“Prisoner? An artist should never be a prisoner of himself, prisoner of style, prisoner of reputation, prisoner of success, …” Henri Matisse.
This week, I thought more about being a chameleon of style. To look at what is in front of me, in my mind and decide on how I want to respond. For example, these two paintings of women seated in chairs; they are very different in style because I responded differently to the shapes created by the poses and the mood I wanted to create.
Painting and drawing as a child, I never wondered “what is my style”? I was happy to spend endless hours scribbling away with my Crayolas or finalizing a large 40 by 60 cm butterfly which I decided needed to be fully painted with colored pencils.
However, as an adult, seeking to be a “true artist”, I found myself feeling some necessity to “find my style.” I would visit museum shows of past great artists such as Picasso, Bacon, Van Gogh, Tanning and Basquiat and see rooms and rooms describing the artists’ lives in neat four-walled packages. My art production has not followed a plotline. I would have folks that see a new painting from me and comment “that is so your style” or “this is quite different than your usual style”. For many years, I would feel like I somehow hadn’t blossomed into an artist because I could not be declarative about my style.
In recent years, as shown in this past week’s works, I’ve taken a different attitude towards style. Style is not something an artist needs to worry about. Finding self and an uncluttered, authentic voice is what an artist must find. Style is something other people sometimes need to make meaning of the work of an artist. Style is to art, like personas are to people. People are multi-faceted, yet personas gives people comfort around who someone is and how they should behave. It simplifies and makes meaning and logic of the world around. But if art is a true reflection of the artist, and the artist is a person, then naturally, the entire body of work should be multifaceted.
As I’ve studied artists of the past more deeply, I realized that the museum exhibitions are only a slice of an artist’s work. It is one narrative that a curator wants to create, but not the amalgamation of the artist’s entire creative force.
I have now stopped trying to find a style and instead search for ways to fuel my inspiration, my curiosity and courage as an artist… not to be bound by any particular style “box.”
You can follow my work @lonistark.