Inspiration and Creativity in Art – Dr. Gil Dekel.

Inspiration and Creativity in Art – Dr. Gil Dekel.


How artists are inspired to create artworks? what is inspiration, how it affects,
how it comes into the artist and makes them want to create artworks? Now, many people will tell you that artists
are inspired by the external environment, by the historical events that they have
been living through; by their culture, the time, the place
where they live, their society. However, I have observed that artists have been
creating art in any time throughout history; artists have been creating art in ancient Greece
and they are creating in modern Britain. Artists have been creating art in times
of great prosperity and peace but artists were also creating in
times of great famine and wars. It seems artists have been creating art
throughout history, in any time, in any place
and in any culture. So these ‘external influences’
(time, space, cultures) do not seem to inspire the artist to create;
they do not instigate creativity. They may influence the tools that you
would use in art, the techniques that you would use, and the events that you would describe
in your artwork but they do not inspire artists to create
the artworks because artists have been creating in any time,
in any space, in any situation. I would like to show today through examples
of works of art that artists have been trying to tell us,
they have been trying to ‘shout’ out loud and say that inspiration is something unique.
It’s beyond what we may think, and through the history of art they
have been developing artworks, that is – paintings have been evolving in such
a way that give us some clues, through the artworks themselves,
through the paintings themselves, that tell us where inspiration is coming from,
how does it affect the artists and how we can all learn from it. So how are artists inspired to create?
What is inspiration? To get an answer to this question
we can draw to the great Aristotle. Aristotle suggested that there is an initial
problem with the way that we observe things. He would say that if you look at an object, for example a bookshelf, what you would see is the surface. On the surface of an object
you would see the colour; Now, the paint that you would see on a surface does not
tell you much about the materiality of the shelf itself. The paint, the surface, has its own essence and the materiality of the thing (the shelf) has
another essence, a different essence. So if you look at a shelf,
what you see is only the surface, the colour, the paint, which has nothing to
do with the materiality itself of the object (shelf). Aristotle says: ‘there is a problem with
the way that we see things; what we see does not tell us
about how it came to be.’ Aristotle was suggesting to observe
processes of nature; To observe nature
and learn how things come to be, how things join, how things turn from
one thing to another. That is Aristotle’s suggestion in the exploration of what is inspiration,
what is creativity, how things come to be… and he puts this task on artists. Aristotle was saying: ‘you artists,
you are good at observation. Your job is to go around in nature
and to describe, to draw, to paint – the processes in which nature evolves. Teach us how nature evolves and develops
through making paintings of it.’ So go out to nature and draw what
you see; draw the processes in nature. And initially, modern artists were
‘answering’ this call; and indeed, they would paint and draw
in a naturalistic, realistic way. They would paint what they see. This is an example from Vermeer,
a work done in 1616. What you can see here is a realistic, naturalistic
description of reality around us, of nature. This is just a city and this is a river, and the artist was trying to draw
the river as he sees it; The artist is trying to portray what he sees
in nature because Aristotle was telling us: ‘Look at nature, try to understand
the process and just draw it’, as if you had a camera and you
took a snapshot. So the first works of modern artists are what
we call realistic naturalistic, as if they had a camera; just
trying to take a snapshot. And in doing so they tried to
convey or learn about the processes of inspiration
and creativity within nature. Aristotle’s suggestion is really good
but what he suggested is to look at the creative process
within nature, and not within art. He was telling artists: ‘you should
observe nature.’ Aristotle didn’t really ‘care’ about
the artists themselves, he was just suggesting to use them
as a tool of exploration. William Blake, the English Romantic poet, puts some more insight into this quest
for inspiration. William Blake, like Aristotle,
was indeed admiring nature. William Blake was also saying that
the best place to create art is in nature; so being in nature would be
the best place to create art. However, he’s saying that there is indeed
a problem with the way we perceive reality; there is a problem with perception. What Blake was saying is that we do
not perceive by the human eye. As an artist he was saying that
indeed, he is inspired by nature; the best place to do artwork is in nature. But unlike Aristotle he suggests that
perception is not bound to organs. So Aristotle was telling us:
‘look at nature, and tell me how the creative process
operates there.’ William Blake said:
‘Yes, I love nature, this is great. But as an artist, my processes of inspiration and
creativity are not bound to perception. I cannot just look at nature. I can be in nature.
Nature is the best place for me to create. but perception is not bound by organs,
it is something that comes from within, something beyond the human eye.’ William Blake was suggesting that we
should try to look inside to see where creativity and
inspiration come to the artist. And indeed, we see that there is a
development in the history of art. For example, this work by El Greco is the first attempt to deconstruct
or to abstract nature. What we mean by ‘abstraction’, is that if you look closely you see
that the lines are very much vibrant; So he took the brush
and he was drawing like this… trying to break the shapes
that he sees in reality. So, El Greco is ‘saying’ in this work: ‘Yes, I admire nature; indeed
we need to learn from nature; but look, the nature that I depict, in this case the sky, this cloth,
the earth… is being portrayed by a vibrant
brush strokes.’ Vibrant brush strokes mean that he
wants to express himself. What is this ‘deconstruction’ about?
It’s about the artist who draws. It’s not about what he depicts,
it’s not about what he shows but about the technique that he’s using,
and the technique is his own personality. In this work El Greco is trying
to tell us that there is a balance. There is a balance between nature,
the external world, as a thing that inspires the process
of creativity; ‘but I’m going to depict it’,
Al Greco tells us, ‘in an abstract way, in my own way, in the way that
I see it as an artist.’ because as William Blake said, the
process of creativity and inspiration is something that comes from
within the artist. So here we do have a balance
between the external world. we see nature but nature is abstracted. Why is it so important to abstract
nature in art? Because – abstraction is the way in which we observe reality
through the artwork, not through nature. Taking further example, William Turner
in his work from 1844. This is the next step in abstraction in the
history of art, where artists are trying to ‘tell’ us: ‘it is something that comes from within,
not from without.’ How are they telling us? By abstraction of an artwork. If you look closely at this work the first
thing you will see are the brush strokes, the way that the artist laid
his paint on the canvass. It is very much abstract, you cannot
understand what it is, the first thing you see is the personality
of the artist; it is the artist ‘talking’ to us. Only when you look closely, you will
see that there is a train here. There’s actually a train drawn here, there’s a bridge somewhere here and
somewhere here there’s another bridge. Looking at this work, the first thing
that you see is the artist talking to us. Only when you look closely you will see
that there is nature depicted in this work. If we compare it to Vermeer, once again
in the naturalistic, realistic world, the first thing you see here are houses
and a river. Only when you look closely will you see the
brush strokes created by the artist, his own signature. And again, in modern abstract art, the
exact opposite. The first thing we see is the brush stroke;
we don’t understand what we see here. We see a lot of colours, shapes, compositions.
We don’t know what he’s trying to tell us. He conveys his signature, his personality,
through the way that he produces art; and only then we see that there
is nature inside of it. In that way artists are trying
more and more to tell us through the arts and paintings that have
evolved through history that creativity is drawn from within us,
from within the art, and not from the external world. Here’s the next example of ‘deconstruction’.
Piet Mondrian, 1912. This is a style that
we call ‘deconstruction’. What we see here again, a tree.
So indeed, the artist admires nature; but what he does here; he takes the shapes
and images that he sees in nature and trying to break them down to create
the minimalist, minimum shape, colour and line. Why does he do it? Because Mondiran was saying: ‘indeed
I admire nature; I love nature; and nature inspires me to see beauty.’ However, he’s saying that the act
of seeing beauty in nature is not the real beauty within nature but actually the ability of the human
mind to see beautiful things; my own ability as a human being
to see beautiful things. And to do so, he starts
to abstract nature; because by abstraction he gives
us his own signature as an artist. Lines always existed; shapes always
existed. A triangle is not something that
we invented yesterday. A circle has always been there,
before any artist ever lived… And so it is not the shapes
that we are coming to ‘sell’ but the unique way that the artist
is using the shapes. So if you like, a triangle
is something international. Everyone can ‘have’ it and can hold
‘responsibility’ on it. But it’s the way this artist is using the
triangle, is using the shapes, that gives us his own signature. The artist Sol Lewitt was saying
that if you draw a portrait of a man, if I draw a portrait of a man and
I would hold the portrait, when I hold the portrait of a man,
that’s not the real thing; that’s not the real man, it is a portrait
of a person. It is not the person. but if I take the canvass and a pencil
and I draw a line, a single line, and I hold the canvass with the line,
that’s the real line. That’s reality, that’s where the
line lives. So the art in that way represents
the true reality of things through shapes and forms,
simple shapes and forms. This artist is saying: ‘I’m going to
deconstruct nature into minimalist shapes, and lines and colours and I’m going
to bring it to you in a new way; and that is my contribution. That is how
I’m saying that the act of deconstruction is the act of creativity, is the
process of creativity.’ And so we started with Aristotle who
was telling us: ‘observe reality, in order to understand how inspiration
and creativity operates in nature, and make it real. Tell us exactly
what we see.’ And modern artists ‘obeyed’ with
realistic, naturalistic artworks. Then gradually they’re saying:
‘fine, yes, there is nature; nature is great influence
on us as artists but there’s also the inner emotion in us as
artists because creativity is something within.’ And they started to deconstruct art,
to make it vibrant and emotional. And they continued… the first thing you
will see in the next phase of their works is only the inside; only the colours, shapes,
deconstruction, emotion, and the brush strokes. Only if you look carefully you
will see that there is nature, because they are telling us that creativity
is within, something drawn from inside. And we continue further to
artists who are telling us that it is not just inside but it is
also the act of deconstruction, it is the intellectual and emotional active
act in which artists look at nature and break it to pieces. Not just inspired emotionally or
intellectually but actively doing something. The source of creativity, the inspiration
is something that comes from within us. That’s what artists have been trying
to tell us for thousands of years… Now, we have a further example
of contemporary modern art, taking this idea even further. This is a photograph of
Jackson Pollock. What you may be able to see is
this little brush here. Actually, that’s not a brush. This is the
stick that you would get with the paint, with the bucket [tin] of paint; the stick that
you would use to mix the paint. So what this artist is doing,
he buys paint tins, he mixes them with the stick and
then he uses the stick as a brush. Instead of throwing the stick he uses
the stick that he prepares the paint with, he uses that same stick to create
the painting. So you see the paint is dripping
off the stick on the canvas. So what he’s telling us, Jackson
Pollock, is that even the process, even the process of preparing art, like using the stick to mix the paint,
is now becoming part of art. because life for artists is part
of the creativity. If you were to tell him all that
I’ve just told you, he would probably tell you:
‘it’s nonsense, it’s probably not true, it’s only
‘high’ psychology, ‘high’ philosophy.’ I think he just used the stick because it
was easier to use it, save money on brushes. But we can make these arguments about creativity
and how artists show creativity through history. We can make those arguments
because we ask artists; we ask artists: what is inspiration,
how does it come to you? Indeed, we have two interesting artists, Gilbert
and George, contemporary living artists and they’re telling us: ‘we are
the art and the artists.’ So artists are constantly saying:
‘we are part of the artwork; Creativity is something from within;
as we live, so do we create.’ Gilbert and George who said
‘we are the art and the artist’, they made an interesting work called
‘The Living Sculptures’. The Living Sculptures… what they’ve
done; they just painted themselves – with shiny metallic paint so they
looked like sculptures and the just stood there
and they started to sing. Now visually to watch that work may
not be so interesting but the idea is that they declared
themselves to be living sculptures. So, first they are ‘sculptures’
and then the sculpture is ‘living’. Sculpture is artwork. They don’t say: ‘we are
now going to portray to be the artwork.’ They do not say: ‘we are now going
to portray to be the artwork so Gil Dekel will have this great
presentation about inspiration.’ They didn’t say that. They say:
‘we are sculptures.’ The first thing of being an artist
is being his art – we are sculptures. And what kind of sculptures?
A sculpture that happens to be living because they are human beings so
they have to live. So artists are constantly trying
to push the limits through history and trying to shout: ‘it’s within us.
Yes, external reality is there, yes, we are inspired by nature; but it is something that’s within which
brings inspiration and instigates creativity.’ I was asking many artists what is
inspiration? And they keep telling me that they feel that there is
something larger than themselves. Artists keep saying: ‘there is
something larger than myself and I am just a part, a process.
I am dictated to create art.’ We have an example from modern art here. The artist was saying that she felt
so much inspired to create the artwork that she physically felt guided to put
the hand, the brush in certain areas. The artist is saying like many
other artists that she feels been guided, told where
to put her hand and what shapes to create. So it’s not just that creativity
is something from within; but rather, creativity is something
which is dictated to them, inspiration is something that is
told and conveyed to the artist. They are servants, they are being
told to create. Likewise, the other great artists we mentioned
today were talking about inspiration from within. William Blake was talking about angels;
he was using the word ‘angels’. He was saying that he sees angels
day and night. And that’s why William Blake was very
not popular in his time. Because in any place where you would say:
‘here is the Lord, here I am,’ people will tell you you’re probably crazy;
and people thought that William Blake was crazy. But he was saying: ‘I am guided
by angels day and night.’ He probably did not pay his rent on time,
that’s why he was not popular as well… But in terms of his artworks
and creativity he’s very influential. It took us some 200 years
to come to terms with William Blake. The great psychiatrist Carl Jung
was taking this idea further; Carl Jung was talking about
‘the knowledge beyond’. When I did a PhD and people were scared of
the word ‘God’ or the word ‘inspiration’, I would talk about ‘the knowledge beyond’
as if it means something else. Carl Jung was experimenting with deep
meditation and going within. And when you meditate with your eyes closed
and go within, you then see your own self. And what Carl Jung happened to see is
a visualization of his own thoughts. Carl Jung was visualizing himself in the form of
a spirit guide which he called Philemon. Philemon – funny name. Philemon, the visualization of Carl Jung’s
self was telling him that his thoughts… that his thoughts are not his. Philemon was telling Carl Jung:
‘Your thoughts are not yours.’ ‘What do you mean they’re not mine?
I hear them in my mind, and I hear them in my own voice.’ But Philemon was saying: ‘no, your
thoughts are not yours.’ Rudolph Steiner, founder of Anthroposophy,
was taking this idea even further. He said: ‘not just that thoughts
are not yours, but thoughts are other beings
speaking to you.’ And that is a great idea, think about it:
my thoughts are not mine, they are other beings speaking to me. I hear it in my own voice because
I cannot translate their voice; the spirits don’t have voices so I embed,
I put a voice into this. If thoughts are not mine, we can get rid
of thoughts when they bother us very easily. They are just messages coming to us. I was mentioning this idea to my friend
and he couldn’t accept it. He couldn’t accept the fact that his
own thoughts are not his because we are so locked up
in this idea of – ‘I have thoughts and thoughts are created
in my mind’ that we cannot think otherwise. But it’s not new knowledge, we’ve
known it for centuries now. If you look at Emannuel Kant,
the German philosopher, he was talking about how we
are locked in our perspectives. Emmanual Kant was calling it by
the word ‘a-priori’. Kant was saying that a-priori are notions
(categories) by which our mind operates; Notions, categories, which we cannot go beyond. And he calls it – time and space. Emmanual Kant was saying: ‘the mind can
think only within the limits of time, and within the limits of space. That’s the
only way the human mind can think.’ You cannot think otherwise. But we know that reality is beyond time
and we know that reality is beyond space. But when you think about it,
you cannot think beyond time. Can you think something which
is not bound to time? Anything that I will think of is bound
to time or bound to space, So much that we use these two words,
time/space as one word; and we call it timespace. It is true, the human brain cannot comprehend,
cannot understand things beyond it. And this even takes us to contemporary
scientific findings like quantum physics; which tells us that there are far more
dimensions than we really think, there are far more appearances than
time and space, and there are far more powerful powers
to the brain, to the human mind. Quantum theory suggests that the
human brain actually affects matter. So we started with Aristotle who was
telling us: when we look at matter, we see the surface, the paint,
the colour, that’s one thing; we don’t understand how it works. We go through the history of art, where artists
trying to gradually deconstruct art because deconstruction is the artist talking to
us through his shapes, colours and brush strokes, trying to tell us: this is
something within. We hear examples from artists, William
Blake and Yeats who tell us that – there is some insight, an inspiration
coming from, dare I say – angels, spirits, the gods, and we’re ending up with quantum theory,
quantum physics suggesting that the human brain has the affect
to change those surfaces, those materials, which Aristotle then tells us we
don’t know what they’re made of… Thank you very much. Inspiration and Creativity in Art.
Dr. Gil Dekel – www.poeticmind.co.uk

12 thoughts on “Inspiration and Creativity in Art – Dr. Gil Dekel.”

  1. ‘Time, period and culture’ will affect the artwork’s tools and look. For example, will you use brush (as they did 100 years ago), or Computer software Photoshop (today) to create your art? This depends on the time/culture you live in. Of course, it will ‘influence’ and ‘shape’ your art work – however, it will not instigate the desire to create the art-work… The artistic ‘desire’ to create in timeless, and not bound to cultures, periods, tools, or education.

  2. Well, you see, we agree that:
    1. the "desire" is timeless, and the inspirational "seed" exists in all time periods,
    2. cultures/times may help artists to create art – or prevent them to create art works, but time/cultures can never change the desire to create. That desire (which I term with the question 'what instigate inspiration') is something that we are born with. It exists within the artist before they even hold a brush to paint. See what some say in: poeticmind.co.uk / interviews

  3. Once again I agree with you… Time/cultures do affect the physical conditions. Some people do not have the conditions to artistically work. My focus is slightly different: the fact that the creative voice does call upon all people – still most people (in the free/wealthy world) simply ignore it… Those people live in the right conditions, still ignore the inner-voice that instruct them to create…

  4. I'm a special case I guess. No matter the time or place I feel inspired. No matter the canvas or tools I create. We can all speculate about who, what, when, where, and why there is art. Trust me though, I know my art and I still don't know it, ya know? You guys art interesting. 🙂

  5. greetings . impersonal art trance forms the nurtured sense of dream  bach to conscious real et . quiet naturally . with regards

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