Arts and the imagination

When colour photography first emerged it was generally supposed to signal the end of handpainted 'artworks'. Wrongly supposed we now know, for paintings and other artworks are still in high - and highly priced - demand. I wonder why this should be. If the camera - especially the digital camera - can so easily produce an instant and exact replication of a subject, why spend days and weeks representing same subject using brush and pigment etc?

Many learned books have been written promoting complex answers to this kind of a question but in my view it's simply about human imagination. The fact is that we all demand more than the physical from our world and from our lives. We demand the metaphysical, which is the strangely abstract intensity of feeling that can only be accessed through individual powers of imagination. These are the same powers that permit us to enjoy 'the arts' in the sense that our imagination meets and meshes that of the creative artist with a satisfying result. (I believe the modern scourge of chemical substances are merely tools to assist those with a self-believed deficiency of imagination.)

I was once told that Harvard Business School undertook an exhaustive study of  'the quality and identfication of leadership'. The result was published in a single sentence. 'Leadership is the quality in a person that encourages others to follow and is only identifiable when others follow.' In the same way, in relation to the arts, we can only say we know not what is art but we know it when we find it, when we experience it. In my own case: walking from a cinema having seen On The Waterfront; closing the book having read For Whom the Bell Tolls; sitting for hours in L'Orangerie in Paris, gazing as if hypnotised at Monet's amazing Water Garden paintings; listening over and over again to the gathering storm in Beethoven's Pastoral. 

There is nothing new either in the metaphysical power of the arts or in the human psyche. Take another look at the 15,000 years old Lascaux cave paintings.

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