Thursday, April 09, 2009

Sources of Artists' Inspiration

Inspiration refers to an unconscious burst of creativity in an artistic, musical, or other intellectual endeavour. Literally, the word means “breathed upon” and has its origins in both Hellenism and Hebraism. In many religions, inspiration is believed to be a gift from the gods. Sigmund Freud and other later psychologists located inspiration in the inner psyche of the artist. The artist’s inspiration came out of the unresolved psychological conflict or childhood trauma. Further, inspiration could come directly from the subconscious. As Freud situated inspiration in the subconscious mind, Surrealist artists sought out this form of inspiration by turning to dream diaries and automatic writing, the use of Ouija boards and found poetry to try to tap into what they saw as the true source of art. In this research assignment, I will examine 2 artists’ work and how they find/found their inspiration; Del Kathryn Barton and Gustav Klimt.

Sydney artist Del Kathryn Barton creates obsessively detailed drawings of young women. Adorned and embellished with flourishes, tiny dots and patterns, these images display a compulsive beauty in their infinite detail. With technical dexterity, Barton’s labour of markings in pencil, acrylic, watercolour and gouache derive from a foundation in drawing.

The most striking feature of her characters must be their eyes; puddle-sized, liquid, shiny, deer-like eyes that are dizzying and saddened, swimming amongst the wash of watercolour cheeks. When asked about this aspect of her work, Barton says it was all to do with the birth of her first child and her obsession with her new born son’s eyes.
Sexuality also enters upon her work frequently. Her intention is not to shock, as these sexual images are not always the most startling part of her paintings and are often painted in such a delicate, beautiful way, it can take a few minutes of study to actually see them. Barton uses the sexual content as a means to push her personal comfort levels.
Gustav Klimt was an Austrian painter, who was one of the most prominent members of the Vienna Art Nouveau movement. His major works include paintings, murals and sketches. His primary materials would have been canvas, charcoal and oil paint. Many of Klimt’s paintings feature gold leaf, the most prominent of which are ‘The Kiss’ and ‘Portrait of Adele Bloch-Bauer I’.Although Klimt did little travel in his lifetime, he did visit Venice and Ravenna, both famous for their beautiful mosaics which most likely inspired his gold technique and his Byzantine imagery, as well as his meticulous designs.
Klimt’s primary subject was the female body – more specifically the femme fatale - and his works are marked by a frank eroticism which is most apparent in his numerous drawings in pencil. He used mythology to thinly disguise his highly erotic nature, however, his drawings and sketches however display an explicit desire for the opposite sex and often reveal a purely sexual interest in women as objects.
Inspiration is an elusive thing. I know this is true for me, and I am sure for other artists too. Although there are many stimuli available in the world for artists; books, dreams, personal interests, television, people, films, magazines, nature, relationships, other artists, having that “light bulb” moment is so very rare. After investigating the artists Del Kathryn Barton and Gustav Klimt, I feel the best way to overcome an artistic block is to examine those things in life which are closest to you, and express that in your work.
(from my research assignment)

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