Artistic mediocrity a result of careerism, says Khoo


fmt-ohsem-inside-article1PETALING JAYA: Pusaka founder and director Eddin Khoo says the existence of too many artists who are more concerned with advancements in their profession rather than the true creativity of their work, has led to a general decline in the quality of art.

He explained that true creativity was borne of impulsiveness and that money in the form of careerism should never be the main aim.

“What you get today are artists who don’t create work that is driven by the imagination and the spirit. In fact, we now live in a world that doesn’t even believe in the spirit,” he said.

He said that today’s artists were largely catering to trends instead of attempting to “express their souls”.

Eddin, who is also a writer and poet, said “real art” was born of a sense of wildness and should be unorthodox in nature.

“The problem is that even what may have been considered unorthodox in the past is now orthodox. We create trends and then live by them.”

He also took to task the many platforms that allowed aspiring artists to showcase their work, saying that this had created an overflow of mediocrity as there was no longer a sense of discernment.

“Just because your mother, father and aunties think you are wonderful, it doesn’t make it true. So what you have, is this strange domestic tampering and there is no real criticism,” he said.

What the art connoisseur defined as real criticism was the serious, intellectual, objective discussion of an aspiring artist’s artwork.

“There is very little serious criticism out there and writing on your blog (about another artist’s work) is not what I mean by criticism.

“You’ve really created a world of mutual admiration which I think a lot of the art today is borne from. That and a great deal of pretentiousness,” he said.

He claimed that the art market was mostly defined by this pretentiousness and that many of the people who were active participants in this market were not even aware of the rudiments of art.

He said an aspiring artist could only achieve greatness if he was cautious of his own mediocrity.

“Check your own mediocrity. This will make you a very lonely person but you should be working for the work itself. The first principle in art is that you engage in it for the art itself, not because you want people to buy or see it.

“Dignity has a lot to do with art. I always tell the artist to learn how to make money elsewhere because then you will never compromise your talent or art.”

He said that famous Spanish painter and sculptor Pablo Picasso was also a businessman but that he was one of the exceptions to the rule.

“He was so shrewd he was able to make a mark for himself. If you’re that shrewd, then go ahead.

“The other thing is that his art was fantastic. Today, there are a lot of people making business out of art and yet their art is terrible.”

Amirudin Ariffin, a painter who also teaches art at his studio in Kuala Lumpur, agreed with Khoo, saying that serious discussions about art were virtually non-existent.

He said great artists were found in societies that embraced art and that in order for society to do that, they needed to be exposed to it first.

“If writers do talk about art, it’s usually to tell the public that these artists will showcase their work at a particular venue in conjunction with a particular event.

“There’s no talk on such things as why the artist created this work, or what the philosophy behind this work is,” he said.

He admitted, however, that there was a vicious cycle as the reason writers avoided writing serious articles about art was because there was no audience for it.

“Writers are more willing to talk about glamour and gossip because there are a lot of people who want to know about these kinds of issues and that’s where the money is.”

He said writers needed to consistently expose people to discourses about art.

“Perception needs to change over time. People may not take an interest at first but if you keep at it then that’s how you foster an environment where people are more receptive and conscious of art.

“This is how you create great artists.”