Tuesday, April 26, 2005

Things I'll Never Understand - Art for Art's Sake?


"Art is a jealous mistress; and if a man has a genius for painting, poetry, music, architecture or philosophy, he makes a bad husband and an ill provider."

-Ralph Waldo Emerson


I had taken a choice early in life.  I could either work hard to achieve perfection in my pursuit of art or leave it totally and join the rat race and be an ordinary wage earner.  I chose the latter because I had no stomach for suffering.  All the stories I'd heard about great artists and musicians, who had suffered for their art really scared me off.  Besides, I'd  probably go off the deep end if I have to live such an isolated life.  And in my dreams when I was younger, I'd already seen myself as a loving husband, a wonderful, understanding father to my kids.  I wouldn't let them suffer for a second if I can help it. 


Once in a while I exhibited some of my paintings at the Penang Museum and Art Gallery.  At some of the forums I attended with other artists, I learned that to be true to your art you must make sacrifices for it.  You must not commercialize it.  You must work on art for art's sake.  And so on and so forth...  sheez...


I found out that most of these artists who preach 'art for art's sake' are school teachers or sell art equipment.  They can survive because they have steady income.  I had nothing.  My dad couldn't afford to send me to college.  There were no local art schools.  Only training I could get was from a local artist who taught part time.  My dad actually asked me to continue to work on the farm and work on my art in the afternoons when it is too hot to be outside.  I couldn't see any logic in this arrangement unless I'm a machine.  Pour in fuel, start me up and I'll go.  No way.... 


So, I dropped the idea, shined my shoes and went to town looking for a job.



  1. So, now you can start to "art for art's sake"....

  2. I don't know now. It's been too long that I have left it behind. The passion has died. My hands are still willing, but the mind can't find the creative spark in it. It's like trying to raise the dead. I've seen too much REAL LIFE all these years, the innocence is gone forever. My only consolation now is in writing. In this medium, I can explore my deepest emotions and describe them to infinite detail. I've learnt to weave and wind my vocabulary and paint a picture with a thousand words. The reverse side of using a painting to speak those words.

    I'm still trying though. It's like hoping to find an artistic viagra? hahaha....

  3. The spark may come out one day, don't need to try so hard, and don't need viagra.....

  4. The spark may come out one day, don't need to try so hard, and don't need viagra.....

  5. Yeah i guess it is true that those artist need to sacrifice a lot for art`s sake..

    If we see it in another perspective, we have to thank them...if there are no painting, poetry, music, architecture or philosophy exists for `art for art`s sake` then there will be no beautiful drawings, poems, songs, great buildings, idioms, designs that we can enjoy or proud of. And with all that only we have history, philosophies...Socrates, Da Vinci, Picasso, Van Gogh with all their work & style...With those people sacrifice for art, only there will be people to enjoy..this is the truth world out there of give and take...
    Come to think of it, from the influence of art/design, they really play important role in our life ..or else it will be so dull..with art/design, only you will see the essense, or the attraction in it. Why do people get prefer a house with nicer interior design, car with nice interior/exterior and so forth..Why is a packaging so important? Why do people only buy the product with great advertisements?

    uncle, i don't think your passion is no longer there..your creative spark and the essence of passion will always be somewhere out there...
    You might not notice that your creativeness is always sparking while you are taking photos, cooking, talking, composing, writing, sleeping....

    never too late to catch up with what you have interest in..:)

  6. ooooh..!! Hean, you're such a dear. You've put it in such a nice way, I'm really touched. I think I'll wake up one day and just pick up from where I left off.....

  7. totally agree, this was exactly the thing i wanted to say to my friends when they asked me am i really going to take the course that might turn me to a wantan mee seller 1 day.

    and dad, it is such a big waste of you not to continue drawing. i always think that you will draw after your retirement since you've been in art class b4.
    anyway, taking photos is a way of composing art too, easy, fast and can take a lot, kekeke..

  8. I've been thinking of that more often than I care to admit. Perhaps I'll just let it come back naturally. Meanwhile I'll just do what I want to do... take pictures, blog...just write on whatever comes to mind and just have some fun. It's perhaps my subconscious reaction to revive the spark. I know what I do are not up to professional quality, but I'm not worried about it. Someone said, "Tell me what you do in your spare time, and I'll tell you what you'll be doing in a few years' time". I believe in that saying.

    In the meantime, I'm happy just to see that you guys are having the opportunities I never had. After all, it's happiness that's what we all want, right?

  9. sometimes i feel like i'm study art for you, my artworks are like from you and to you. i'm always happy to show the work that i'm statisfy, it is juz like praising you for the work i've done.
    thats y i never show my ugly work, scared will ruin your reputation...:P

  10. There's no such thing as perfection in this life. We all have to live with our imperfections. So don't be afraid to show your work if you think they're good enough. Remember, 'beauty is in the eye of the beholder'. Each person views an object in a different way. If you think something's not right, you may want a second opinion, so lets' view it and give you our opinions. Then only you can improve. What I'm doing now is to show you the road in life and leading you by my example. That's why I keep writing about these things. Eventually, you'll have to grow out and be yourself, and do things for yourself. There's no way you can ruin my reputation. I don't have one because I'm not famous (yet?)

  11. Oh..no.no wantan mee..there is a bright future in art/design..if not..those art/design colleges wont be growing like `hot cakes` or like `cendawan tumbuh selepas hujan` Hope u understand what i mean :p. kekeke...Afterall, both of you are having the natural talent! For uncle, even you have to sacrifice your interest in your earlier age, I am happy for you for achieving your dreams for being a loving husband to aunty, understanding father to your kids. Be proud of yourself and your children for having the talent..I hope that i dont sound too old like a grandmother :p

    Thanks for your advice uncle, will try to live & learn..:)

  12. I don't think there are such thing as "professional quality" in arts, and the price of an art work is not equal to how professional it is....It is the person himself who did it...

  13. if want to count the professionality, that is call commercial art.

  14. You've got me there.... That's one of the kind of arguments I used to face with. Should an artist 'sell' his works? Should he put a high price on his own work? Should he only create works that can make money? Selling. Price. Money. Problems for me begin when patronage & customer's demand comes in. Once that kind of pressure is put on me, I lose my enthusiasm. I couldn't understand this myself.... Whenever someone comes to me and say, "I want you to do this job in such and such a way," or "paint such and such a scenery for me" I freeze up. I lost interest.

    I suspect that those great names in art like Picasso, Renoir, Van Gogh, Matisse must have faced the same kind of problem. But they just did what they wanted without caring about what others want them to do. That's why with guys like Picasso, everybody thinks little kids could do what he did, yet his works cost millions. Why? I suspect he came in when people started speculating on art. Like in stocks. And some made millions, which stirred up a lucrative market.....(just my opinion)

    By being 'professional' I mean the work must have the correct composition, balance in color, shades, shapes, lines, harmony and etc. Just like a piece of music. If, without all these good points, you get only a lot of noise, not music.

  15. Maybe you have a point there, but I'd say there has to be professionalism in every job (art, craft, design, photograph, etc) otherwise, there'd be no consistency. I mean, you'll be only producing one acceptable job out of a whole load of 'rubbish' by your lucky shot....because you're not trained in the basic principles of doing a consistently well-balanced, harmonious job which is pleasant to look at by the majority of people.... Whether it's commercial or fine arts, I believe all have to adhere to the basic principles. You do know that when a whole gang of you see something nice, and you say it's "nice", and everybody thinks, ya ya. That sort of principle.