Who is an “Artist”?

In our society, in common parlance, an “artist” is one who paints, whose “works” are framed and hung on a wall. Which is such a narrow outlook that I find it detestable.

By definition, an artist is one who creates art.

What is art? That is a topic I will not go into in this post. Is “art” restricted to painting? Art encompasses a lot of human endeavors, and painting just is one of them.

I find it incongruous that a musician is introduced as a “composer”, an author is introduced as a “writer”, a fashion designer is introduced as a “designer”, a photographer introduced is as a “photographer”, while a painter is introduced as an “artist”. Why not a “painter”? What does it say about the epistemology humans have accepted that we define all other artists by their professions except the painter?

This post is a response to “To Be Worthy Of Being An Artist

A personal definition – the definition of an artist – is a combination of (a) modesty, (b) arrogance, and (c) reality.

First, definitions can never be personal. When it is personal, it is an interpretation, not a definition. A definition is an objective meaning of a concept, thus of a word, that should never be personal or subjective. A definition ceases to be one when it is subjective. An epistemology that accepts “personal definitions” is reflective of Kant’s subjectivist, ambiguous, and grey philosophical doctrine that many intellectuals today, like for many decades in history, have been taking recourse to in the comfort of complexity-of-thought-that-mainstream-audiences-will-agree-to-rather-than-debate.

The true artist is forgiving. Encompassing. Loving. Giving. Embracing. Joyous.

There are other emotions that guide an artist: anger, cynicism, jealousy, strife, deception, trickery. For, if you would think of an artist as all things nice, you would be hugely mistaken. But hate is not one of those. If hate is an emotion that guides, or even exists in your life, you are automatically not an artist.

Is an artist distinguished from other human beings by temperament? Do specific temperamental traits classify some people as artists and exclude others?

Emotion is the wellspring of all art. To enumerate which of those guide an artist and which don’t, is an exercise in futility and mistaken in its initial presumption.

The entire soup-bowl of human emotions (minus hate) is the palette of the true artist.

Why single out and exclude hate? Hate can inspire great composition, terrific writing, and amazing painting too.

Panchgani 053

To continue my responses to this irrational, incongruous post:

The context of an artist is very different from the way you and I see things. Artists are magicians. They transport us to worlds previously unknown.

Which is what many photographers do, including those like you, who conduct MOOCs about that art.

I am not one of them. I thank you dear friend, for calling me an artist. I respectfully decline. Someday I might prove that you were right.

What is happening here? You include a fantastic photograph in your post that anyone would call artistic, and then demonstrate the modesty you claim is a) the personal definition of an artist?

The one thing you need to be an artist, is skill.

Was the artist who architected the Taj Mahal an artist? Or the Konark Sun Temple? Did the artist have the skill to execute his/her vision? What about the workers who built the Taj Mahal or the Konark Sun Temple? Hundreds of thousands of workers toiling to create a masterpiece. Were they artists? These are difficult questions in the context of art.

No, they were not, they were artisans.

If one has artisans who have the skill but who do not have the artistic creativity, why does an artist need skill? Artistic skill can be outsourced. Artistic creativity cannot.

Perhaps the most intriguing example of the challenges this topic raises lies in Western Classical Music. While we generally consider the original composer as an artist, what about the individual musician in the 60-odd orchestra who is just one of the dozen violinists? Is she an artist or just an artisan? What about the conductor who interprets the work of the composer and directs the orchestra to create a rendition of the work that is unique and different than other renditions of the same work? Is the conductor an artist?

I think we need a careful rethink of who is an artist and who is not. Meanwhile, I have no doubt that the author of the post that inspired this one, is one of the most creative artists I have had the privilege to know, and whose creative works inspire many.

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