People tend to think that creative work is an expression of a pre-existing desire or passion, a feeling made manifest, and in a way it is. As if an overwhelming anger, love, pain or longing fills the artist or composer, as it might with any of us – the difference being that the creative artist then has no choice but to express those feelings through his or her given creative medium. I proposed that more often the work is a kind of tool that discovers and brings to light that emotional muck. Singers (and possibly listeners of music too) when they write or perform a song don’t so much bring to the work already formed emotions, ideas and feelings as much as they use the act of singing as a device that reproduces and dredges them up. The song remakes the emotion – the emotion doesn’t produce the song. Well, the emotion has to have been there at some point in one’s life for there to be something from which to draw. But it seems to me that a creative device – if a work can be considered a device – evokes that passion, melancholy, loneliness or euphoria but is not itself an expression, an example, a fruit of that passion. Creative work is more accurately a machine that digs down and finds stuff, emotional stuff that will someday be raw material that can be used to produce more stuff, stuff like itself – clay to be available for future use.
David Byrne [reflecting on a conversation with Alice Rawsthorn, former director of the Design Museum] Bicycle Diaries, p.192
Reminds me of a talk for the RCA Painting course by Paul Noble. I’m always interested in the way artists approach, or talk about, skill. It’s surprising how defensive even very successful artists can get when you draw attention to technique (Patrick Keiller was another). I asked Noble about it and he duly said that technique was unimportant. I can’t agree – surely his drawing relies on a sophisticated technique that will have taken years to hone, whether or not it was seen as an important element of the work’s content? He also said something like, “you don’t want to be reinventing yourself every day when you get to the studio”, which I like, even if it doesn’t fit with the disavowal of skill. Love his work too – some great ceramics in the 2007 Gagosian show, Dot to Dot: