Art and Obsession

“OK, I got Velazquez portrait of the Pope Innocent X. Quite an ambivalent study of absolute power. And here comes Francis Bacon. Despite never having seen this painting in person, Bacon became so obsessed with it that he compulsively repainted it over and over again, each version more horrific than the previous. […] It’s not until an artist finds his obsession that he can create his most inspired work.”Anamorph

The first thing I wrote that actually got me some attention here, in Romania, was a novella called “An Emperor’s Will.” I wrote it when I was 16, and I won a National Literary Contest. And a lot of published writers read it and loved it. On an online workshop frequented by some of the best SF and Fantasy writers in Romania, it received mostly positive reviews.

For a long time I believed that I just got lucky. Because I couldn’t write something that was even half as good. Much, much later I realized that this first novella was good because it was the first piece of honest writing I had done. Yeah, it was Magical Realism, and yeah, the style was similar to that of G.G. Marquez, but I had written about a piece of my own life.

I had taken something that was real, something that had happened, and turned it into something else. Into a story, into made-belief.

One more thing about this novella… it was the first time when I wrote like crazy. I finished it in 30 hours. I didn’t get much sleep. I wrote and wrote and wrote.

You could say that I was obsessed with this story.

And everything I wrote that ever meant something to me was about something I felt strongly about. Obsession is quite a strong word, but it’s not far from what I would use to define how Chris feels about Amber in Jazz. Or how Jonathan Fisher feels about art and writing.

All great writing is about one thing and one thing only. The main theme, the only theme there is. Finding what your entire world revolves around. The thing you love most or hate most, that one thing that’s destroyed your life and keeps eating away your hope.

Art and obsession…

Who isn’t obsessed with something?

We’re all as far from normal as possible. We just don’t see it. And we rarely use that to our advantage.

That’s why great writing is so rare. There are far more fantastic wordsmiths on the Planet than people willing to write about their most inner secrets…

And who would want to do that? The moment you write about something you’ve been hiding or denying, you have to acknowledge it as an undeniable fact about you as a person.

I like the idea that the only theme in art is the question, “Who am I?” That all art is a journey of self-discovery. Artists make art because they want to find out who they really are, and the audience “consumes” that art because they want to know they’re not as alone as they thought. Because they want to find particular truths they wouldn’t have been able to find otherwise.

6 thoughts on “Art and Obsession

  1. So many good points to think about so early in the day. I never thought about writing as an obsession. But it sometimes feels like an addiction. I haven’t figured out if that’s good. I guess there are worse addictions.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. That Francis Bacon portrait was on the cover of the textbook for my Modern British Literature course in college, so I go to look at that terrifying image every day for a semester.

    Liked by 1 person

  3. Goya, who did a lot of court portraits, playing to the powerful in his day, did a portrait of a cardinal who had also served as a Grand Inquisitor in Spain. Without seeming to intend it, the work had, at least for me, that hard to hide nature that the people may have thought of as the presence of power back in the day, but that now reads (to me at least) as a sinister quality. I responded immediately to it without knowing the back story on the work.

    It makes me wonder what works Bacon looked at prior to deciding to do the portrait he did. Somewhere he must have had a similar experience, surely.

    Liked by 1 person

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