Individual Voices in Art / by Jeannine Cook

Every time an artist has to interact with a gallery owner, a competition judge, a collector or the public, there are some implicit questions lurking at the back of the artist's mind:  is my art individual enough, does it stand out as different from the art created by others, will it retain my hallmark and stamp?

Every choice made in creating a work of art carries those implications and questions, even if we don't consciously think about them as we work.  Willy-nilly, the work of art will reflect who the artist is, even in commissioned work. Works of art are about things, people and places seen and remembered, with the resultant interpretation of what the eyes have observed, and the brain imagined, thought about and interpreted.  Thus each artist, as an individual, can develop that unique voice.  As Yeoh Guan Yong, of Shanghai's Super Nature Design, said, "Art is about finding individual voices and searching one's own heart and soul."

To do this requires an artist to be lucid about him or herself, honest and observant, in fact.  That little inner voice needs to be respected, and the ability to do this only comes with experience and active effort.  I was thinking about this development that every artist has to achieve as I was reading a wonderful new biography about Titian, Titian: His Life by Sheila Hale.  She brings out the fact that this quiet, elegantly behaved artist was observant and dedicated in his art, adapting examples from other artists to enrich and improve his own art, yet remaining very much in his own idiom as he developed into the great artist that he became.

Man with a Glove.  Image courtesy of Musee du Louvre, Paris
Image courtesy of  The National Gallery, London. Bought, 1904 © The National Gallery, London

Titian's portraits, as in the examples above,with their powerful simplicity and psychological penetration, also demonstrate the other maxim that we all need to remember, as practising artists: "Simple is not always best, but the best is always simple." Only when we refine and refine our art to be true unto ourselves can we hope to achieve a voice that others can recognise as ours and ours alone.  That is a lifetime occupation!