Approaching Conceptual Art | The Artist


To forget the gallery piece and to open yourself up to the ideas that lie beyond it is also to forget the artist who produced the piece. As we’ve seen, ideas exist both within and beyond us. We all have them, yet none of us can really claim possession of them. In this sense, when approaching conceptual art it is also good to sometimes be able to forget about the artist; in separating the idea from the person presenting it, you are able to bring it within yourself and to make it a part of who you are. When attempting to understand and assimilate an idea, this is often an important and useful thing to be able to do.

The idea of the artist or creator is an important one within society, and is frequently romanticized by popular culture. These are mostly people that we are led to look up to and admire; we know the names of our favourite musicians, actors and artists, and we may even be familiar with details of their lives. It is important to have people to admire, for our own self-development as much as anything else. These people help us to set goals for ourselves and show us what is possible.

So to be asked to forget about the artist and concentrate solely upon the work can often seem a strange thing to do, and we may frequently struggle to allow ourselves to do this. The popularized image of the ‘conceptual artist’ can make this even harder.

Various stories in the media have, over time, formed a caricature of the conceptual artist; famous names such as Tracy Emin and Damien Hirst have stamped an indelible mark upon this image. These caricatures have burned an outline onto the retina of the public eye, and it can be hard to think of the conceptual artist without unconsciously referring to these stereotypes, be they favourable or, as is probably more frequently the case, unfavourable.

In approaching the art, and allowing ourselves access to ideas, we must be able to let go of any prejudices we may have about those who have created the experience for us. If we do not trust the artist, then it may be extremely hard to gain access to their work. It would serve us well to remember that all ideas lie beyond the person who communicates them; so regardless of what we think of the artist, or of their kind, the idea is as much ours as theirs. To deny ourselves access to it because of what we think of them, is to do ourselves a disservice.

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