Glow (Oil on canvas).
A Wrist Cutter’s Glow (Oil on canvas).

Who knows? Perhaps another artist (famous, or not) has already made these paintings without my knowledge? Perhaps I have been “tainted” or “influenced” subliminally by something I have seen on the internet (I do not watch television). I dunno. But my artistic principles and intent are clear.

But now let us consider “the rules”:

What is art plagiarism?

Art copyright infringement for artists

This question has begun to arise more and more, I see. A painting-style “knock-off” is no more satisfying than a Gucci handbag knock-off. The “lie” is not worth carrying around.

Links to four interesting articles related to the business (commercialization) of art.

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I have editorialized on the topics of digitalization, fame-hype, book publishing, art copying/stealing and more as regards both art and literature, for many years. Therefore, no comments this time. Read the links and decide for yourselves what you think, as artists and/or art-lovers and collectors:

On investing in art

Art copying for profit and fun (1)

Art copying for profit and fun (2)

One artist’s perspective