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Vital Art: a Conversation

By Bill Harrison, written on the occasion of a conversation on art after visiting David Hockney's show "A Bigger Exhibition"




Looking at David Hockney’s charcoal landscapes, one is struck by their feeling of intimacy and connection. It is clear that the artist has opened himself completely to the subject of his work, that the process of drawing the scene before him was executed more in the spirit of conversation than in one of documentation or self-expression.

For two people in conversation to find true connection something new must be built between them. A simple exchange of already resolved ideas may be a form of conversation, but no connection is made and no transformation takes place. The creation of vital and moving art requires a similar quality of mutually creative interaction.

In the case of creating vital art, the artist experiences connection through meaningful conversation with either the scene, the subject, or with the medium. With representational art, such as Hockney’s landscapes, a new vision is built through the give and take between what the scene presents and what the artist creates. The artist doesn’t interpret the scene, but rather works in partnership with the scene. Together they produce something new. With abstract art, the conversation may be between the artist and the work itself, as it progresses. The artist guides the work just as the evolving artwork itself guides the artist. Throughout this open process both the artist and the artwork change and transform.

Vital art moves the viewer with this energy of transformation. The viewer is not subjected to the expression of an artist’s preconceived idea, vision, or image, but rather is invited into an open conversation. The viewer feels a sense of connection with the creative process, with the artist, and with the world.


San Francisco, February 2014



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