The more creative the endeavor, the further it will be from accepted standards and recognizable patterns.
The artist who desires to make something new is destined to become a voice calling in the wilderness, working through uncertainty toward a vision for which there is no map or guarantees. This role of individualistic outlier, testing the boundaries of self expression, carries with it the simultaneous potential of recalibrating the world's perceptions and also the risk of being wholly inconsequential.
Often the greats are gone long before their contribution is recognized. Truly creative contribution is something which may be less common than we realize. Much of what claims to be original is not inspired. Thus, when something fundamentally new comes along that does not align with our preconceptions, it can be difficult to process.
The status quo is the status quo for many reasons, not the least of which is the fact that the status quo tends to work. Human value systems tend to rightfully orient us toward utility. By definition, creativity is a process rife with failure. As much of what is produced when trying something new is not useful, it is suitably dismissed.
Moreover, one person's perspective is rarely potent enough to impact the whole. Yet, every now and then an artist steps up and informs our collective understanding radically by way of their work, destabilizing established order. This can be dangerous to more rigid systems. By way of extreme example, when the Nazis hosted their "Entartete Kunst" (Degenerative Art) show in 1937 they demonstrated this point. They understood precisely the power of individual, honest expression. They deeply feared the contagion of the stand-alone soul willing to deconstruct state-sanctioned norms.
The artists I admire are stand-alone souls. They are exiles, of a sort. They develop their own way of speaking graphically and use it to address the existential complexity of the human condition. Artists who wrestle in this intangible realm, as did Blake, Goya, Munch, Kollwitz, Van Gogh, Cezanne, Matisse, Picasso, Bacon, DeKooning, and Carl Jung are exemplary.
A deep understanding of the human condition - of suffering - seems to be the common thread running through the work of these distinct contributors.
Artists are not immune from the common forces which govern people. On the contrary, because art’s value is wholly subjective, artists often find themselves at the bottom of the social hierarchy and feel these forces to their fullest extent. Nothing is more difficult to monetize than work that addresses life's hardest questions with vulnerability. If an artist wants material goods and recognition, they must do one of two things: either manipulate their work into a form which maximizes appeal and commerciality or find another avenue to resource unrelated to their work. As I mature, these two paths seem less and less compatible. Either art serves collective, external ends or the greater questions of the interior.
Much of the popular art we consume lacks spiritual merit. In a time when humanity is growing increasingly facile at image making, what could be more important than depth of meaning?
Work rooted in earnest experimentation without consideration of commercial consequence is rare. If intent matters - and I contend that intent is more critical than any technical factor - then it is ultimately the artist who approaches their work with transparency of soul who stands the greatest chance of making a significant contribution. That’s what I strive for in my painting – a voice that is mine, a language that is new, a truthful call into the cosmos.