Wednesday, September 15, 2010
Ego & Loss of Control
Making art is for me an exercise in letting go of control. Always has been, no matter what the medium. It may seem odd when you look at my current work to think that it's about relinquishing control, since the work is so tight and contained. But I'm not talking about flailing about my studio in the heat of passion, throwing paint brushes at the canvas. Trust me, I've done that. That's not letting go of control; that's sheer madness. The only thing that came out of that was a bunch of broken brushes and some ripped canvases.
No, I'm talking about letting go of the inner control that we all hold onto in our lives. You know, ego. Thinking that we've got it all figured out, and proceeding as if our tidy little lives were in our command. It doesn't take much to rock the boat and remind us that we're but pieces of straw, floating in a beautiful, infinite sea. A lovely image, but terrifying as hell.
The more I let go and let the creative juices flow wherever they will, the more interesting the work is. Every now and again I get a clever idea for a text drawing, and I stubbornly execute it, letter by letter. The first clue that it's not going to be very interesting is that it doesn't flow. It feels constrained, and has a cookie cutter look to it. And when it's finished, it's brittle in look and feel; it has that 'clever' look that's so often associated with the ego.
It's all very subtle, and indeed maybe I'm the only one who would notice the difference. But all artists know what it's like to feel creative energy move through them. It's qualitatively different from the kind of creativity that's forced and manipulated. When you feel the flow of energy, and when you know it's not coming from you, the best thing you can do is step out of the way and let it move freely. The more I do this, the more it tends to flow. And the more it flows, the more my ego is leeched out of the process.
Where does it go, I wonder? During those extended moments of creativity, when it's not needed? Does my ego take a nappy? Does it go shopping? Is it up to some mischief that I'm not aware of (yet?) I don't even want to know. Have fun! Knock yourself out! And don't hurry home on my account.
Above: The Twenty-Third Psalm, from 'Yoga - The Way of Self-Fulfillment' by J. Vijayatunga. 5.5 x 3.5", 2010. I cut the letters from the book on Yoga to create the beloved 23rd Psalm from the Bible.