I’ve just finished writing the most interesting thing I’ve written for a long time; my swanky new manifesto. In uni on Wednesday we were given the enjoyable task of each writing our own personal manifestos in the spirit of recent popular art movements. In theory I dislike any kind of dogmatic rules or assertions that can so easily be bent out of context or broken under the weight of previously unconsidered facts, however I really enjoyed writing these as I’m quite opinionated, even if I later find myself to have been a narrow minded fool (which is OK insofar as I consider it progress). I was considering starting a one man art movement and calling it “Tomism” but I decided that was gratuitously inane. It is of course all opinion, so if you deign to read it please take it with a pinch of salt. That said, if you disagree with it you can sod off.
The McGrath Manifesto 22/09/2011
Being an opinionated list of idealised principles a true artist should aspire to maintain.
Art should be:
1 Sincere and unpretentious.
Art should never be made purely for the purposes of making one appear “avant-garde”, devoid of any depth, meaning or skill. A blank canvas or a lump of formless concrete does not constitute valid art and should not be elevated to an unwarranted status under the pretension that the philistine general public simply “does not get it”. Such “art” can only be described as posturing, uniting an elitist few in contempt for the majority. This posturing serves only to undermine hard working and genuinely creative individuals.
2 As original as humanly possible
Great art cannot be mass produced, nor should it be. So long as humanity possesses its capacity for original thinking humanity ought to think in an original manner. It is all too easy to replicate a tried and tested formula, to resort to clichés or to mimic earlier successes but to do so is to stall your development as an artist, by its very definition creativity demands originality.
3 Recognised as a skill like any other
To create great art requires great skill. Like any other discipline the artist must hone their skill though hard work, determination and ceaseless practice. While innate talent may account for some small measure of success, no artist ever achieved their potential without dedication and hard work. This truth is of particular importance no matter what stage an artist is at in their personal development. There will always be people better than you; the trick is to shorten that list.
A true work of art demands a reaction from its audience, anything less than this is purely decoration, incidental, on par with hotel wallpaper, pavement slabs, novelty toilet paper and every other mundane aspect of life we walk over, walk past or wipe up with. True art demands a reaction, good or bad, engages on an emotional level and does not require an explanation. An artist should not fear be a bad reaction to their work, but no reaction at all.
5 Not purely sensationalism
Since time immemorial schoolboys have been decorating their books, furniture and peers with explicit language, pictures of genitalia, bodily substances and opinionated messages about other people’s immediate relatives. Either it is time that this unappreciated art form is recognised and praised for the value it brings to our lives or we have to consider it is of possibly no value whatsoever. Sensationalism is a means to an end, not an end in itself.
6 In whatever form enables the artist to most closely realise their vision
Art can take a multitude of forms and appeal to a multitude of senses. Therefore an artist should feel no need to limit themself to one specific medium or sense. Any media that is capable of conveying the artist’s vision is valid, and that medium which conveys that vision most closely is also the most valid.
7 Able to impress a child
Children have the sublime gift to say exactly what they think when they want to and no one will ever expect any better of them. Children are unfettered by the obligation to pretend they like things; they assess things at face value on an emotional basis and have an appreciation for simple beauty. Consequently they are in a perfect position to assess the worth of a piece of art.
8 An improvement on the artist’s last piece
An artist must never accept that they cannot do better. To stand still is to stagnate. Every piece must differ and improve from the last. Take the thing you hate most about your last work and ensure it never happens again, this is the road to enlightenment.
Making art is an uphill battle to some worthwhile goal, where you can stand atop the mountain of your achievement and admire the view. Challenge is the gatekeeper to success, without challenge to overcome there can be no victory and no distinction between mediocrity and greatness.
10 The artist’s greatest contribution to the world
If an artist truly loves what they do and seeks to master their field then it can only follow that the artist devotes as much of their time and love to their art as they possibly can. A great artist is remembered through their work. Make your work the most precious contribution of your finite existence, it will live much longer than you will.