“I shut my eyes in order to see.” — Paul Gauguin
And nothing is more important than what we dream up and hope for, as our world is what we make it up to be.
Such is the beauty of art; it makes us think, question, ponder. Art in any medium is an expression of human thoughts, creativity, and emotions. That one area, I like to believe, is irreplaceable by artificial intelligence. As Paul Klee once said: “Art does not reproduce what you see. It makes us see.” And that only comes from experiencing and living life, something that cannot be reproduced by an algorithm.
Now more than ever, we need to embrace the arts in our society and lives. When situations looked bleak in the face of viral upheavals, a respite in the creative space is much needed, as an escape from reality, where one can be lost, even for a second, in someone else’s imagination and be inspired to create one for themselves, even if it’s just in our minds and souls – for that’s sustenance for our well-being. It is a stoic reminder that there is still beauty in all the madness if we choose to see it through different eyes.
It is challenging to encourage supporting the arts in current dire economic times. When priorities are focused on bread-and-butter issues, which is not to say the arts is non-essential. However, it is entirely understandable to comprehend the struggles of those who may find it unthinkable to consider spending on anything else other than finding the next pay-check to bring food to the table and provide shelter over their heads. Though that could also be the artists themselves, for whom creating art is not merely just a passion project or hobby; they too, need to make economic sense of their craft to survive. For that is the reality we live in, a constant search for a middle ground, between idealism and realism.
So how do we, as a society, find a ‘new normal’ balance? An artistic-economic equation, so to speak.
We have to go back to the true meaning of the arts. What is it exactly? A painting? A sculpture? A play? A ballet? A concerto?
Art, to me, is about finding the joy and beauty in anything that brings a surge of happiness in our hearts, a smile on our faces, and a sparkle in our eyes. It can be any medium that we choose to use as a tool to articulate our emotions and ideas; to be shared with anyone who cares to notice. It can be anything – from the art of cooking, to dancing, painting, writing, or even fashion (or dressing up!) as a tool for individual artistic expression.
In short, it is the art of living, where one escapes from reality to indulge in an activity that ignites passion. The only way to rescue the arts is to never extinguish the fire in all of us; the desire to pursue, even for a second, that speck of interest, however minuscule. I remember during the circuit breaker period, I kept myself occupied with table setting (even if it’s just for a simple takeout order of cakes) and ordering in from just about any restaurants, including my usual go-to fine dining restaurants. I viewed it as a way to support the businesses as well as a continuation of my ‘usual’ activities; almost like a therapy for me to keep the situation as normal as possible by maintaining a semblance to the familiar.
A friend of mine commented, “It’s good to know you are still fine-dining while in a lockdown,” to which I replied, “But why not?!” It’s all a matter of perspective. Yes, the rules of the game have changed but that doesn’t mean the passion for the game has or should. We just need to play by the new rules but with the same passion and fervor because it is still the same game, only different rules. I still like fine dining, but now it’s with smaller groups and earlier nights (as we cannot consume alcohol beyond 10:30 PM).
Likewise, I’ve always loved watching a ballet performance or an opera, attending a charity event, catching an exhibition – the list goes on. Of course, that has yet to resume, but that does not mean I’ll now stop loving La Traviata! Yes, watching it on screen is very different from watching it performed ‘live’, especially considering the last time I watched it was at Teatro dell’Opera di Roma, in summer 2016, directed by Sofia Coppola with ethereally stunning costumes by Valentino Garavani himself. While watching it through any other medium may seem like a travesty, it is what it is, at least for now. C’est la vie!
Creativity is the essence of the arts, and in true form, every artist out there will find a new way to express their ideas. It is this constant reinvention and renewal that keeps the arts alive. By arts, I mean it in a vast sense; even a home baker is an artist as it’s all about expressing a passion. A hostess inviting guests over to her house for an intimate dinner is an artist, as it’s the art of hosting. So long we never give up doing what we love, art will always survive because it is always about finding and fueling the passion of what makes us feel alive. Art de vivre!