I’m not a massive fan of the idea of “expression” in art. Increasingly, I side with Stravinsky when he said “music [or in this case art] is, by its very nature, essentially powerless to express anything at all”. 

Desmond Clarke

The following interview forms part of a series where I invite a number of contemporary artists to each reflect on their personal history, meaning and philosophy, and how those are expressed throughout their creative process.

This week I talk to Desmond Clarke, an artist and composer based in Yorkshire who uses python and a plotter to create algorithmic art. In our interview, Clarke tells me how his art is a means of reflection or exploration for him, whether or not he believes there are limits to human creativity, and what kind of art he would make with unlimited means.


How is your art a means of reflection or exploration for you?

My work is fundamentally about exploration. Whatever the medium, the ultimate goal is a greater understanding of the world we live in, and our place in it. Of course, self-awareness and emotional understanding is also a part of that, but in my current practice that happens through an outward-looking, intellectual engagement with a medium.

Bladeball

Do you create to understand or do you express what you have already learned? Or is it some combination of both?

I’m not a massive fan of the idea of “expression” in art. Increasingly I side with Stravinsky when he said “music [or in this case art] is, by its very nature, essentially powerless to express anything at all”. 

I think that art can evoke things in people, but as an artist I’m not sure I have any control (or any right to control) what that evocation is. I see my role as a curator of forms: I’m out there exploring possible spaces, looking for things which have some intellectual or sensual interest to me, things which help me achieve a deeper or more sophisticated relationship with the world. Hopefully other people find them interesting as well.

The artist’s challenge is navigating these ever-tightening spaces towards something interesting: spaces where our internal world meets something new.

Cradle

Robert Rauschenberg said, “An empty canvas is full.” How much do you agree with him?

I think that potential is the artist’s medium. We start with emptiness, with nothingness, with silence, but of course we don’t really: those things are already filled with our own understanding of what they are, what they mean, and how we can approach them. The empty canvas is full of prejudice, but it is also full of possibility. As we make marks, write lines of code or play notes, we cut that possibility down from an infinite, open space to a closed, finite one.

The artist’s challenge is navigating these ever-tightening spaces towards something interesting: spaces where our internal world meets something new.

There’s a really relevant Morton Feldman quote about the creative act being destructive, but for the life of me I can’t find it…

Coral

If you had all the time in the world and unlimited financial means, would you create the same art you create today? Or would you create something different?

I would create a truly massive immersive multimedia science-fiction opera. (Please commission me for this. Thx.)

I think the human mind is probably infinitely malleable. My work wouldn’t be possible without the tools I use, both abstract and physical: one of the limits we face today is keeping up with our tools!

Choreography

Do you believe there are limits to human creativity?

That’s a difficult question. For me the question is better framed as “are there limits to the human mind” – clearly there are practical limits, but there are also ways of overcoming them, and I think the human mind is probably infinitely malleable. My work wouldn’t be possible without the tools I use, both abstract and physical: one of the limits we face today is keeping up with our tools!

Some of the things permitted or revealed by them are so subtle or so profound that to even grasp their implications as a human is a lifetime’s work. I’m thinking of things like modern mathematics, genetics or physics (which are just as much about creativity as art, in my opinion). I think the potential exists for us to transcend these limits. Whether we will or not is another question.

Blade

If there were an artwork that depicted your current experience of the world, what might it look like?

Maybe the empty canvas that we already discussed.


See more of Desmond Clarke’s works and keep up to date with upcoming exhibitions: Instagram | Website

Posted by:repsychl

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