Lucy Cobbles explores the age old question of whether artists are depicting reality or escaping from it. Do artists have a responsibility to show social truths, or depict beauty? Can artists be held responsible at all? 2016 hasn't been the best of years and many of us are looking for a form of escapism - perhaps artists are one step ahead of us!
When we talk about artists, we are talking about a huge and sometimes disparate group of people: musicians, painters, filmmakers, photographers, dancers, pottery makers... the list goes on and on. Certainly these groups, or individuals within them, do not all have the same aims- but many are exploring something, or even looking for an escape.
For me personally, and for many I know, artistic endeavor is a way of shutting off the world, at least temporarily, and focusing on whatever project I have at hand. This is not just true for artists, many sports people feel the same, but it's about creating space where you can shut off reality for a while. When I paint, I'm not thinking about who hasn't messaged me back or when my rent is due, I'm thinking about the piece of work in front of me.
The benefits to me as an individual are huge, but what about the artwork itself? Is that a form of escapism too?
Escapism is defined as: 'the tendency to seek distraction and relief from unpleasant realities, especially by seeking entertainment or engaging in fantasy.' To an extent this is what I am doing when I paint, and may be what others experience when they dance or sing. However, my artwork itself is not necessarily a distraction from reality, but sometimes a means of capturing or confronting it.
People often seem to value artwork, of almost any form, for two key reasons: 1) it is beautiful and 2) it has meaning. That is a lot of pressure for artists to meet. I challenge you to combine beauty and meaning in a canvas. Artwork that rejects this premise and is about escaping into a fantasy, however personal, should not be rejected outright in my opinion.
The artwork itself can represent escapism just as much as the process of creation may enable it. There is a whole genre of artwork dedicated to the idea. Lee Hammond for example, both creates pieces around the idea of escapism, and uses art as a form of healing- hoping to create a safe space in the studio where they work.
Escaping from reality is not necessarily a sign of weakness, and using art to do so is a brilliant way of forgetting the concerns of day to day life.