Inspiration is a difficult beast. As intertwined with art making as two lions mating, it is a similar blend of danger and necessity.
Though usually with fewer teeth.
Inspiration, as a concept, I find endlessly intriguing. It seems to be considered as something that ‘comes for you’ or ‘strikes’ at a particular moment and shines clarity on all production thereafter.
Not having been come for or struck myself, I view those who espouse it with the same kind of suspicious curiosity as when you arrive at a house party only to discover that everyone else thought $20 for a tab was a good investment and is consequently higher than the Marrickville terrace that constrains their physical selves.
So it always interests me when others relate their inspiration, whether in artist statements or speeches, ascribed by learned theorists or recounted as part of some drunken escapade. In my un-struck state, and being the good lawyer that I am was, I figure if only I can absorb or read enough of such espoused wisdom, I’ll surely know the blessed state when it hits?
… I’ll know to welcome the light when it comes for me.
That got pseudo religious quickly.
And flippant of course because well, that’s how I deal with fear. One of my major fears, sustained through the current playful year, is that I will never find inspiration – never feel the drive to make and create with the passion and clarity that are supposed to result.
See the thing is, artists are supposed to have inspiration. Just as lawyers are supposed to have a fondness for cocaine and real estate agents, a Lexus. It’s the done thing.
At any given artist talk then, said artist will likely recount the formative years of particular hardship / rural bliss / character building urban life which gave rise to a passionate interest in social issues / nature / the interaction of people and cities and produced a coherent and ever expansive portfolio of work which explores and plays with the aforementioned chosen vehicle in a variety of forms.
And I will sit there and bemusedly wonder, why can’t I find my own urban experience particularly interesting? Why can’t I be enthralled by the pattern of the cosmos, the terrifying trajectory of the planet we live on or even the dark grit of an unlit underpass?
Why do I just want to make pretty things? Even typing those words makes me feel slightly ill, as though owning up to a vapidity of spirit and soul I would otherwise not admit.
Surely there should be something greater than ‘nice things’, something grander than pure pretty. If there isn’t, is it even art? Of course that’s a whole other dump truck of worms best decanted with a tumbler or two of red.
Of course I’d also like to be able to pay my bills through what I make. But that too is unutterable; an acknowledgment that you have sold out before you even begun, a suggestion perhaps that you are too conscious of the slavishly consumerist public (which, as an artist, you must serve but also disdain, which for some reason is dipped in purity and purpose but retains a lustrous coating of snobbishness). Of course that’s also a side issue. Paying bills may be a goal but it cannot be inspiration.
Unless perhaps you’re a time-travelling forger.
Now I’m being silly.
And still nothing pulls. Nothing tugs at me, clamours for my attention, demands my dedication. That’s not to say I don’t find others’ work inspiring. (Then again, is inspiring the word? Often I see things and think, I wish I’d made that. But that’s not really the same, for that impulse is towards an object already conceived and made manifest, an object that you, like the jealous step-sister in fairy tales of old, wishes to steal away from its creator.)
Perhaps that last impulse is just me. I don’t really know how else to describe it; the feeling of gorging your eyes on the creations of others and feeling both over-full and empty.
There’s no proper ending to this meandering quibble, for there’s no real answer to my quest. Inspiration, that vague and ill-defined beast, seems certain to stalk through my shadowlands of consciousness, prowling limbs, twitching tail rising above the smoky mist.
Inspiration is definitely a big cat. That’s all I’ve got.