I'm so excited to be embarking on my IB Art Teacher training. Our first module of the course has given us a choice of prompts to answer and I wanted to share my thoughts on the following:
To what extent does imagination play a special role in the visual arts?
I remember the first time I saw Van Gogh’s earlier, representational art because it was the moment that -click- I began appreciating different forms of art. Knowing that he could paint “well” but intentionally chose a more directly imaginative way to convey his meaning and sensations was my aha-moment.
In my childhood drawings, the point was always to strive for realism. I liked using reference pictures and was only content with these doodles if they “turned out well.” Perhaps that’s just good artistic ethos, but even to this day, it is the main obstacle in my own artistic process: “but I just can’t make it look the way that I want it to.” And yet the art that draws me in even more than the art that makes me gasp in appreciation of its mastery is the art that communicates ideas in ways I’ve never seen before. I have such a deep appreciation for artists who can overrule cognitive boundaries to allow their imagination to guide their pieces.
Studying Robert Motherwell’s Elegies in a college Art History course grew my first blooms of gratitude for artists who imagined their senses into a visual reality. I believe this form of imaginative synesthesia, if you will, is at the core of meaningful artistic expression.
California-based modern artist Heather Day states that she uses her work to, “study the mechanisms of sensory perception — mining what happens when the body interprets a sound as a texture, or a scent as a color.” This takes great discipline of imagination; fortitude of mental foraging!
John Brosio’s use of childlike images in the backgrounds of some of his paintings creates a juxtaposition that so strikingly conveys his artistic imagination. He states, “The success of a painting in the end has so little to do with subject matter but compels us rather with how well it codifies the way in which things relate to one another in this universe. I think of painting as the pursuit of realizing some degree of surrender to these sensibilities through an orchestration of select relationships.”
It is this great feat of connecting thoughts, experiences, senses and beliefs with visual expression that is imagination’s role in the arts.