Art and Emotional Involvement

Mar 17, 2009 | Opinions

I’ve always thought that the act of creation requires a certain amount of emotional investment. You begin a story, and immediately you must feel something; your characters are not robots, and in lieu of actual existence you must feel their emotions for them. So for a writer, the despair of the tragic heroine or the harsh cynicism of a villain are just as real as your own mundane feelings.

I think people can tell when a writer or artist has no real emotional investment in a piece, especially in art. For writing, your work becomes dull and lifeless; how can you write about that which you don’t truly feel yourself? And art becomes meaningless or irrelevant. Picasso’s Guernica is a powerful piece of art because you can’t look at it without feeling something. It is relevant all over the world, and does not need to be explained – although knowing the background to it is additive to its value. Yes, it’s surreal, and very odd to look at – but I can only imagine that Picasso witnessed the tragedy of the bombing of the village of Guernica, and felt something that he had to express to the world. He invested something of himself in his creation.

I was looking about a while ago, and I heard about David Hirst and his artworks. His latest “controversial” piece is called For the Love of God, and it’s a skull, cast in platinum and studded with diamonds. His own words on this:

‘I just want to celebrate life by saying to hell with death. What better way of saying that than by taking the ultimate symbol of death and covering it in the ultimate symbol of luxury, desire and decadence? The only part of the original skull that will remain will be the teeth. You need that grotesque element for it to work as a piece of art. God is in the details and all that.’

I look at David Hirst’s artworks and I feel nothing for any of them. There is no emotional commitment from him, and likewise there is nothing I can offer in return. Why should I? He’s just making a statement, and he’s doing it in a way that needs to be explained. For the Love of God, for all that it took £50 million sterling to make, is worthless in comparison to Guernica.