Trying vs. Doing: An Experimental Approach to Artistic Expression
By Tricia Stewart Shiu
ZO Magazine Artisitc Allegory July Trying vs Doing – Read by Tricia Stewart Shiu
“You may not know in your mind where you are going, but you know it by doing.” Nassim Taleb
You walk into a gallery and peruse the vast array of art in the space. A piece catches your eye and you walk a bit closer. It evokes deep feelings that you haven’t experienced in quite some time. You step closer and notice the artist’s attention to detail. You marvel at the use of light in this remarkable painting and begin to feel swept away by long-forgotten feelings.
After a while, you move along within the gallery, but that original piece and the emotions it evoked still stick with you. You can’t shake them and they stay with you, long after you leave.
ARTISTIC ALLEGORY | LE MOT JUSTE
“Art, like life, should be free, since they are both experimental.” George Santayana
Art is truly metaphor for life and self-observation. As with the example of wandering through an art gallery, so is our meandering through life. Sometimes intense, sometimes boring, always an experiment. How willing are you observe? Do you stand on the sidelines and take everything in or do you dive, head first, into the deep end? Do you judge yourself for not understanding the art or do you judge the artist for not making the piece clear enough for you to understand?
“Art is realm of thought experiments that quicken, sharpen and sweeten our being in this world.” Wendy Steiner
Art is subjective. Art is emotionally evocative. Just as art is experimental, so is life. One person’s sublime experience is another person’s drivel. But, within those experiences are some hard truths. To discover these foundational places, where conclusions can be drawn, is to gain knowledge so that intentional steps can be taken.
The thing about art, though, is that it’s messy. The feelings and colors and chaotic incoming ideas can be overwhelming.
So why not test it out? An experiment is a set of actions taken to test a hypothesis. Charting a course through the overwhelming artistic sensory overload, can start by asking a question. Then, a thoroughly researched hypothesis comes next. Once a hypothesis is made, the experimental fun can begin! The fun of experimenting, is that it creates a stair step of understanding to cut through the mass of ideas and emotions that usually flow with creative projects and can, sometimes, block us from getting anything done or reaching a conclusion.
Here are some key steps to take when embarking on your artistic experimental journey:
What do you know? What don’t you know? Art and life, both have unknown variables and known variables and understanding and documenting them can make a huge difference, moving forward.
Hypothetical conclusion: Set up a hypothesis based on what you know and don’t know.
What if? Time to test your hypothesis. Try things on, try them out. Ask questions, bring in new variables and observe what happens.
What happened? Come to a conclusion based on the new evidence and on what you’ve learned.
“Science, my boy, is made up of mistakes, but they are mistakes which it is useful to make, because they lead little by little to the truth.” Jules Verne
Failure and Compassion. Two things to keep in mind throughout your experiment: Understanding that there is no “failure” on the artistic journey—or life—and keeping your tests ethical and sound will ensure that nothing will come between you and your result. Being kind and compassionate with yourself and others helps, too.
And guess what? You can always start again. There is always time and space for another creative endeavor—another experiment.
Remember your imaginary walk through that gallery? You are always free to play, test, observe and imagine. Those elements are key in experimenting and creating. Discovery can be a portal to knowledge and, eventually, action. Isn’t that the point to life, anyway?
“Life is ‘trying things to see if they work.” Ray Bradbury