Philosophies

Discussion in 'Ethics and Philosophy' started by Ed Sukach, Dec 1, 2003.

  1. Ed Sukach

    Ed Sukach Member

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    One of the great sources of inspiration, and comfort, can come from the study of the philosophies and "mindsets" of the luminaries in photography and art itself. Many times, we find, we are like the serf confronted by the Knight unexpectedly deprived of his armor ... "Why, he looks a lot like ...me!!"

    I'll kick it off with a quote from ... I'll keep you in suspense until the end of the quote....

    "At the tender age of 13, he was already an apprentice in a studio, painting on porcelain to earn a living. At 17, he was decorating fans. At 21, when he entered the painter Gleyre's studio and painted a model without trying to idealize it, the master asked him dryly: "Do you just paint to amuse yourself?", to which the young (painter) retorted: "Yes, I do, and believe me if I didn't amuse myself, I wouldn't do it."
    Later he said, "Oh what a joy to indulge in the exquisite ecstasy of painting..." or again: "To me, a painting must be an agreeable, joyful, pretty thing - yes, pretty, really." Not long before his death, he claimed that barely a day had gone by - barring some major incident - without his painting. "I don't know if what I paint is good or bad. What I do know is that I have always painted the way I felt I had to."

    If (he) is famous today the world over, it is because this passion for painting, that we will see threading its way even through moments of terrible self doubt and constant searching, had one single and unique subject: the joy of the moment, enjoyment of life.

    Despite the crises he went through, despite the physical suffering of the last 20 years of his life, he always managed to find sufficient comfort and strength to rejoice in beauty and life. by creating a world that belonged to no other great painter, a mythical world, bathed in light, from which the eternal image of woman emerged.

    "What I love," he said, "is skin, a young girl's skin, pink and suggesting excellent blood circulation. What I love most is serenity."


    - From "Pierre August Renoir", by Michel Ferloni and Dominique Spiess.
     
  2. Lex Jenkins

    Lex Jenkins Member

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  3. Robert Kennedy

    Robert Kennedy Member

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    "I don't know if what I paint is good or bad. What I do know is that I have always painted the way I felt I had to."


    What? No 20 page long statement with "postmodern" used every 5th word?

    Obviously nothing will become of this Renoir person....

    :smile:

    People have asked me why I am not going digital. I always reply "Because I like film. I just LIKE it!"
     
  4. Michael A. Smith

    Michael A. Smith Subscriber

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    Lex: " I tend to be indifferent to the notion of beauty as an asset to art because the notion seems trite."

    What else is art ultimately about? I have previously stated that what art does is connect us to the world and to each other. What I did not add was that it does so through beauty. Great music is always beautiful music, to take on example. Beautiful does not mean trite. Beauty does not refer sentimental kitsch, or photographs of sunsets. It refers to something much deeper. What you think is beautiful may not be what I think is beautiful, but beauty is always at the core of great art. Keats said it best, "Beauty is truth, truth beauty." And that's it in five words.

    Today that understanding has been lost to a great extent. Art, you will learn if you read current criticism and/or go to art school, is not about beauty, it is about ideas. I'm with the great art historian, Sir Herbert Read who said that art was about feelings and that, "If one has ideas to express, the proper medium is language."
     
  5. Michael A. Smith

    Michael A. Smith Subscriber

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    Great art is always informed by intelligence, but it is not about ideas. Never has been. Never will be.

    Picasso's art was never about ideas. Although the early cubist work was informed by his thoughts about what it would be like to have multiple views of something seen simultaneously, it was not about the idea of that. It was about the sensation of that--a very different thing.

    Thnking and feeling are not mutually exclusive, but they sure are different. It is quite a different thing to feel something and to think you feel it.
     
  6. juan

    juan Subscriber

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    "I think artists are more concerned with pursuing a specific idea that doesn't necessarily, at least in their minds, have an inherent narrative element. They make the picture for their own reasons. "

    So says Ferdinand Protzman in the National Geographic article in another thread
    http://news.nationalgeographic.com/news/2003/12/1202_031202_landscape.html#main

    I'm not sure if he's advocating thinking (ideas) or feeling (own reasons).
    juan
     
  7. Michael A. Smith

    Michael A. Smith Subscriber

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    Guess I'm just not politically, or artistically, correct.
    Great art is never about ideas. Duchamp did some very interesting things. Extremely. And pointed to many new directions. But is he a great artist? Not in my book. Once you get the concept, you don't have to look at the art anymore. Visual art is supposed to be visual, or do I have that wrong?

    Being from Philadelphia (the museum there has, I believe, the largest Duchamp holdings in the world and has many of his most important and influential works) I have spent many an hour looking at them. So it is not as if I never heard of the guy or am not more than a bit familiar with his work and that of many of those who have followed in the various paths that opened up to them as a result of his work.

    Duchamp's art is interesting and thought provoking, surely. But is it great art? Nah.
     
  8. Robert Kennedy

    Robert Kennedy Member

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    But what about all the art that has become JUST about ideas?

    I mean let us face facts, there is some really dicey stuff out there that is based more on what the artists TELLS you, than what you can actually get from the work.

    The fact is that modern (I'm sorry, POSTMODERN....), art is more about semiotics than anything else it seems. Where-as someone could have art that they simply created because it pleased them or they wanted to, now it is all about the semiotics of the work. So the work is left behind in favor of the message. This is how you get literally talentless people who become lauded as "geniuses". This how someone like Prince can steal the work of someone else and get all the credit for the image.

    Personally I have a sign for people who value semiotics over all else....

    It involves a middle finger.....
     
  9. Michael A. Smith

    Michael A. Smith Subscriber

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    Thank you, jdef, for according my words the status of the absolute truth rather than as my opinion. I was not aware that anyone regarded my words so highly.

    It would be interesting to see your anwer to Robert's question: " But what about all the art that has become JUST about ideas?
     
  10. SUNdog

    SUNdog Member

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    The notion that Art is what connects us to the world and each other through beauty is often expressed; for another example see the Editor’s comments in LensWork #49. As in LensWork and this thread these types of remarks always seem somewhat suspect to me. The context in which these remarks appear seem to indicate some ulterior motive or justification on the part of the participants or artists (it’s best to be suspicious of what I say here also). I’m not sure if Art or even Great Art can escape it’s context, the world of appearances, to some other place where beauty and some immutable truth merge. Would not this some other place where beauty equals truth be beyond the world of appearances? How can a photograph which is rooted in the world by it’s very scientific nature - lens-camera-film-chemistry - point beyond the world of appearances? “Beauty is truth, truth beauty” are these five words enough or are they perhaps five words too many? In this context I’d like to think that beauty is like an egg and ideas like sperm and Art the combination of sperm and egg. I’d like to think that really Great Art grows to transcend entanglements in any present, past or future contexts. What could the mechanism of this growth be? Would it not be the Artist infused with the Ideas and Art of the present and past reaching not only toward the future, but beyond it and beyond him or her self?
     
  11. Ed Sukach

    Ed Sukach Member

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    "Some other place..." I would suggest that there *IS* such a place - it is called "self, soul, psyche, .... spirit." And to pre-answer - no, I can't be sure - I can't prove that any of these exist - although I am confident that they do.

    Those "five words" ... are we falling into a "black and white - with no shades of gray - and nothing outside of the boundaries" trap here? I think they are immensely important ... but not absolute, or absolutely complete.

    Beauty is truth and truth beauty - certainly. It is also possible, on some level, to have beautiful lies. Picasso once said, "The moment you lie for the sake of beauty - you become an artist."
     
  12. Ed Sukach

    Ed Sukach Member

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    Possibly it will be of some use here to define and expand on a few "code words" here -- "To me" and its corollary, "In my book" (many others exist).

    I would say they mean, "In my opinion (hopefully *well* thought out opinion) - realizing that I am an individual and not the keeper of the absolute truth - although I am always searching for the same .... my individual view, right or wrong is that ..."

    Let us recognize that OPINIONS are fair game... they can be discussed, argued about ... all in the name of the "search for truth". Our PRINCIPLES are NOT "fair game" - they are sacred - part of our being - and we should protect each others' - even BEYOND the point of absurdity.

    That is what this thread is intended to be about ... Our *individual* pre-conditioning - our mindsets and views of the world - how they affect, and are the "building blocks" of our work - and the works of other photographers and artists.

    My (our?) goal is the understanding of how this engine called "art" works ... I don't think we'll ever make it ... (damn near certain of that) but the SEARCH is everything.
     
  13. juan

    juan Subscriber

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    Talking about pre-conditioning - my mother is a painter. Over Thanksgiving I was looking at some of her landscapes, and some of her teacher's paintings of structures, and I saw paintings painted from the same angles that I would have used to photograph the same scene. I was surprised. Am I pre-condtioned by growing up with these paintings?

    Are we all pre-conditioned by what we have been taught is art?
    juan
     
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  15. Ed Sukach

    Ed Sukach Member

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    Yes, of course we are. That and more, much more. We are complex beings, and everything in our lives has *some* effect on the way we "see" and react to, our own individual "worlds".

    We do posess free will, and we can choose our own individual paths through, and with, that pre-conditioning.

    Possibly one definition of art (among many) is "A narrative of our experiences along those paths".
     
  16. Ed Sukach

    Ed Sukach Member

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    Two more quotes:

    "A photographer's main instrument is his eyes. Strange as it seems, many choose to use the eyes of another photographer, past or present, instead of their own. Those photographers are blind."

    Manuel Alvarez Bravo, Mexico City, 1986


    and:

    "I believe the function of the artist in all media is a creation of affirmations; the search for, and the realization of, beauty. The function of art includes an establishment of communication, at the imaginative and constructive level, and placing the emphasis of thought and emotion in relation to an ideal world. The glorification of decay, filth, disease, despair and evil succeeds only in blunting our necessary awareness of these negative qualities ...

    I believe that the artist can accomplish most on the agenda for survival by creating beauty, by setting examples of beauty in order, by embracing the concept of the essential dignity of the human mind and spirit."

    - Ansel Adams
     
  17. blansky

    blansky Subscriber

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    Juan:

    A photography teacher I once had used to say " photograph the most common thing in the most uncommon manner and you will achieve interest and impact".

    Anyone who has "an eye" or has been trained in composition can look at a landscape whether they are an artist or photographer, they will probably choose perhaps close to the same angle or perspective. I believe the above quote can help us to look around, look closer, and maybe see an angle that hasn't been done before.

    As to the other question being asked: I believe almost all artists search for and try to portray beauty. Of course there are those that search for anti- beauty, but usually merely to shock.


    Michael McBlane
     
  18. Ed Sukach

    Ed Sukach Member

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    jdef,

    I am not moderating here, nor do I wish to.
    I. for one did NOT read anything into Michael's message other than the expression of an opinion.

    Lighten up a bit ... please?
     
  19. Michael A. Smith

    Michael A. Smith Subscriber

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    Interesting point, jdef, and I thought about it, but everything everyone writes is just their opinion, isn't it? So, my understanding is that it goes without saying that what I, and others write here is just their opinion. What else could it be?

    To my knowledge, I do not believe I ever tried to keep anyone from voicing their opinions. And, as should be obvious, I do not mind being challenged. In fact, I embrace it. Being challenged forces me to be more articulate, and I never shrink from it either on these forums or in person. It forces me to grow. If I did not welcome challenge, why would I even bother to participate in these forums the way I do.

    It does so happen that I have thought about many of the types of "philosophical" questions that come up here for many, many years. That does not make my answers any more "right" than anyone else's. But as a result, it does seem to have made me fairly articulate about what I believe and have found to be true. Sorry, truly, if it sounds to you as if I am pontificating, when I write things like "Great art is informed by intellegence, but is not about ideas." But the truth of that is something I realized to be true (for myself, of course). To say, "In my opinion great art is informed by intellegence, but is not about ideas," is really saying the same thing, just in a "nicer", a more politically correct, way. I'm not PC. Sorry. Can't help that. Never was. Never will be. That kind of thing always struck me as being somehow dishonest. Not a downright lie, but a way of "positioning" one's statements so they will be easier for others to take. Perhaps the right word is "manipulative" rather than dishonest. In any case, I don't trust it for a moment.

    I do have great respect for clearly articulated positions that are different than mine, even though I may strongly disagree with them. What is aggravating, and what I do not have respect for, is the one-liner answer or rsponse when something serious is being discussed. For those answering in that way, the discussions are not serious--just a chance to be a smart-ass.

    It really is something sometimes. If a discussion is about craft and someone (maybe even me) says that having your craft down perfectly is a crucial element if one is to produce meaningful art, someone is bound to answer something on the order of, "all the craft in the world never made anyone an artist," as if that was what the person who made the previous statement was saying. Having exemplary craft would be a necessary, but not sufficient condition for making meaningful art (hey, I never put it quite that way before--see I do this so that I will learn something). If, on the other hand the conversation is about the soul of an artist, someone will pipe up with a one-liner about how important craft is and that without it this soul stuff is just so much nonsense. Yes, it really is something sometimes.

    I participate in threads like this so that I can clarify my own thinking (tough for me to do that just writing to myself), and yes, to provoke thought in others so that they, in turn, will provoke thought in myself. And I also do it to teach others. I admit I have the temerity to think that, yes, I do know something, that they years of work and thought about these things, have not been for nothing. There are many who participate in these forums who know far more than I do about specific things, and there are a number of contributors who would make my head spin and leave me far behind in philosophical discussions. But, I have learned some things, and from all accounts am a fine teacher. Many have written to me that a phrase I used or a sentence I wrote (like the "ideas" sentence quoted earlier), helped make things clear for them. They have been most grateful. That, in turn is gratifying to me.

    "For it is still the truth about life that it is greater to give than to receive," wrote one of my favorite poets.

    Since you were addressing me, jdef, I tried to answer as best I could. Sorry I rambled on.
     
  20. Aggie

    Aggie Member

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  21. Alex Hawley

    Alex Hawley Member

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    Well-stated Michael and that is essentially what Adams stated as quoted above.

    From my meager knowledge of art history, it is evident that art is something that is intrinsic with humans. All cultures from the earliest have produced art in one form or another. Generally, for the art that stands on its own, it portrays beauty or drama. I can't think of an example of the "trash art" that has stood the test of time. But, my knowledge in this is meager.
     
  22. Robert Kennedy

    Robert Kennedy Member

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    To follow up on what I said in a previous thread....

    Today I heard a prof talk about how "Artists like us" are "more educated than the general public."

    A pretty damn bold statement. And one I wholly disagree with.

    The second we start thinking that art must be produced "only by certain people", all is lost. More specifically there is a great irony in the fact that all the post-modernists running around laud the fact that post-modernism opened the art world up to "other voices", but now only "those who are educated in art" are considered worthy of having an opinion.

    Excuse me?

    You know my grandfather dropped out of school at the age of 12 to become a coopers apprentice in Scotland. He sought to help feed his siblings. He later emigrated to Canada and worked as a cook in logging camps and made his way to Tacoma, Wa. (big timber town at that time). He then managed to setup a VERY prosperous insurance business and did extremly well for himself. He taught his kids well and taught them how to think. Both went on to college, but learned the most from my grandfather.

    Who never went to highschool.

    By the standards of many, he would be WHOLLY unqualified to comment on much of anything by their standards! Definately not art, and if you follow the logic, neither could he comment on business, politics, etc.

    Keep in mind when he died, he was vastly more sucessful than the person making this statement is. And she is only a few years younger than he was when he passed away!

    Point being, we can't exclude anyone's opinion as long as it is based on some manner of thought (I exclude people who randomly comment on things they have no real idea about....and by this I mean many academics!).

    Can art be fun and just a lark for someone?

    Yes.

    Can it have deep meaning?

    Yes.

    Both are wholly valid, and wholly acceptable viewpoints.

    For Aggie art is
    And you know what it works for her. I really like some of her work. I do. No deep meaning to it, just great images that I like.

    Conversly, I myself am doing a very political series at this moment. It is meant to carry a message. It is just as valid as Aggie's work.

    But it is NEVER more valid. NEVER. If I EVER say it is, then someone smack me! The only invalid work to me is work which is more about catering to the gallery crowd and making a huge statement with no thought into the piece. That is just mental masterbation.

    But nobody can say a work done just to fulfill a personal desire is less valid than a work rife with political meaning.

    And everyone who honestly enters into a conversation has a valid point to make. Education does not make you more or less qualified to offer an opinion.
     
  23. Alex Hawley

    Alex Hawley Member

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    That's not so much of a bold statement as it is blatant elitism.
     
  24. Robert Kennedy

    Robert Kennedy Member

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    I was being nice, but yes, you are right. It was also around the time that the discussion turned to a team of photographers whose name I can't recall right now who made elaborate sets and MASSIVE statements to "document the plight of the working class".

    The statements were very much based on semiotics and insanely hard to read and decipher.

    Apparently their goal was to convince "the elites" of what the plight of the "working class" was to facilitate change.

    Nobody was impressed when I questioned if this was a good idea, because if you want to make the CEOs and the stock holders understand something, it is usually a good idea to make it accessible. The fact is that 99.9999% of the people who COULD (or at least claim to) understand this dense text and obscure staging would NOT be the people who could do anything about it.

    Trust me, the CEOs are NOT taking survey classes in post-modern art.

    I love it when people call themselves "elite" and ignore their own impotence....

    I can see it now....

    "Joe, this is Sam Walton! You should immediately raise all pay and benefits because I just read a 27 page statement at a gallery opening which made me change my mind on how I am going to run this company!"

    :roll:
     
  25. bjorke

    bjorke Member

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    Well I guess Thomas Kinkade really is the best artist, then. Just because his audience isn't educated doesn't stop them from issuing their opinions, one Mastercard transaction at a time.
     
  26. Aggie

    Aggie Member

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