I’ve been collecting quotes about art and artists for some time now, because a) I don’t understand art or artists at all, and b) I want to. So, here’s a little something on the topic from Andrei Tarkovsky, whose films deal very heavily with the question of art and the artist and their relationship to one another. (Andrei Rublev and Stalker, in particular, I think…)
Yes, I realize that it’s long and dense — very much like Tarkovsky’s films, in fact. But it’s also fantastic and thought-provoking– again, like his films — and I just couldn’t bring myself to prune it. (Also, I do not own this book. I do not know why I do not own this book. I am ashamed.)
Art is born and takes hold wherever there is a timeless and insatiable longing for the spiritual, for the ideal: that longing which draws people to art. Modern art has taken a wrong turn in abandoning the search for the meaning of existence in order to affirm the value of the individual for its own sake. What purports to be art begins to look like an eccentric occupation for suspect characters who maintain that any personalised action is of intrinsic value simply as a display of self-will. But in artistic creation the personality does not assert itself, it serves another, higher and communal idea. The artist is always a servant, and is perpetually trying to pay for the gift that has been given to him as if by a miracle. Modern man, however, does not want to make any sacrifice, even though true affirmation of self can only be expressed in sacrifice. We are gradually forgetting about this, and at the same time, inevitably, losing all sense of our human calling.
When I speak of the aspiration towards the beautiful, of the ideal as the ultimate aim of art, which grows from a yearning for that ideal, I am not for a moment suggesting that art should shun the ‘dirt’ of the world. On the contrary! The artistic image is always a metonym, where one thing is substituted for another, the smaller for the greater. To tell of what is living, the artist uses something dead; to speak of the infinite, he shows the finite. Substitution . . . the infinite cannot be made into matter, but it is possible to create an illusion of the infinite: the image.I see it as my duty to stimulate reflection on what is essentially human and eternal in each individual soul, and which all too often a person will pass by, even though his fate lies in his hands. He is too busy chasing after phantoms. In the end everything can be reduced to the one simple element which is all a person can count upon in his existence: the capacity to love. That element can grow within the soul to become the supreme factor which determines the meaning of a person’s life. My function is to make whoever sees my films aware of his need to love and to give his love, and aware that beauty is summoning him.
Attribution(s): “Tarkovsky Stamp” is licensed under Public Domain via Wikimedia Commons;”Andrei Tarkovsky” by Festival de Cine Africano de Córdoba (Source) is licensed under CC BY-SA 2.0 via Wikimedia Commons.