Today I was walking through Arco (a Madrid based contemporary art fair, for the first time hosted in Lisbon) taking my time to observe and contemplate, as I wandered through those gallery spaces. As I walked around through all these works of art, I couldn’t help but realize that art is echoing a symptom that portrays our world. One of the main differences between contemporary art and the art that came previously (up until the late 70’s at least), is that art used to take a whole lot of time to develop, to grow, to crystallize in one’s mind and then to materialize…. Time was a huge part of art making. It was never possible to make a work of art without time itself… specially because each layer of oils takes up to 4 days to dry.
In contemporary art, it is the exact opposite that can be observed… Art can be done in one single second, with one single brush stroke (specially by the use of new materials); it can emerge in one flash of a second or one fragment of a thought. I think this is a result of our world: our fast paced life, where there is no time for anything at all, where we are always chasing the clock, the hours of the day seem to be always elusive and never quite enough to do everything that we want to do. We wish to capture it all, see it all, and therefore, we live in a rapid and intense motion of existence. Art now is a reflection of that… It too, tries to capture and portray this type of fast pace, that clarifies motion caught in action or that defines one single thought. On one gallery stand I see a metal beam leaning against a glass bubble hypothetically squashed against the wall, in another a blank canvas with one single stroke… Photography is everywhere, defining the ultimate capturing of a single fragment of a moment forever…
If we were to understand what this says about our world in a more deep type of reasoning we could make a case that it sustains life itself, capturing movement in the air, defining a type of existence that does not need the weight of time itself, but is independent from that: an existence that is free.
When we observe all the Art Masters.. all of them took their precious type in creating every single masterpiece. Rothko is known to take months with one single painting, painting layer upon layer, in order to create some sort of complexity; Picasso spent his whole life perfecting a vision, and still, spent days upon days dwelling in each creation; Van Gogh did studies upon studies before he even picked up any brush and paint. And these are just the more recent examples, because if we go even further in time, we find that time for the creation of one single Art piece was more likely measured in groups of months and years rather than in weeks. These artists echo the premise that good things do take their time… time for thinking, for understanding, for comprehending… time for feeling and for dwelling within the work itself and living it with every fibre of their being. In life too… good things do take time to emerge: they don’t happen over night. Just like in this type of art, they take a lot of hard work, devotion, dedication, an unbreakable commitment and of course, an unshakeable passion.
But do all good things take time?
I find myself understanding… that not all good things take time. In fact, some of the most beautiful things in the world happen rapidly and as if by magic: a shooting star falling in the dark night, an intense look in the eyes of a stranger, the uncontrollable process of falling in love… the fragment of a sunset or an unexpected feeling that surprises us from within. Great things do in fact… just occur… as if by magic, spontaneously. Even if they took a whole lifetime in the making, growing on the inside… they can indeed materialize in a single second.
On the one hand we have these fragments of moments that have an intensity to them that surpass everything else; on the other we have the growing process of devotion that adds meaning as it moves along. So… what we are really talking about is this: is it passion or is it devotion? Is it a flash of insight that just occurs or is it a laborious work that pushes and pulls? Which is it? Which is it that should define our Art and our Existence?
I belive, now… that it is both. It is always both… we need the flashes of moments that come gushing in like a thunderstorm and we need the balance and safety of the day-to-day growth, just like watching a small helpless flower grow. We need the intensity of a single emotion that crashes like a rock inside of our hearts, and we need the stability and the confidence of the lasting and of the enduring. We need to understand that moments can indeed happen that can break all of the laws of nature (like this suspended rock that hovers above the ground as an installation) and we need the validation that only a lifetime of growth can achieve (like this tiny little oil painting Picasso left behind, that is all about time, space and a full existence). We need both… we are both. We are run by our impulses and by our flash like intensities as much as we are by our constant day-to-day evolution.
Which is more meaningful?
It is both…. it is passion and strength, instant moments and all of life itself developed through extended time. Isn’t it really complicated… to be human? To have to have both the flashes and the moments, and simultaneously, the constant evolving growth… And this duality is just another one that composes a much broader set of complexities and contradictions that define us…. as humans. We might be a little more obsessed now with the moment, but isn’t that also part of growth? We embrace it all. And the truth is… that somehow, even the moment possesses a broad time within itself, even what appears to be complicated is also simple, and lastly, even the simplicity carries within it the complexity. The truth is… that we… as humans… always need thrive in these contradictions and complexities… and we wouldn’t ever have it any other way. It defines us… and Art, somehow, the one thing that always survives the test of time, is the best means to embody that essence.
I can’t help but smile… we are really an exquisite race.