Excuse Me While I Kiss The...
By: Andres Segovia
Published August 25, 2023
“If you haven't made an artwork in a while, you aren't an artist. 2 weeks is the longest in my opinion, coz (sic) if you love what you do, you paint the next day even after your one-man show.”
This was local artist Marius Black’s post on Facebook on August 23. To say that this was polarizing would be an understatement. Some defended the post, typically viewing it as perhaps a tactless but ultimately well-intentioned remark, or that perhaps everyone critical was just being close-minded or unduly harsh.
Those on the other side of the fence preferred to view it as the artist being dismissive of the nuances of other artists, or perhaps even that of the everyday person who cannot afford to pursue the things that they love.
I would posit, at the very least, that the post has at least drawn on a question as old as art itself: what makes an artist, an artist?
Disregarding, for the meantime, the timeframe he provided, Marius’ post at its core implies that what defines an artist is the quantity of the work they produce. The lower your output, the less the value of the artist, to the point of them not being an artist at all.
Those running to his defense try to refine this point by framing it along the lines of discipline and hard work; that these two things are fundamental to art, and by proxy, essential to the label of “artist.”
(Some went ahead and used the “I personally know Marius, he’s a good person” defense, but that’s neither here nor there.)
My argument against this would be that this is ultimately very reductive to the definition of what an artist is, and by extension, what art is. Frankly speaking, it flies in the face of the historical reality of art and artists.
One can point to some of the most prolific artists from the Renaissance, from Caravaggio to Da Vinci, producing hundreds of works throughout their lives. But hundreds pales in the implied bulk of work that Marius and those arguing in his defense expect from individuals aspiring to be artists; generously speaking, the 2-week figure translates to 24 works a year.
That means, as an example, Da Vinci, who historians posit as actively working between around 1466 to 1494, should have made upwards of 500 paintings. Instead, he only made around 20.
This, combined with him being notorious for both taking a long time to finish any particular piece of work (art or otherwise) and a tendency to not see things through to the end, would probably mean that Da Vinci does not qualify as an artist for Marius and those defending him.
But, obviously, one cannot refute that Da Vinci deserves the label of artist. Going beyond painting, other artists, in a looser definition we will get into later, have earned the label while going contrary to the definition that Marius and those going in his defense seem to want to impose. To name a few: Bring Me the Horizon (band; usually 2-3 years, even longer, between albums), Terrence Malick (director; going up to a decade between films), Retired tennis player Marat Safin or Martin “Wunder” Hansen in esports (notoriously undisciplined), Larian Studios (video game developer; average of 3, up to 6, years of development time)
So why are these individuals or groups considered as artists, even if they do not produce the same incredible quantities of work, or demonstrate the “discipline” and “consistency” expected by Marius?
This is where I would assert that art is something ultimately experienced by the viewer. It is the artist pouring their thoughts and emotions onto a canvas, literal or figurative, using the skills they have at their disposal.
The much-vaunted quantity of the experiences they produce is insignificant, at best, in comparison the quality of these experiences; a quality that is dependent on individuals other than the artist taking in their work.
The value of the art, and by extension, the artist is dependent on the experience their work provides; the feelings and thoughts that it elicits from the audience. Art, I would argue, is at its peak when it moves people to feel strongly, whether it is a sense of awe, disgust, joy, and everything else.
This is why Nirvana, despite only having released three albums, is still culturally relevant; why Van Gogh and his work continue to be romanticized so much; why Lord of the Rings continues to resonate with those that have either read the books or watched the films.
Art and artists live and die by the experiences they create.
With that, I feel it is only appropriate to leave with a question:
Why is Marius Black, and those defending him, fixated on defining art by numbers, and not by experiences?
Andres Segovia graduated from UP Mindanao with a degree in Media Arts. While he doesn’t consider himself a visual artist, he is someone who likes going off the deep end to enjoy art in different forms. He prefers to look beyond what things are— at the creative process, motivations, and general thesis on why things are. Segovia is a lifelong gaming enthusiast who enjoys particular role-playing games, looking for ways to dissect and optimize systems in games. He would list Damien Hirst, William Gibson, Rammstein, Hideaki Anno, and id Software as strong influences to his preferences in art. He is currently working for Tier One Entertainment. Segovia is the son of Filipino contemporary artist Bong Segovia who has had exhibits in prominent galleries across the Philippines.