Author Topic: To Reveal Art and Conceal the Artist is Art’s Aim  (Read 200 times)

Offline The Fantastical

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To Reveal Art and Conceal the Artist is Art’s Aim
« on: Thursday 21, 2017, 11: am »

To kick off this section, I thought that I would post an article that I wrote a while back after a rather long and admittedly interesting discussion about how much of an author self should be in a work.

The quote in the title of this piece has been around for a long long time and says it all really. Its first incarnation is from Roman times, the rhetorician Quintilian (35 AD – 100 AD) said, “The perfection of art is to conceal art.” Another unattributed and probably more contemporary version says, "ars est celare artem" or “True art is to conceal art.” In more recent times Oscar Wilde said, “To reveal art and conceal the artist is art’s aim." It is also the what inspired this piece.

While the sentiment of the art in art being to conceal the artist's hand within a piece may seem contrary, it is one that I can agree with wholeheartedly. When you write, the reader must not see the writer behind the words, only the world, the information that you, the writer, are trying to convey to the reader.

This does not mean that I do not believe that creativity comes from the self, or that a writer should not have a "voice", just as an artist has a personal and unique style, writers have their own way of creating. But self must never get in the way of the subject. Think of it as... As if the self is a frame, it is there to hold the subject, to allow others to easily view the subject, but you don't want them looking at the frame instead of what is being framed. In fact, they should be totally unaware of the frame, the words used to create the piece; all they should be aware of is the subject, what image, feeling, does it bring to them. What it took to create it, what holds it, even who made it should not be impacting the reader or getting between the reader and the subject.

I would say that writing, as with every work of art, should be "selfless" in that it shouldn't ever be about the creator. Rather it should be about the subject. They use their creativity to give voice to the subject matter. The creator's job, be they an artist, a writer, or a photographer, is to express their chosen subject matter in a way that others can connect with it. The fact is that you cannot expect a full connection to occur with the creators self.

In order to truly touch a viewer, you need to have something that will touch upon one of the few universal emotions that we all have. This I personally think is one of the biggest responsibilities of a creator, to create something bigger than just themselves, to give something to the world, to the people that will come across their work. You give, not in the hope of gaining some reward but to change a little of the world around you. Hopefully for the good.

Once again the creator has to step back, let the viewer find their own way about things. All we can do is give them something worth looking at, worth reading. We have to let go of the self and create something timeless, something that is more than just our personal lives splashed about.

Having the reader concentrate on you, the writer serves no purpose except take the readers attention away from where it should be, on the work, and not on the artist.

For it really is art to conceal art.
“Commander, I always used to consider that you had a definite anti-authoritarian streak in you.”

“It seems that you have managed to retain this even though you are authority.”


“That’s practically zen.” ― Terry Pratchett, Feet of Clay

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