"Suite dans les idees" - is it important in art? / by Jeannine Cook

I have always been fascinated by a consistency of thought in people as they develop an idea or a work. It seems often to be important to have a logical progression, an evolution of ideas that allow others to follow what is being done. Nonetheless, it seems often to be a challenge for artists to produce a consistent body of work, and I wonder more and more if it is that important.

In the art market, for instance, it is often considered desirable that an artist work in a coherent and understandably sequential fashion - think of Andy Warhol's series of silkscreen prints that have been so wildly successful from their creation. Art galleries are often reported to be less than enthusiastic if an artist suddenly changes and goes off in a very different direction in the work.

Personally, I realise that there are two warring tendencies in my art-making. I find it often to be rewarding to work in series, trying to explore aspects of a subject in a sequence of pieces. Yet I also love to go off in a totally different direction, trying another medium, another approach that has nothing to do with anything else I have done. So I was interested to find a quote about Joan Miro, who told an interviwer in 1928, that "when I've finished something, I've got to take off from there in the opposite direction" (from "A Conversation with Joan Miro", Francesc Tribal, La Publicite, 14 July 1928).

This observation is an insight into how an artist works - where the inspiration comes from, the wellspring of ideas and general artistic discipline. I think that many artists relate to Miro's way of working - variety is stimulating. They may later circle back to a previous theme, but with the subtle changes that time can impose.

This "suite dans les idees" - a coherency and consistency of ideas - can lead to the definition of an artist's style and hallmark. But it can also lead to repetition and even staleness. Perhaps Miro was wise to find reasons to renew his energies by challenge and change. The diversity of his oeuvre certainly makes a good case for going off in "the opposite direction".