Tuesday, 2 December 2014

What can art make us feel? / Nigel Prestatyn                                                                                 

I was pondering over this question recently because I began to wonder what do I want people to feel about my art!

To answer it I had to put myself in the position of a viewer of my art, rather than a creator. Of course one would think it wholly natural for an artist to begin by thinking how an idea for a work may affect people, but often times, it can be the other way round. You have an idea for a work, you create it, and then, if at all, you may consider how this work may affect people.

It is not entirely impossible for some artists to not care a jot about how their art affects people. To give any consideration at any point throughout its creation as to how the work may emotionally affect people.

Now this could be my naïve take on things. It could be that I’m basing this on my own shortcomings. I’ve often considered how people might emotionally react to my work, but in a very general way.
But the language we most commonly use as artists is often a language designed to express the work’s meaning. So we possess a language to convey the conceptual underpinnings of the work. This in turn will determine to a degree people’s responses, but perhaps intellectual responses, rather than emotional responses. But it is emotional responses that I’m interested in.

 So the question is not what people think (though naturally this is of course very important), but more a question of what do people feel about my work: or more specifically what do I want people to feel about my work?

Well when I first considered this question I have to confess I didn’t feel I had the necessary language to answer this question.

So what can we feel about works of art? There are of course as many answers as there are spectators. A Rothko can convey a religious quietitude for some, whereas for others it may convey a sense of melancholia, and for others something different entirely.

So there is no definitive answer of how a specific work of art can affect people. But in a hypothetical world, how would I like my work to effect people on an emotional level?

As a hyperrealist I create images of everyday objects. How we respond to these everyday objects in actual daily life, and how we respond to them in a painting, are different. We don’t regard several figs in a bowl on our tables as a work of art (so no emotional aesthetic response), yet when this image is transferred to a canvas it can convey an emotional response (though there are likely many who argue otherwise).

As a hyperrealist I’m obsessed with detail, and for many their responses can often begin with the technical matters of a painting. But in what way can a painting of several figs in a glass bowl move people on an emotional level.

 I think the emotional response would need to involve a response to beauty. For these objects are beautiful - or at least that is how I see them. Hopefully others would too. Is it not too far fetched to hope that one would have a similar emotional response to a rising sun as they would a painted image of figs? Is this expecting too much?

 But what do we feel in the face of great beauty? We feel a sense of awe, wonderment, perhaps even a tingle of excitement? When I look out of my flat window and see a striking skyline, there is quietness, a sense of humility in the face of such monumental natural beauty. But is it hard to make this kind of emotional transition for art? When we see a butterfly or a beautiful flower, we are fascinated by its formal properties. These properties in turn can make us feel a certain way.

Unfortunately I don’t have the perfect answer as to what emotional response I would like from viewers of my work. I think I would simply ask that they feel the beauty of these objects. For it is a beauty heightened, exaggerated, a ‘hyper’ real beauty. There will always be a sense of wonderment at the minutiae of the natural world, as well as the monumental, and with both perhaps a feeling of awe, however mild or intense.

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