Whispers from the beyond – my thoughts on Inspiration in art
Inspiration: what is the source of that well of joy drawn on famously by poets, painters and musicians? Inspiration is literally ‘to breathe in’, by definition from outside one’s self. Traditionally, inspiration comes from the Muse. In classical times seen as the nine fold goddesses who served as the fountain drawn upon by both scientists and artists in their creative endeavours.
‘To muse’ is to wonder, to think, to remember. We amuse ourselves with Music – her voice – and explore her creations in a museum – her temple.
In Roman times this became the Daemon, a disembodied voice who guided the work and was seen as the personal Genius behind all creativity. For the Icon painters of the Middle Ages inspiration came from God. They never claimed authorship of the paintings they made.
Today we no longer believe in spirits and other worldly voices, we are wiser and too sophisticated to believe in such things, so we claim all the rights and honours of creation for ourselves. And so we sign our works with our name. “This is mine”
Yet the Daemon lives on. When Janet and later Freud proposed the idea of the unconscious in the nineteenth century, the voice from beyond was revived in a new form. Still she was speaking from far but not so far as before. She no longer spoke from outside us, but neither was she completely within us.
But claiming authorship for ourselves has a price. The responsibility of becoming the creative source leads often to neurosis – creative block, that mysterious fear to practice what one loves – or narcissism and the cult of personality. Both of which are the destroyers of art.
Speaking for myself, when inspiration comes, I know it is not mine. The proof of this is that she can not be willed or commanded. Often an image will come to me complete and spontaneous, sometimes unbidden. This is closer to grace than thought, closer to the heart than the mind. More of a gift than a technique. A whisper from the beyond.
P.S. want to be informed first when I post something new? Subscribe to my newsletter!