the many quotable artist assertions about the nature of art,
that of Albrecht Durer, the Northern Renaissance master, stands
out for the truth and humility of its sentiment. Remember
I am quoting from the 16th Century -
"God sometimes grants to man understanding of how
to make something the like of which in his day could
not have been found".
So art, in terms of the New Zealand writer and scholar E.
H. McCormack's definition of cultural accretion, defines the
path traversed, and suffuses the onward path we travel.
The artist, and I am talking about the true artist, by which
I mean one whose imprint with the passage of time is as clear
and relevant as it ever was. Such work accommodates insight,
wit, magic, humanity, humour, invention - and the use of invention
in novel, clarifying and unsettling ways consistent with and
responsive to the illnesses, the issues and the imperatives
of the times. Therefore the artist is both shaped by, and
shapes, the cultural and political landscape we inhabit.
In the diversity of this contemporary life with its burgeoning
population of artists (I seem to remember a recent reference
to 33,000 painters in Sydney alone) one could imagine that
a critical mass of built and painted images has already been
overreached and certainly the existing forum for their presentation
to the public is far short of what is needed - even for established
The internet not only offers undreamed of access and promotion
to an audience of purchasers, distributors, participants and
respondents, and for the dissemination and rationale of the
work, it also offers alternatives to that critical mass in
terms of new sorts of experimental artistic and cultural practices
and work. It is becoming an overwhelming factor for new forms
of expression and appreciation, providing new conduits for
multi-layered experiences and richly tapestried interactions
in which art and life are bonded evermore seamlessly.
With the thrill of a hundred or of thousands of hits a day,
and with the sheer weight, scale and availability of ideas,
contexts, images and interventions, the artist can succumb
very quickly to an exhaustion of exposure - the quick-kill
syndrome of fashion, the nanosecond attention and retention
span, the numbing bite of issues of ownership after countless
instantaneous electronic edits, cuts and pastes. And this
with the consequence that the idea of sorting out the "wheat
from the chaff" might not apply in a present where everything
is given equal value - and so may portend an era of neo-gothic
anonymity of the artist.
However, humanity always seeks a counter-prevailing force
to reset the system when the effect of over reaching becomes
unbearable. Humanity's restorative need surfaces, drawing
us back to that instinctive essence for our spiritual well-being,
to that "sense of truth that must have its play". As we have
always done, we seek the simplification which expresses and
embodies all of the new complexities of language and culture
while elevating our awareness of its meaning and implication
for our actions in the next time-space frame we have created.
Still the leap to a next level of knowledge, awareness and
of consciousness has been sustained.
Today's artist, the new artist, has grown up with this language
and its powerful agents; but like those in the past, the best
artists will have found within themselves the means to adapt
these tools, not as ends in themselves, but to the needs that
have always underpinned our deepest purposes; that of mind,
heart and spirit.
Another siren horizon has been breached to leave us breathless
at the newly revealed vista that forever changes and redefines
the nature of our ambitions.
The level of magnifying invention and imagination which "interactive
adapters", as we presently know them, parsed with virtual
space modules that we can "physically inhabit" - are but primitive
beginnings. Such exponentially-evolving constructs give rise
to new, fantastic strains of complex forms in which empowerment
rather than lassitude and subjugation enable each of us to
individually become agents of change - creatively, culturally
The world of tomorrow will be unimaginably different, but
it will still be a world among the stars that is indivisible
from the universe within.