The sentiment is not lost on me that it takes a lot of effort for a person to exert so much positivity in regards to romantic outlooks on life. There is something innately cynical that edges me towards a distrust of artists who have blind faith in the romantic gesture. It is almost like setting yourself up for a failure that you can’t live up to. As artists we sometimes live in a romantic Utopia, not resisting hard enough to refrain from presenting all things as beautiful and perfectly personal. Even if this were a relationship, I want something real and longer lasting. Something I won’t be disappointed with when the truth is finally revealed – that the commitment to romanticism is short-lived. I just don’t believe it.
I wrote a while back about the romantic ruin in regards to Gavin Hipkins show Leisure Valley at AUT’s St Paul Street Gallery. I was being an idealist, latching onto a moment with a stranger as we watched the same film. I believed we were strangely on par for the moment. The act of viewing and experiencing something together gave us an unspoken and immeasurable connection. In reality, he probably never gave me a second thought and I had actively overimagined platonic intimacy.
The artist’s tendency to wear rose-tinted glasses offers us a unique perspective; a way to deal with the flawed World as it currently is. But in this addiction to the imaginary and the perceived beauty of a moment, we are just avoiding something deeper – the real. The real is the tangible, the corporeal inevitability that situates us as humans. In our denial, we’re not able to really feel the moment because everything we do is a form of escapism. Through this inability to handle reality for what it is, do we only ever have a self-imposed filtered experience of the World?
Then one day the artist wakes up with a psychic hangover. Everything was just a dream. The romantic notion was nice while it lasted but now we have to deal with the harsh reality of being solitary creatures who cannot really psychically possess another living creature. The artist can only project.
The World would be a boring and one-dimensional place without the artist but sometimes the artist is too romantic. The artist needs to wake up a little bit so they can see what is really happening. The experience of photographing and recording everything removes the artist from the situation. It also removes their physical capacity to initiate change. I’m not saying stop romanticising things. I’m just saying sometimes being opportunistic about capturing and portraying beauty alienates the real. Not appreciating the value of the real makes for a very superficial existence, where the idealised is held in higher regard than a genuine connection.