As my readers know already, I have been interpreting (or attempting to) Tao Te Ching verses, applied to artists. I am a Sumi-e artist and I find these verses complement the Sumi-e way of creating, that is working with the opposite forces (yin and yang) and constantly trying to find a harmonious balance. I aim to apply these teachings not only to Sumi-e but to my drawings and life as well.
A couple of weeks ago I worked with chapter 24. Here, Lao Tzu, the author, advises against boasting, self-exaltation and self-praise.
This is a touchy topic among artists. Obviously, not everybody feels comfortable self-promoting, but it has to be done in this internet media world so that our work can be seen. Besides, that is why we create, don’t we; to share our experiences with the public?
Artists are more in tune with their true selves (one can call it soul universe, or whatever else), because they are there when they create. Artists feel some friction inside when they are not true to themselves. Which artist really feels secure about their creation? That is what makes us constantly strive to do better to improve our language of artistic expression. So how can an artist feel good announcing themselves to be “ world renowned”, “internationally acclaimed”… or “talented”, no matter how true that may be? Needless to say, there was a lot of reaction when I posted it on Linked In, Visual Artists, and their Advocates group.
My point was that our quality artwork and content, (granted, exposed via many social media sites) should do the promoting for artists and not self- aggrandizement. As Lao Tzu teaches, we should constantly strive to find the balance not only in our art, but in our actions as well.
Feel free to read the discussion: Some insightful, some defensive…… comments.
One comment that I received through email, had a great impact on me. Obviously, this was coming from a man with incredible depth and refinement. I would like to share it with you, hoping that you can take home some of his wisdom as well;
…..What do I think about self-promotion?……….?
I have read several of the blog spots written by Lilith Ohan, who often illustrates verses from Lao Tzu and the iChing in them. It is most interesting to note the paucity of public comment replying to the questions she poses, most of which wrestle with various aspects of searching for essential creativity, without personal aggrandizement. This appears not to be something that interests those who find her thoughts worthy of comment.
They ARE worthy of comment.
The attractiveness of the Tao is, I believe, just this:
-If you have no creativity you cannot understand that all creativity is a social act that requires a degree of promotion, before it can have an effect on society.
– Creativity cannot function without understanding by the audience to be affected by it. One might say, that only when it does achieve public recognition, can the value of creativity be recognized.
– The value of creativity does certainly depend of the ability of the creator, but once created and promoted so that it’s value is understood, true creation takes on a life of its own.
-Poor creations, no matter how strongly promoted, will be soon forgotten.
-Those that are relevant, will flourish when their creators are forgotten. Who invented the wheel?
Has anyone matched the genius of Leonardo da Vinci since his death, or has there been anyone to create more meaning out of less line, than Zeshin in Japan, or Ni Zan in China?
-in my view, the problem arises that any creator must ensure that his creation receives recognition. Others may accomplish this task for her or for him.
In art, this function is often, but not always, done by dealers. Sometimes great art is not recognized by the public until the creator is dead.
-a creator is someone who must seek to perfect their creations, and often this takes personal dedication, sacrifice, and the nurturing of ego if they are to succeed in producing a creation of value.
Where is the balance that can maintain a personal simplicity in the simultaneous chaos required by their creativity?
The one seems incompatible with the other unless, through the Tao, one can understand and practice the division of internal simplicity from external complexity.
-I have noticed that those who are able to do so are often helped by a sense of humor…
I think as artists and as humans, we have to constantly strive to find the right balance in this infinite chaos…..