It is true that art is spiritual; it is also true that art is ever present with us. In the words of the late sculptor and art educator, Mr. Sam Majemite: “Look at the whole man-made world, all you see is art.” There cannot be a better truth. In all my years as a practising artist and art writer, I have come to a better understanding of the intrinsic values of (fine) art simply by noticing people’s perception of the world around them. Art embodies all works having to do with human creativity – works wrought by human hands; fine art deals with fineness, and even finesse as a concept; it is about any work requiring specialised skills. But art transcends the physical essence; art is – romancing with the muse.
|Leonardo da Vinci|
It was the Renaissance man – Leonardo da Vinci who rightly stated that “The eye is the window of the soul”; such amazing thought. It summarises all that art and the artist is about. At this point you would wonder if art is not a branch of philosophy; well, I think it is. Drawing inference from the power of conjecture, and how different people tend to observe differently, seeing and looking become two markedly divergent concepts.
But the artist perceives; he recognises events, including the hibiscus that bloomed this morning and at tomorrow’s dusk will be soon withered; or the destitute, desolate under the bridge in Lagos - come rain, come shine. The fine art experience helps wake you up to these realities. And they all lend themselves to the frenetic nay pensive expressions poured on the painter’s canvas, or in malleable plastic medium, or conquered hard metals.
|'Guernica' by Pablo Picasso|
Art is aesthetics. There you are; talking about the branch of philosophy dealing with beauty and taste. And so why does the artist love to portray such subjects as destitution, hunger and disease; is there a message in all these? What about ruins and sleepy landscapes, and the madding crowds, and female nudes, and a violent storm in the slum? But they all possess one common element – beauty, from the ‘seeing eye’, that is.
To buttress these thoughts, one can only go to the masters to drink of their fountains flowing with treasures of insight, and truths. Here is one of the greatest human beings that ever lived - an artist who bestrode the Renaissance period. The genius of Leonardo da Vinci is the fact that so much could be rolled into one man, with energy so immense, and excelling, almost transcending mortals - all owing to the power of ‘vision’, dedication, and the ability to observe.
|FESTAC '77 mask (ivory carving)|
Amongst his many encounters, in this one the great master said, “The artist sees only what others catch a glimpse of”. And I begin to relive occasions and incidents around me, and it dawned on me: I begin to fully understand why I tend to see and observe differently too. Aha! Yes, you get this kind of reactions from the ‘non-initiates’: “So you are an artist, no wonder …,” and she was changed as if in a mirror darkly, turning from one image to another, from one colour to another. Florence had seen my paintings once and exclaimed to her friend – Kiki: “No wonder! And she asked, “So you are actually a painter?” …”Kiki, you know how artists think …!”
Art teaches you refinement of thought processes; art deepens your emotions and endears you to unique and lofty values. Obviously the artist sees more and even clearer too. Civilisations that embrace art are clearly ahead of others. To this effect Leonardo da Vinci once said’ “Learn how to see. Realise that everything connects to everything else”. Very often I have seen myself in the streets either walking or in the vehicle and I am the only one looking up, looking at something else.
|'Flying high', painting by Morgan Nwanguma|
You could help me out on this. But sometimes it is just almost depressing that nobody else is seeing that streak of white line across the sky even in the glare of the mid day sun and bright blue skies, trailing a tiny craft sky high. I am the only one that sees a picture that is hanging incongruously on the wall, and I’m moved to correct it. Is it me or the art? Somebody says – the Muse.
And the master says, “Once you have tasted flight, you will forever walk the earth with your eyes turned skywards for there you have been”. But I am sure I am not the only one in the streets of Lagos who has tasted flight; and the bearded man from the village of Vinci spoke this even long before mankind knew how to fly.