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  • Writer's pictureAishath Aboobakr

On Seeking Acknowledgement

Just how integral is acknowledgement to an artist? By acknowledgement I mean some kind of recognition of your work, that it is accepted as a work of art by a community of your peers and/or those you respect. A cumbersome load to carry for one word. I don't doubt there are artists who do nothing but express themselves solely for their own pleasure. There is outsider art. There is the avant garde. And yet Picasso, Duchamp, perhaps even Warhol, revolutionised their medium after receiving widespread acclaim and acceptance. And what is the purpose, otherwise, to exhibit if not to seek a reaction from the public?

Let's think of the person (the aspiring artist) who makes things solely for their own sake. Does this person exist in a vaccuum? That is unlikely now. Almost everyone who is inclined towards the arts has access to a wealth of digital art. The aspiring artist (let's assume this person is self-taught like most of us) tries first to learn techniques. They employ these techniques in proto-products. It could be a sketch, it could be a few lines of poetry (think of that gallery owner, that consummate novice). The expressions of self keep on growing. There will come a point, I suspect, when the aspiring artist believes their accumulation of expressions need another participant. The most demure of them will share with a close friend. If the response is encouraging, perhaps it's time for Instagram and a wider cast of the opinionated. Opinions matter or at least they should in so far as they resonate with the aims of the work. It takes colour-blindness in an aspiring artist to believe their work beyond critique and to anchor themselves in stagnant waters.

It also seems contrary to thought that an artist would want to remain the same in terms of their skill - some form of progress is desired, it is safe to believe. How does an artist know they are making progress? They can compare past and present works. But what else? When is an outside perspective necessary? If an artist is serious about their art, I think they will eventually submit their work to outside scrutiny, usually when they feel they have achieved their vision.

This is an important step - it involves a leap of faith in the ability of another to understand the artist's vision and critique the work in its light. It is also an act of trust so this burden must be placed on the right shoulders.

Art with a high degree of insularity and resistance to criticism has a propensity to become caricature that perpetuates itself. A quick scan on Instagram reveals that the number of poets who write in English in Male'/Maldives is considerable. Yet the unseemly bulk local English poetry is comically malformed for they exist within a network that shields them from criticism, curbing all potential for growth.

Wanting to be validated/accepted by a group of your peers, is that extraneous to art or is it tied to art's very foundation? Does self expression tacitly assume an audience that may understand what is being conveyed? Are most artists madmen screaming into a megaphone with no hope or regard for a response. Could such screaming even be art?

It is natural for an artist to seek validation, it is part of the process - think that German philosopher and his early-Nazi musician-friend/scumbag or a cold beat writer waiting with his girlfriend in the shivering night for the New York Times review of his first novel.

For some time now, 'proper art' has generally been the purview of those rich and/or fortunate to have been educated in art schools, which exposed them to the kind of outsider/expert criticism and guidance that are essential for the flowering of talent. Judging by their exhibits, these artists seem to be at a place where they seek no further validation - 'art appreciating public' be damned. But there was once a point when it was necessary for their art.

To put it bluntly, acknowledgement is not why artists produce works. They come from that furnace within all of us. Some use it to raise chickens, others children, yet others to produce ludicrous Instagram poetry 'liked' by high society cliques. To submit your nakedness to another, expressing something deeply intimate before the other, offering it up for critique, that is part of the process of becoming an artist. It is like coming out of your consciousness and realising the existence of other spirits, and wanting to be recognised as one yourself.


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