The Satisfaction of the Creative Impulse by Mark Rothko, 1941

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The Satisfaction of the Creative Impulse by Mark Rothko, 1941

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Redigeret: aug 3, 2007, 11:51 am

I've recently been reading WRITINGS ON ART by Mark Rothko. I want to provide an excerpt from Rothko's papers called "The Satisfaction of the Creative Impulse."

What are your thoughts on what Rothko calls "The Creative Impulse"?

Whether we are participants or spectators, studio artists or writers, so much of what Rothko says here rings true, I think. Rothko really believed in the concept that Art is Life. As artists, we become part of a stream in which we are renewed and in which we in turn, through our art, renew others. I think it's particularly interesting that Rothko connects art and health and argues that art has a "social function":

"The satisfaction of the creative impulse is a basic, biological need, essential to the health of the individual. Its aggregate effect on the health of society is inestimable. Art is one of the few important means known to man for the articulation of this impulse. This is why its practice is as continuous as life itself. This is why its practice is as continuous as life itself. It has survived every proscription by man made law or custom, and every difficulty which nature contrived in the intractability of its materials, no matter how unyielding the surface or how adverse the circumstance, man has persisted in this recording of his imaginings. The process itself is a psychological parallel inevitable to all biological processes. Man receives and therefore must expel. The alternative is strangulation. Man's senses collect and accumulate, the emotions and mind convert and order, and through the medium of art, they are emitted to participate again in the life stream where in turn they will stimulate action in other men. For art is not only expressive but communicable as well, this communicability imparts to it a social function." (28)

aug 4, 2007, 6:27 pm

Of all the things that have been used to separate humans from other animals, art is the only one that makes the distinction real. It used to be language, but now we know apes are capable of limited language, it used to be tool making, ditto apes, it used to be conceptual thinking, apes are there, war, just watch the apes. Our skills are in many ways just highly concentrated skills enjoyed by many primates.

But art as an act of representation and creation, the ability to project abstractions onto our environment as a means of communication, that seems to be the one skill given only to humanity.

A life without art is no life at all.

aug 15, 2007, 4:50 pm

Fantastic Rothko passage to lead this thread. I especially resonate to the idea of strangulation -- the striking, visceral tension implied in that image. I have felt this pressure myself, but then I am equally loath to release the pressure by talking about what I am trying to create because I suspect that releasing the tension destroys the need to create. Balancing the two seems to me an exceptional aspect to the creative process, or the artistic process if you want to call it that.

I would suggest music, geneg, as our speciesistic creative difference. Meaning music constructed as music, an objective thing we can appreciate from without, not bird and whale songs, which seem to me at least to more resemble communication and language. You mention apes as examples, and I think that's interesting. Lately I have enjoyed thinking that it's not that humans are different from apes, but a different ape. But that's for another group.

aug 15, 2007, 4:54 pm

scriveners lot: you are so right about the importance of tension in the creative process. So many writers have "lost" their stories forever because they talked about their projects, thus dispelling the tension. That's why I don't talk much about things I'm working on.

Redigeret: okt 18, 2007, 7:51 am

Hi Theresa,

Allow me to contribute something I came across years ago that echoes Rothko's mind as posted above. Although said in a less elegant/more straightforward manner by Stanley Kubrick, this quote more or less captures the spirit of the artists' creative impulse:

"I don't think that writers or painters or filmmakers function because they have something they particularly want to say. They have something that they feel. And they like the art form; they like words, or the smell of paint, or celluloid and photographic images and working with actors. I don't think that any genuine artist has ever been oriented by some didactic point of view, even if he thought he was."

okt 18, 2007, 8:40 pm

krvilla: I love that quote, and I quite agree.

apr 10, 2008, 12:10 pm

How did I miss this thread? I love Rothko, and read an excellent biography on him last summer. THERESA, I have WRITINGS ON ART but haven't gotten to it yet. I think I'll go there as soon as I finish the Miles Davis autobiography. Geneg, I enjoyed you primate musings, and agree. Henry Geldzahler, A past curator for the Modern wing of the Metropolitan Museum made the comment (responding to someone saying a chimp could paint the way Pollock paints): Yes, a chimp could get paint on the canvas, and at some point, it could look like a Pollock painting. But then, left alone, the chimp would continue, till the canvas was totally covered in muddy paint, then he would roll it into a ball, and eat it. An artist is different than a chimp, because s/he struggles to know when a work of art is "good" or "finished."