Detail of Wave painting by MB Boissonnault
I have been thinking about revolution and what it means to an artist. The word is loaded with meaning - to revolt or to revolve? It also contains the word 'evolution'. So the question arises in my mind, are we really tearing down the status quo and forging new paths in art, or are we simply evolving and revolving around the same concepts as we always have?
For me this is a personal and philosophical question that can be directly applied to my art. To dispense with the rigid and rule based in favor of exploring and rebelling to create new work. But we can see that revolution within society also creates strong ripples in the art community. As the collective intuitive of the group of artists turns its attention to the tide of new thinking they incorporate these ideas into their work, knowingly or unknowingly.
Many feel that artists are the canary in the coal mine – the first to notice and say what others are too afraid to voice. The first to feel the change and not be able to repress their reaction to it. Recently a local show went up in Ojai called Water Works II. The show had been formulated far in advance of the recent drought in California but what was surprising was how many artists were looking at water as a subject to explore.
When artists pull the collective attention to a dire issue they facilitate the evolution/revolution of the conversation and ideas by giving it a visual focus. It is the horrible/beautiful that art can be, such as Delacroix and his view of the the bloody and violent French Revolution, that stands the test of time once all the revolutionary rhetoric has faded away.
Liberty Leading the People, Eugène Delacroix
There is an old saying, "Those who do not study history are doomed to repeat it." By arming ourselves with the knowledge of the past we promote a revolution in ideas, but the lack of knowledge dooms us to another revolution around the same path of history as before.