Privilege and Surrender

Entitled Archangel Chamuel, this is a bronze sculpture of a partial female figure with an exposed interior structure created by sculptor Blake Ward

When viewing a work of art for the first time, what do you see?

Does your inner voice comment?

Does it question?

Do you fall in love, respectfully accept it as a work of art, or do you shred it to pieces?

Is it reverence or complacency?

Art has such power, but like anything else, its power is limited to the importance we give it.

Is it being viewed with respect?

Are we dedicating a moment of our precious lives to understanding what is presented to us? Can we surrender to this moment?

Are we humble enough to admit that perhaps we sometimes don’t understand?

Or does our arrogance as critics allow us to simply dismiss it as a feeble attempt at art and call it ‘pathetic!’?

Jeanette Winterson, in her essay, Art Objects, explains such negative comments:

“They are statements that tell us something about the speaker. That should be obvious, but in fact, such statements are offered as criticisms of art, as evidence against, not least because the ignorant, the lazy, or the plain confused are not likely to want to admit themselves as such. We hear a lot about the arrogance of the artist but nothing about the arrogance of the audience. The audience, who have not done the work, who have not taken any risks, whose life and livelihood are not bound up at every moment with what they are making, who have given no thought to the medium or the method, will glance up, flick through, chatter over the opening chords, then snap their fingers and walk away like some monstrous Roman tyrant.” [1]

Art is intense and requires concentration, not only in its creation but in its viewing.

I truly believe that the time we give to the art; not simply the quick glance, but looking deeply into the work will reflect so much about ourselves, that perhaps this is what we fear.

As artists we bear our souls, often revealing so much more than we should, still expression is our undeniable need.

At times terrified, we project our personal identity into the work and spend most of our lives explaining ourselves to ourselves.

When the viewer perceives it as being too far from the safety of their personal experience, they will fight to keep that world from shattering around them and as a result the work is dismissed.

The tragedy, I find, is that the mirror that could have reflected back to the viewer, something new about themselves, has been shattered as well, and with it, growth.

Winterson says that “True art, when it happens to us, challenges the “I” that we are.” [2]

“Art objects to the lie against life that it is pointless and mean. The message coloured through time is not lack but abundance, Not silence but many voices. Art, all art, is the communication cord that cannot be snapped by indifference or disaster. Against the daily death it does not die.” [3]

By Boky Hackel


2. Ibid.

3. Ibid