Grace & Necessity Two
"David Jones : Material Words"
Chapter No. 2
Design vs. Art
As mentioned in my previous post, the idea of art conflicting with design is still very evident in this second chapter of 'Grace and Necessity'. I'm sure I will be continually processing this long after we finish reading Williams, but thought I would share some further thoughts on the subject. I think, subconsciously, the question of 'is design actually art?' has been in my mind for quite some time, however I'd never let it fully rise to the surface. I used to be afraid — afraid to admit to myself that my profession & career choice didn't necessarily line up with my philosophy. But then again, I hadn't discovered what my true 'philosophy' was yet, and that is something I am still very much working through. What I did know, is that something wasn't right about the design world and my place in it. I would sit through various marketing & design courses, thinking to myself, I don't want to be like this. "Manipulation" became a reoccurring theme that was being taught and I absolutely hated it. Then I thought, well there must be designers that design for good rather than simply to please. But even then, can that be constituted as art?
In my own design practice, honesty tends be the aspect I most strive for, but in turn, aesthetics always prevails. This frustrates me ... I feel like I've become known for a certain "look," which admittedly used to be my goal, but has since caused great unrest. As a designer, consistency is of utmost importance, but is it the same for an artist? I can't help but wrestle with this question on a daily basis. Of course I consider my work to be 'art', what else could it be? I am using my creative talent to reflect an idea, thought, beauty, etc. But I find myself stuck, with more questions than ever before.
Prudence vs. Truth
Getting into the text, Williams discusses two artists — Eric Gill & David Jones — and their conflicting views in regards to art. While Gill stresses the importance of prudence, Jones argues that truth ( he calls 'art' ) is the more important. These two conflicting factors almost seem like they could go hand and hand, but the way in which Williams describes it suggests otherwise: "The two exist in a perpetual 'lover's quarrel': prudence is suspicious of art's concern with things in themselves, art is equally suspicious of prudence's utilitarianism." But wait, shouldn't they be one in the same? Shouldn't truth reflect prudence? That might just be my romanticized self coming out, wanting everything to be "good". This text is tearing me apart — I don't think I can further discuss the topic, because I'm realizing it is far too complex of an issue. Williams is a genius for attempting to tackle it.
Is prudence design and truth art? Is art prudence and design truth? Is design neither? Is art both? Can we start with prudence and in turn reveal truth? But then again, what is truth? Why must the two be separated?
In conclusion, I have no conclusion. I am quite conflicted because I agree both with Gill and Jones. Purpose & the act of 'doing good' drives me to make art, which would suggest that Gill's reasoning aligns more with mine — but I don't agree with him when he says "the community determines what the artist's business should be". The community shouldn't determine why you make art -- it should definitely influence it, but not solely determine it. Consequently, Jones' reasoning for why art=truth very much resonates with me, however there are some loopholes with that statement as well. I believe that art should strive to equate to truth, but it will oftentimes fall short. And then what is truth?
There are so many questions I've posed, that probably won't be answered throughout this season of life, but I am grateful for the opportunity to wrestle with them for now. Having no conclusion is strangely satisfying and reseals how we, as human beings, are not in control. Below are some quotes I found to be helpful in processing this second chapter.
"An artistic product is an object made in the chosen medium, not an imitation or reproduction of something else; consequently it is a mistake to aim at beauty as if it were anything other than the effect of the work's integrity."
"We are lost if we try to separate the two: the truth is that prudence aims at the true good of human beings, but that true good includes, crucially, happiness. And 'happiness' is the state of being pleased with things."
"Art is good when it relates to the sort of creatures we know ourselves to be."
"Art shows that form is utterly bound to matter, yet also that this or that matter does not exhaust the possibilities of form."
"The whole active presence of the object is being re-presented by the artist — not simply the reproduction of aspects of its appearance ( since the artwork may not in fact be significantly concerned with reproducing qualities )."
"Attention to the creaturely and immediate, and involvement, known or unknown, in the making of meaning or the uncovering of connection."
"Art is an uncovering of what is uniquely human; and what is uniquely human depends in some way that defies exact statement on those connections that are held and sustained by whatever and whoever it is that is incarnate in Christ."
"Art which is not propaganda is simply aesthetics."
"Art is an extension of nature."
"( Art is the ) one 'intransitive' activity of human beings, the one thing not designed to solve predefined problems."
"A care for, and appreciation of the particular genius of place, men, trees, animals, and yet withal a pervading sense of metamorphosis and mutability."
"( We are all involved in ) an exasperated search for beauty on the part of individual men conscious or unconscious of the declining West."