Artist’s Journal: NUMBER 38

“Art is magic…

But how is it magic?

In its metaphysical development?

Or does some final transformation

culminate in a magic reality?

In truth, the latter is

impossible without the former.

If creation is not magic,

the outcome cannot be magic.”

Hans Hofmann 1880 – 1966

We were shamans.  Painters that is.  Journalist Bill Moyers asked Joseph Campbell (1904 – 1987), “who interprets the divinity inherent in nature for us today?  Who are our shamans?   Who interprets unseen things for us?”

Campbell replied, “It is the function of the artist to do this.  The artist is the one who communicates myth for today.”  But do we?  My new-found hero, Camille Paglia, in the November 2012 issue of Smithsonian Magazine says, “…the current malaise in the fine arts is partly due to the rote secularism of the Western professional class, who inhabit a sophisticated but increasingly soulless high-tech world.”

In a December 2012 interview in the about her new book, Glittering Images: A Journey Through Art From Egypt to Star Wars, she said, “Sneering at religion is juvenile, symptomatic of a stunted imagination.  Yet that cynical posture has become de rigueur in the art world — simply another reason for the shallow derivativeness of so much contemporary art, which has no big ideas left.”

Bearing this all in mind, we painters are no longer the shamans we once were.  We were the drivers in Man’s development.  Art is partially about problem solving and process.  Ernst Fischer, the author of The Necessity of Art: A Marxist Approach, believed that, …”language came into being together with tools…”

Art is often thought of as only a means of communication and expression.  It duplicates reality and creates images that also become a  sign for reality.  It is a manner of, “…grasping of the object and as an abstraction.”

Paglia has also stated, “Art began as religion in prehistory. It does not require belief to be moved by a sacred shrine, icon, or scripture.”  Fischer felt that all things; human, animal, plant and stone were united as a necessity and as the premise for magic for each tribe.  The eventual byproducts of civilization, the division of labor and the concept of private property, destroyed the tribe and its feeling of unity.

As society stratified, those at the top began to control art for their own purposes and, as a result, art and magic began to separate while magic became legitimized as religion.

I’ve pondered and posited on this shaman-painter thing before.  But reading Paglia’s statement that, “For the fine arts to revive, they must recover their spiritual center,” got me back on the subject.


Posted on: 18/01/2013, by :
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