Valuing an Artist’s Suffering

 

A 2008 article on The Guardian, titled “The art of suffering” asks, Is it necessary for artists to make painful sacrifices in order to create good art?

So do we, as today’s consumers of art, still expect its creators to suffer? Do we still picture them in a modern-day equivalent of the draughty attic?

[…] an artist’s more profound suffering – whether emotional or psychological – can often seem to enhance their work. Some works (the paintings of Van Gogh or Goya, the photographs of Robert Mapplethorpe, and the music of Ella Fitzgerald and Amy Winehouse, to name a few) are inseparable from their creators’ personal pain. We are – as Marlow said last night, quoting Damien Hirst – a “trauma culture”, expecting to watch an artist’s suffering play out on canvas or stage or screen – and relating to them through it.

It calls into question the audience as much (if not more) as it does the artist. For it is the audience that is obsessed with an artist’s life. Instead of exploring the emotion in the artwork, we tend to become slave to mapping the personal pain as an expression, often retrofitting meaning and experience.

What’s your take?

 

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