Tag Archives: knowledge

Who Cares About the Title?

A couple of days ago I came across a very interesting post (on the WordPress front page – to see it click here).  In it David introduced me to the work of two artists, who together create under the name Guerra de la Paz.  An interesting name, which combines their last names into one in a way that makes a statement all on its own.

Even more interesting were the responses to the post.  They got me thinking about where viewers perception and artists intentions meet, and the role that a painting’s title plays in that.

I started with the idea that an artist (usually) creates with intention – based on an idea, a concept, a scene, a message they want to share – and the title they give their work is one way of communicating what their intention is.

The responses I read were thoughtful and interesting, but not everyone paid attention to the titles.

I know that each person sees and thinks differently; each person brings their own experiences to looking at art.  Not only that – at different times in their lives, changes in ideas and knowledge make people look at work they have seen before in new ways.  The same way that when we re-read favorite books when we are older we find ourselves approaching them from the different perspectives.

To me, now, a title is a part of the context of a piece of art work.  So the fact that not everyone paid attention to them interested me.  Maybe they simply didn’t notice them?  Maybe the work and the title did not seem to fit together?  As an artist, is there something I should learn from this?  At some point, at some stage, does viewer perception trump artists intention?

And if so, does it matter?



Hatred Burns

Inside me an image is burning.

Today we heard news that a cross was burned on a lawn in Nova Scotia.  A bi-racial couple lived in the house .  The gesture was aimed at them.  Not at who they are as people – its doubtful that the burners and yellers care to know who they really are – but at what they are in someone else’s mind.  It seems that someone hates the idea of them, and they are using a powerful symbol to express how they feel.

What could cause such hatred?  What allow it to be expressed?

Whenever and wherever hatred is spoken, against any person or any group, it spreads like poison through the world we live in, and provides fodder and fuel for the ignorant and angry .  And as it does so it builds division and fear – in both the haters and the hated.  Hatred, as we have seen over and over again, has the ability to tear our world apart.

For some, it has this advantage.  Hatred is lazy – it is much easier to hate than to think.  Much easier to feel and act on that one sensation than learn to live with the complexity of life.  The hater can simply take whole groups of people, lump them together as one, and focus all their anger and contempt on them.

Our leaders have a role to play.  When they choose to act in hateful ways, when they make personal attacks or speak disdainfully of whole groups of people, that gives others permission to think the same way, and to express such hateful thoughts loudly and proudly.  Those who are leaders set the tone for those inclined to follow; and there will, as we can see, always be those that follow.   Following too is easier.

Among those who feel hatred there will be some who take the next logical step.  Thinking that others find their feelings acceptable and reasonable, they will move from hateful words to hateful action.  And therein lies the greatest danger, the one that faces us all.

Are those leaders who show and encourage contempt responsible for these kinds of actions, actions based on the perception that such contempt is normal, and hateful expressions correct?

It is something I am thinking about.

Whose Shoulders Do We Stand On?


“If I have seen further it is by standing on the shoulders of giants.” Isaac Newton.

Newton acknowledged that his revolutionary theories found their roots in the work of others. Building knowledge is a cumulative process, and the results, for better or for worse, accumulate around us. As knowledge becomes accepted more widely then human ideas lead to human creations that become objects and concepts we integrate into our lives.

It’s a good thing we never have to start from scratch. Consider the difficulties – we would have no home, no clothes, no farming, no way of cooking – nothing we did not create ourselves. Should we find time for creating images, we artists would have to make our colours from earth and clay and plants, and paint on rocks or other natural surfaces. Writers would have to tell stories instead of write them, carry their stories with them to share with one or two or a few instead being able to send their words in books or files around the world. Because every one of these things and many, many others we take for granted were created by someone else who developed them based on knowledge developed by someone else before them, starting at a time so long ago and in a place so far from here that we find it hard to imagine a world in which such knowledge and skills did not exist. We stand and build our lives on the shoulders of many, many who have gone before, whether or not we acknowledge it.

Why would I bring this up? Because we so often ignore the fact that we are nothing without all the things that those who came before us learned and passed on. We would not even be able to read this if someone else had not invented the alphabet we use – never mind enjoy the benefits of printing, books, computers. Counting would be pretty difficult too, if others had not figured out how to do it and then how to write down numbers. Someone had to figure out how to measure things, draw maps and charts to guide others, make the wheel – never mind engines. The list goes on and on.

What kind of people created the many things we take for granted? We will never know about the lives of many of the early inventors and explorers, but we can be sure that they were people who observed, learned, explored, analysed, created. Perhaps they had to create new things to survive; perhaps they invented new things to meet a need; perhaps they simply enjoyed the pleasure of achieving a new understanding, finding new way of doing things.

In the end, I’m not sure that their motivation matters. But I do think we owe it to all who have struggled to understand and to create to treat the gifts of knowledge they have left us with respect, to acknowledge them, use them well and add, if we can, our own little bit to the store. For those who will stand on our shoulders.

What Would Leonardo Be?


What Would Leonardo Be?

One of my joys has been poring through the parts of Leonardo da Vinci’s notebooks that have been printed. Full of intricate diagrams, observations and theories, they give some insight into a man who was both scientist and artist.

Then today I opened the twice-weekly letter from Robert Genn to find him exploring a subject near to my heart – the idea that scientists and artists are not separate species, but have much in common. He began by talking about Frank Oppenheimer’s Exploratorium . To quote Robert:

“Frank Oppenheimer believed that artists and scientists were cut from the same cloth, destined to be the sensitive eyes and ears of mankind and the creators of human progress.”

Much has been written on the subject, and examinations of the processes by which great scientists and great artists have reached beyond the known to open new areas to exploration certainly seem to suggest that they have much in common.

Breakthroughs are based on both width and depth of knowledge, exploration, categorization, experimentation and a rigorous method for assessing the new knowledge gained. And an ability to know what matters, and what should be put aside.

Those are the broader themes. On the personal level, it seems to me that the links between the artist and the scientist include the ability to visualize, to see patterns, to weed out unnecessary distractions, and to play with ideas and concepts both consciously and unconsciously.

Like Leonardo. Or Einstein. Or Frank Oppenheimer.