“No great artist ever sees things as they really are. If he did, he would cease to be an artist.” – Oscar Wilde
This starts in GCSE English; being presented with an ‘anthology’ – an ANTHOLOGY I tell you! – of poetry, which in my day consisted of a piece about an indian sari, something about a snowman, and tales of a hippy going by the description of ‘half-caste’. Upon first glance, these poems made little sense, so obscure in their artistic representation that, as a class of uninspired 14 year olds, you couldn’t wait to shove back in your bag and ignore it until next week.
Yet by the end of your two years of study, you’re gaining impressively high marks at writing a timed essay into the deep symbolic representation of these poems, comparing and contrasting the structure, meaning and language to the nth degree.
“I spend half my time just living my life, and the other half analysing it.” – David Schwimmer
It’s as early as this that we’re taught how to look beyond the surface, to analyse every word and subtext, to create new meanings that, supposedly, allow new levels of appreciation into what’s around you.
This can often work in your favour, appreciating break-up songs in ways no one else could, reading secret messages hidden in romantic poetry, seeing signs created in artistic doodles – finding personal interpretation within the art we’re surrounded with is surely why we create art in the first place.
However, as creatives we also know that most of our work consists of random moments of divine inspiration and, often, pure luck. Whether that’s a poem of basic feelings created with fancy wordings, a painting depicting whatever colours you still had in your oil set, or a song of random rhymes and the obligatory 4 chords; most of the time, our favourite pieces are the ones that came to us from thin air and developed at their own pace across the page.
“Creativity is allowing yourself to make mistakes. Art is knowing which ones to keep.” – Scott Adams
I recently ordered a large print of my favourite holiday photo – bright yellow taxis outside the New York Times offices, taken from a quick snap on my phone. While it hangs on my wall and people ask about the canted angle of the photograph, the open door of the taxi, the catchy slogan atop of one of the cars, I can offer nothing more than a moment of tourism on my way to the next major photo opportunity.
But here we are being encouraged to delve deeper, to understand the subtext, to deconstruct the metaphors and search for hidden meaning, rather than often just sitting back and letting the beauty of the art wash over up.
“I’m afraid that if you look at a thing long enough, it loses all of its meaning.” – Andy Warhol
No wonder us creative types are so difficult to date. Hidden meanings is what we’re all about, so given a cryptic text message it’s all too easy to start the deep spiral of overanalysis into the early hours of the morning, uncovering non-existent hidden meanings and studying every comma and full stop to try and analyse whatever they were really thinking at the time.
Whether this be an endless study of a situation, constant thought of what was said or done, or a momentary stutter over something insignificant, the act of overthinking can ruin many a situation, creating unnecessary dramas and often ending in problems that aren’t even there in the first place.
“Life is amazingly good when it’s simple, and amazingly simple when it’s good.”
So why I will always be the first to encourage and appreciate the joys of creating your own analytical essay as you appreciate the world around you, sometimes we just need to sit back and let it be. We don’t have to be working at all hours of the day. I employ you to take a moment from your artistic schedule and just be, just exist, and just enjoy the wonderful world we’re presented with, as a mere viewing mortal.