by Keith Morant
In the consideration of artistic expression, whether as creator or spectator,
the most important factor is the ability to discern between what is true quality and what is merely novelty. Novelty is that
which may have popular appeal but fades in its importance with the passing of time. Quality, on the other hand, is that which
often, in spite of unpopular or controversial inception, increases in its importance with the passing of time.
Quality in art is an ultimate truth expressed through an individual’s unique experience of existence. Its success in
expression and transmission lies in its potential to communicate something more than its surface values only. Such quality
is revealed to the observer (albeit often too slowly) through that teasingly intangible element which elicits epithets like
'transcendent', 'mysterious', or 'spiritual'. It communicates through the Neuro system and the unconscious
rather than the intellect and conscious.
Of course, the greatest and most immediate conveyor of such quality
is always that most abstract of all the arts, music. However, throughout this century, (especially since the demise of the
visual academism which preceded the invention of photography) visual art has been reborn. We have witnessed a great shift
in human conscious awareness to a level where pictorial art is continually establishing new values and criteria as to what
is, and what is not 'quality'.
I believe that if the artist of today is to rise above the banality
of novelty and escape the seductive forces of popularity and material gain then he must be prepared to sacrifice much. By
'sacrifice' I refer to that which T. S. Eliot meant when he said: "The progress of an artist is a continual self-sacrifice,
a continual extinction of personality".
Whatever he creates, the artist must express more than just himself;
he must convey the deepest truth of his being through which nature, as a primal force, has moved. His expression must aspire
to clarity of vision and a vitality of life, which is untainted by illusion. His work must always present something that is
totally new, but which will begin to age from the moment of first being encountered. The mind of every new viewer is another
birthplace for the work of art - where its potential qualities will enter the psyche as a newborn enters the world. As the
knowledge of its existence is assimilated, so the ageing process begins - evoking new knowledge, new language and new sense
of purpose - and in art, as in life - real progress is always in purpose rather than statement.
attached to such effort is the great paradox that the ego (the strongest driving force behind any human endeavour) becomes
an anathema to such manifestations and must, therefore, be overcome. If the creator can suppress the illusionist dualities
of ego (Eliot's sacrifice of self) and maintain his allegiance to the creative principle; if he can sustain a deeper questioning
of existence through his own experience of being, and if he can avoid compromising his direction by conforming to social,
political, or philosophical influences, then his production may eventually find a place in the collective human psyche; to
stand as a symbol of the universal creative impetus that establishes our ideals and aspirations towards a better future.
Also, of course, through its particular type of stimulative nourishment, it will become recognized as QUALITY.