I saw a little interview with Anthony Caro yesterday and it struck me for a couple of reasons. Jacques Maritain, the philosopher, said in one of his books that artists aren’t very good at talking about the process of intuition and inspiration in the creation of their art, compared to poets and other writers. This, I guess, is true, because the business of a writer is to put into words things which are difficult to put into words and this gives them their tools to dig beneath the surface of the experience. Artists’ reflections begin and end outside of the realm of words. In the interview with Anthony Caro, I liked the fact that the language he used to explain the process of the creation of his sculpture Early One Morning were all very down-to-earth and humble. He said that he wanted to make a sculpture that was ‘stretched out’ and ‘like a dance’, not like a ‘block’. That’s good. That’s fair enough. That’s as far as it goes. But why did he want to make a sculpture that was ‘stretched out’? Doesn’t matter. He also painted it red because it didn’t look very good green and his wife suggested painting it red. I find it takes a bit of confidence to admit that one’s reasons are sometimes very simple (maybe it took less in the 1960s – it seems to have been in many ways a much simpler era in art than now, or, at least, it seems that way to one born later, like me).
I’ve just been messing on looking at gallery websites and reading artists’ statements. None of them say things like ‘I wanted to make something stretched out’, or, ‘I painted it red because my wife told me to’. Why not? Why shouldn’t we admit that art is simple, in a way? I think it’s a sign of lack of confidence that the language of art (especially artists’ statements and gallery press releases) seems to have to hang on the coat tails of academia and adopt some of it’s tone (‘My work is an investigation into…’).
Artists’ intuition is something that interests me a lot (I have a confession: I just do things because they come into my head and seem right). That’s why I like Jacques Maritain’s writing on poetic intuition, because it allows there to be something going on below the surface (in the pre-conscious), which is hidden from you (why do certain things come into my head and not others and what makes them seem ‘right’?). The problem is that it is very difficult to know if what he says is really true, but at least it chimes with my own experience.
The other thing I liked about the interview was that he made the sculpture in a one-car garage. Wow, I work in a one-car garage! There’s hope yet! I like the colour red, too. Might paint something red.