Heart and Soul and Chemical Highs
As part of the research and development process for a new artwork, THE MIND MANAGEMENT CLOSET, I have recently been reading about Neuroscience, specifically the field of Neuroaesthetics which explores what happens in the brain when we view an artwork that inspires. It is now established that a pleasurable reward occurs in the form of a chemical change. In his book, The Splendours and Miseries of the Brain: Love, Creativity and the Quest for Human Happiness (John Wiley and Sons Ltd, 2008), Neuroscientist Semir Zeki. connects this change with a subjective experience of perfection that both viewer and artist are seeking.
It doesn't surprise me that a chemical change is involved. When I describe my viewer's response to Keifer, the language I use is about physical sensation: heartfelt, breathtaking, heart stopping... At a certain moment when I am making a new work, I become infatuated with it, I am drunk on its possibility, my heart races, I am on a high. Then there is the real downer when I start to see it as just something else I made. Semir Zeki cites Lucien Freud on this subject. "A moment of complete happiness never occurs in the creation of a work of art. The promise of it is felt in the act of creation and disappears towards the completion of the work...Were it not for this, the perfect painting might be painted, on the completion of which the painter could retire. It is this great unsufficiency that drives him on...The process is habit forming."
Any artist reading the less than glowing reviews for Maggi Hambling's show, also at the National Gallery, will have winced at the viciousness of some critics. Hambling drew accusations of what many of us fear the most: inauthenticity, expressed (in the case of Jonathan Jones), in some of the most furious language I have ever read from a critic. I am yet to see the show, but I know that my experience of it cannot be identical to Mr Jones' because that's not how it works.
It has been an interesting first year as a blogger. Articulating and sharing my experiences as both artist and viewer is sharpening my thinking. Here's hoping that we all have many heartfelt highs in 2015.
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