Art, meaning, and communication

Last night I finished watching a documentary on Sean Scully, a large, somewhat opinionated man whose abstracts attract big money. He has a troubled past but nevertheless, he annoyed me with is arrogance and so I was taking his story in bite-sized doses. Then in the last twenty minutes, asked why he goes to his galleries and explains his paintings, he said this:

You can’t make something as arrogant as an abstract painting and then just say get on with it or you’re stupid.

Suddenly, whether it’s because he has a personal need to be understood – and that’s certainly possible because, when push comes to shove, who doesn’t? – or because, regretting his lack of involvement with his first son who was then killed in a car crash at age eighteen he found a new insight into the nature of communication with the arrival of his second, this resonates more than anything with my own concerns about the value of accessibility. It benefits all of us – maker and viewer/reader, it shows intellectual humility in that it requires us to take another’s perspective, and it forces us to consider ourselves as a part of the human circle not something separate and elevated from it. It might also force us not to be lazy makers with a paucity of ideas who transfer our own lack of clarity to the audience.

What follows was written before I saw that last twenty minutes.

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