conceptual art

Making Art by Jeannine Cook

I came across an interesting quote today: Sol Lewitt was talking of the "primacy of idea in making art". His thesis was the idea itself, even if it is not eventually made visual, is as much a finished work of art as any finished product. This is as succinct a statement as one could wish about Conceptual art.

Lewitt continued, "All intervening steps, scribbles, sketches, drawings, failed works, models, studies, thoughts, conversations are of interest." Thus the idea, the intention, the gestures, are all almost part of a choreography of creation, of making art.

Sol LeWitt ,  Wall Drawing 565 , June 1988 (Image courtesy of SFMOMA)

Sol LeWitt, Wall Drawing 565, June 1988 (Image courtesy of SFMOMA)

Whilst I know that some art-making is indeed a process of this type, with ideas that might or might end up as visual art, I find that there are other ways that art gets made. For instance, I know that when I am working plein air amidst wonderful scenery, I very soon find that after the initial spark of excitement and assessment of the viability of composition, what medium to use, and other technical considerations, I am no longer "thinking" at all. I am just some sort of channel for my eyes and my hand to work together to produce art. The process is in essence pure reaction, beyond having any idea per se. However, it does also mean that one needs to have a lot of practice, of trial and error, in order to make decent art, because instinct is not always a good guide to art-making!

Dedication and hard work are needed, in fact, whether one's avenue is conceptual or not. Making art is fascinating, complex, many faceted and endlessly stimulating. Sol Lewitt was an eloquent ambassador for art-making.