A Surfeit of Art

Over the weekend, I took part in a performance of Faure’s Requiem. I don’t kid myself for one moment that my voice is good enough to take on solo parts. I can just about hold a note well enough to not completely embarrass myself when singing along with the other members of my choir. When it comes to music, that’s fine as far as I’m concerned; I have no desire to step into that particular limelight. The requiem itself is sombre, intensely personal and extremely beautiful and it was both moving and an immense pleasure just to be a part of it.
It was rather a sad coincidence then, to awake this morning to the tragic news about the death of Philip Seymour Hoffman from what appears to have been a drug overdose. He was a terrifically subtle and intelligent actor with a commanding screen presence and he’ll undoubtedly be very much missed. The obvious question is why a man of such prodigious talent and abundant gifts would destroy himself in this way, a man who was much loved, hugely successful and the father of three young children.
Philip Seymour Hoffman’s passing cannot help but bring to mind the untimely demise of a great number of other highly gifted artists, among them Heath Ledger and Amy Winehouse, who died in similar circumstances. It’s hard to avoid the conclusion that there’s something about great artists that makes them particularly vulnerable, not to drugs per se, but to a particular intensity in the way they experience life and what life throws at them.
Perhaps the defining characteristic of all truly great artists is their ability to discern what is essential and true and to project it through art so that what was hitherto unimagined becomes freely comprehensible, obvious even, to everyone. The ability to do this is an incredibly rare gift and also a responsibility. Those who aspire to being artists require a complete openness of spirit, an unfiltered receptiveness and sensitivity to experience, that must at times feel like an unbearable burden. No wonder the temptation to quieten the endless, babbling stream of consciousness is sometimes overwhelming. What’s more, the concomitant of such openness is perpetual self-doubt and dissatisfaction. The creative life is a journey that never reaches its destination. Nothing is ever finished, nothing is ever as good as it could be. As an artist, there’s an obligation to strip yourself down to the soul and let the world make of it what it will; however often you’re told you’re a genius, you never really quite believe it.
I ask myself on a daily basis what it is that compels me to try to write and to improve. I’m broke and frequently discouraged but still I go on. I’m becoming more inured to the endless knock-backs, but they still hurt. Is it wise to have chosen this path? Is it logical? Is it improving my psychic well-being? I look at my friends and neighbours, who are completely happy to live their lives without this freakish need to write and I feel genuinely envious. What am I even trying to express? Shadows, or perhaps secrets I don’t know myself. There’s something in my heart that’s demanding to be put down and recorded on the page and it won’t take no for an answer. To be honest, at times it feels like a form of insanity; it comes as no surprise that many artists feel the need to self-medicate.

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1 Comment

Filed under Art, Biographies, Screenwriting, Writing

One response to “A Surfeit of Art

  1. Pingback: A Surfeit of Art | Veronica Haidar

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