Art and the Artist

But why should we label artists as belonging to some place or by their sexual orientation? Inevitable, how gender, caste/race and class inevitably come up to introduce the creator of art in all reviews. By knowing the background of the artist, perhaps unconsciously our lens adjusts itself to respond to their art in a manner that comes from biases, both aware and unaware. In the wake of creative people who have since become infamous for their sexual offences, there is a conflict between how one views the creator and the creation. And then the question follows, should art be seen separate from the artist’s life?

I’m not an artist and have no understanding of technique, history or philosophy of art. All I know is how I respond to it mostly at a visceral level. And it remains just that, a personal response, often intuitive and completely subjective. Yesterday was a cocktail of different stimuli, yoga- shared and studied, work, an interesting webinar (first time I listened in to one while sitting in the woods), a quiet movie, some reading and an essay on an artist.

That last one there piqued my curiosity and I spent time looking through the artist’s website, www.salmantoor.com . It’s not the kind of art I might go seeking but something compelled me to dwell on it for a while. A few themes from many aspects of my day echoed in his work. The day saw two triads of thought, Gender, Race and Class was one and the other was exclusion, exploitation and expendability. These are playing out loudly on a world stage at present but closer home, the story has been the same in my small universe of work. For now, they’ll just simmer until that post writes itself out.

Back to the artist, I felt there was a thread of an essential loneliness in the subjects of his art. Some solitary and awake, some asleep, some in twos or in groups but disconnected-connected. There was an overarching sense of a resigned aloneness of each individual, an underscoring of the impossibility to ever truly share space, awake, asleep or in dreams. Even in intimacy between two people, there is a movement towards separation, a parting that is implicit.

All his paintings are of people and the bookshelf ones also have people in photo frames. Something about them reminds me of a Van Goghian anxiety and there is a drawing into his world with a colour wash of greens and quick facial features, particularly the sense organs. The bodies seem to be treated with a pallor of disregard, an indifference and the backgrounds have an emptiness of urban spaces even when crowded with people.

I didn’t find sadness as much as I found a capturing of something like apathy, there is hope yet. It feels as if the paintings are a seeking that has not found its destination yet and as a viewer I want to know the outcome. I want it to be of resolution but there’s also the possibility that it will never come. The tableaus are a playing out of images of ideas of what might be thought of as revelry through a debauchery, reminiscent of opulent pasts in a present continuum with the paraphernalia of a global 21st century, including the ubiquitous cell phone.

The trees where they appear are barren almost always. Blues and browns make up much of his colours besides the green. The orange-white pairing when it occurs feels like the possibility of something outside the normal a slight elevation perhaps, of a different response but there appears to be no definite outcome yet. Through all of the works I saw on his site, I experienced the painter in the paintings, as much a part of the pigments in the canvas as his subjects. Some of the paintings that caught my attention almost immediately were Immigration men, Boy in Window. Floating Shelf II (this felt like a peek into the artist), Confession and the Green Bar. Needless to say, these are just personal musings that found their way here and in no way a review, I am not qualified to do so. And all of this meandering is probably way off what the artist intended.

Since it’s been an arty post, here’s a recent water colour on paper by the resident artist.

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10 thoughts on “Art and the Artist

  1. There is a certain despondency to his paintings—I found them somewhat unpleasant (uninviting) but compelling. I always feel self conscious when I write about poetry because I know there is a sense among some that only poets should write about poetry. But how does encourage people to read poetry if they are afraid of not understanding it “right”. I insist on writing anyhow. Most poets and writers I know are very happy with personal reflections and readings. They want their work to resonate. I suspect most artists are the same way.

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    1. Compelling is the word. I prefer themes of light and this art was very different from any I have seen. Your reviews are a pleasure to read always. The last one especially so and I’ve made a note to get my hands on a copy of the book. Thanks.

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      1. Thank you for the good words. I love reading poetry, especially contemporary single author volumes—each one is like stepping into a different world. And I am getting more comfortable responding to them.

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  2. A few notes:
    1. You are an artist.
    2. You are an astute observer, and, as such, are eminently qualified to review art of all genres; witness this sensitive and penetrating reflection.
    3. I found this artist’s work melancholy. All joy seems to be tamped down… It made me reflect if I allow for those whose gender, colour, and cultural background differ from my own to exalt in their own unique beauty. Do I make space for the other? The current conversations are forcing me to look at this. It’s uncomfortable. Which is good.
    4. The “resident artist” is… astounding. That is a very beautiful piece you included. I would love to see more…

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    1. You’re always kind Kate! Thank you. I think staying with the uncomfortable or the unpleasant allows for a moving beyond. Little K, who is not so little says Thank you. One of her pictures is getting ready for its trip across the Atlantic. 🙂

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  3. I enjoyed this post. I’ve recently been posting thoughts on my blog about artists and artist’s statements, and I liked reading about your “visceral” response. Thank you for sharing your thoughts in this post. What I loved most was the thought of listening to a webinar while sitting out in the woods. Oh, how interesting that must have been! I’m going to browse around your blog a bit this morning. I like what I’m seeing here. 🙂

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    1. Thank you Judith. 🙂 The webinar was definitely less fatiguing in the woods. You have a lovely blog and it’s interesting to hear your thoughts as you discover your art. I wrote this and realized your blog is so perfectly titled. 🙂

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      1. Thanks! Art has, indeed, been quite a process of discovery for me. I learn new things every day, and that’s exciting. I love sketching outdoors, and I’m looking forward to cooler weather in the upcoming months so I can visit our nearby hiking trails and spend a little time in nature.

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