Is Art Always Born From Suffering?

There are too many tragic tales of tortured Artists who suffered in order to create the work that earned them recognition. Van Gogh cut his own ear off, Amy Winehouse pressed self-destruct repeatedly until there were no more encores left and Robin Williams fought an on-going battle with the black dog before taking his own life in 2014. These are just three out of countless tragedies of the creative greats of our world. These iconic figures contribute to the sustained concept of this real-life stereotype.

The tortured Artist has become a stock figure of almost mythical status, always feeling isolated, alienated and at odds with their surroundings. The tortured Artist feels constantly misunderstood by everyone, experiencing a sense of neglect and perceived judgement for their values and beliefs.

I Did It My Way

It is true to say that creatively minded individuals often do walk their own path; a path which remains separate from the mainstream, more socially acceptable thoroughfares. The artistic path may simply run parallel to the more conventional routes, or it may run in a topsy turvy loop, weaving through the others. The point is, navigating with different coordinates does not automatically equal torment.

Spot the Difference

There are a number of contributing factors which set Artists apart from their peers. The lifestyle of an Artist will be much less structured than someone on a more traditional career path. There is a great deal more unpredictability, making life somewhat similar to a rollercoaster ride. There is less financial security in Art (unless someone hits the big-time) meaning frugal living is often a necessity. Those who do strike gold and win those coveted big breaks usually do so at a high price, sacrificing privacy and handing over ownership of their identity to the public. This inevitably costs many of them dearly, proving to be too much of an intrusion for most people to manage.

Given the facts, it is easy to see why one presumes all Artists must suffer. Yet, that is not the case. The two don’t necessarily go hand in hand. An Artist can be a perfectly contented individual, just as a tortured soul may be a mathematician or a scientist, rather than someone looking to explore their creative talents.

Why the Stereotype?

Amongst the Artistic community itself, there is a common line of thinking that only those who have suffered can make great Art. I would like to think that we are not such a bleak, voyeuristic, sadistic people that we can only become excited by something which has been born out of pain. Beauty can be found in anything and everything, if we just look hard enough.

I suppose I am considering all this in light of recent news. Tonight saw the One Love benefit concert play out in Manchester. The event is said to have raised around £2million to support the families who lost loved ones in the horrific suicide bombing in Manchester a couple of weeks ago. After Saturday’s attack in London, people at last night’s concert spoke of an even greater responsibility to honour the lives lost: those less fortunate.

There is no denying that this concert was organised as a direct result of a tragedy. However, it is not the tragedy itself which defines the content as art, or the performers as Artists.

Fight Hatred With Love

There is something incredibly empowering about a group of people standing strong in the face of adversity. We can certainly take inspiration from the strength of the individuals who came together and stood united, determined to go on living in the face of fear. It is a true gift to be able to turn something as terrible and horrifying as terrorism into something as inspiring and uplifting as last night’s concert was said to have been. 

What better way to fight hatred and evil than with love, unity and music? Art may be no match for violence in terms of the physical impact it can make, but it offers a canvas on which to express how we feel at any given moment. Here, art acts as a celebration of freedom; a tribute to life. 50,000 people coming together in a shared musical experience gave attendees a sense of security and strength that they wouldn’t have had on their own. What more life-affirming message could there be in response to these violent acts of terror?

Let Art Remain Positive

So if you want to call yourself an Artist, go ahead and give yourself that title. Just please don’t torture yourself in the process.

There is more than enough pain, suffering and misery in our world, without Artists seeking it out for the sake of their work.

A tortured Artist who becomes famed for his suffering is far less inspiring than one who stands up and celebrates his right to express whatever views he may have, regardless of who shares or understands those opinions.

To make art, all you really need is an open mind, a perceptive eye, an interest in the world around you and a desire to inspire, challenge and provoke thought.

I’m feeling inspired, are you?

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