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November 19, 2008


Beth, thanks for mentioning me. You bring up a very interesting point. There really is a conflict between technique and feeling in the process of making art. As Tony has said, sentimentality is often presented instead of genuine feeling. This is often the less demanding way out - relying on ready-made cliché is easier than setting one's self the difficult task of asking what one really wants to say about this subject and how to say it. This takes time and effort and also the courage to leave aside the need to please, to take a risk. To the expert,looking like an amateur is the ultimate terror. The real meaning of 'amateur' is often forgotten: doing something for the love of it. At the other extreme to technique-worship, there is the let-it-all-hang-out approach of the egomaniac, firmly convinced that every single part of his/her being is of consuming interest to everyone (a lot of very successful people manage to convince others of this).
So the point at which technique meets genuine feeling is a very very tricky balancing act. Both threads need to have gone through a process of radical elimination and questioning. As I see it, finding a technique which suits a particular way of seeing/thinking/feeling is crucial. Sometimes there could be a very long frustrating search then a sudden discovery that, rather than paint on canvas or pencil on paper what you really want is to use film. Or clay. Or dance. Or sound. Etc. Then, having found the key, acquiring enough expertise to adapt that technique to one's goal. Not to be enslaved by technique but to take from it only what you need.

Good morning, Natalie! Thanks very much for this comment on how you see technique and feeling, and how both technique and media need to serve the intention and emotion. (And I also agree wholeheartedly with what you say about the egomaniacs!)

This is a minor tangential comment -- or maybe not -- but anyway I'm immensely relieved to find that according to some people of authority I don't have to admire Ansel Adams' photography. I always knew I was supposed to, and I never did :-)

Well, Natalie has articulated it for me very well. Ideally when technique is mastered it can be forgotten and then feeling can take over. Yet we do love to try new techniques, new ways of expressing ideas and emotions, especially with all the new technology that has come our way.

I like Tony's point about sentimentality concerning most of the pictures in people's homes. I always find it difficult in some people's homes when I'm asked what I think of a piece over their living room sofa - do I tell them it's not art but decoration? I usually compromise and say it's pretty, a word most serious artists would be horrified to hear said about their work.

Hi Beth:
Lovely to see your reply. If you want to spin it in my direction, I'll post it up on my own blog.
Give me a little time to reply.
My work is currently in transit, as I grapple with the interface (there isn't one) between my studies in mauri hauora (loosely translated: Maori spirituality) and recent readings I have done in the New Physics. I know my latest work has leapt into a new space (evolved might be a better word)and I am trying to get a hook on it.
A correspondent on my own site posted this question:
Okay! Next question…. related to this post in the spirit of generating some dialogue. Having thought about some of the ways ego is constricts creativity how do we completely devoid ourselves of it’s influence?? How do we recognise all the layers of its influence??
Currently I am groping to get the clarity to answer it..and the courage. It is easy to keep such tbeliefs to oneself.
A first attempt is only minutes from posting over at my site..
Arohanui e hoa

Alright. I will take up the challenge. No academic answer here...
O, and I do love Adams' work. Well, some of it.

On technique and feeling, I can't help but suspect that the very stunning delivery of emotion in Teju Cole's election day photo-set was in no small part due to his purchase of a low F-stop lens earlier that afternoon. He must have been thrilled and giddy at the tranfer, into his warm hands, the empowerment pent up in this new instrument. What a convergence of highs.

And, of course, I don't mean to say that it was enthusiasm alone that delivered the goods. I think that the new lens had a lot to do with that.

I'm a little staggered at the thought that the transcendence I availed myself of in these photos, which undid me by taking me into the regard of people I could never have approached on my own, is so entwined with the stolid, the material; that gadget, the lens. The attachment, though, is suffused by a spirit, namely Teju Cole. And neither is the technical object, the lens, free of spirit, as it's parts are ordered by the imagination of an inventor and it has its own intent: to seize light clearly.

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Who was Cassandra?

  • In the Iliad, she is described as the loveliest of the daughters of Priam (King of Troy), and gifted with prophecy. The god Apollo loved her, but she spurned him. As a punishment, he decreed that no one would ever believe her. So when she told her fellow Trojans that the Greeks were hiding inside the wooden horse...well, you know what happened.