The general public often imagines great artists as risk takers, visionaries and creative people who produce entirely new ideas. This is wrong, well, half wrong.
Many of the greatest artists developed a taste for balancing new and old and then they ride that middle path to their creative genius.
Beethoven was able to merge many ideas from Haydn, the Bach dynasty and other contemporaries with his own Dionysian flair and rhapsodic approach on motifs. Beethoven created just the right amount of novelty in his work and just the right amount of familiarity – his music had creative balance. The amazing question in music is, “does this stand the test of time?” Beethoven’s works, although less shocking today than ever, are still so beautiful and powerful to perform for the audience as well as for me to experience as the performer. Beethoven’s music offers a lens into his world and as I play it almost instantly injects me with the emotional turbulence he faced.
Turbulant and shocking in the art world is easy to come by. When he wasn’t hanging around with Velvet Underground in The Factory, Andy Warhol was able to bring together the popular culture of his day with high art practices: color, communication, process, and emotion. In an unusual role reversal he brought art to popular culture and he brought popular culture to art. Both communities were unfamiliar with the other and this resulted in creative balance.
Alexander McQueen was able to blend romanticism with gothic, death, and dramatic themes to create powerful dreamworlds in his fashion. Even just wearing glasses that he designed, I feel it brings his dramatic artist perspective into everything I do. His execution as a young designer coming out of St. Martins was unparalleled even in the early days. But it was his taste in materials, drama and theatre that made his fashion shows the focus of the fashion world every year for as long as he was alive.
My favorite choreographer, Hofesh Schecter fuses Israeli culture, primitivism and experimental art forms to create visceral dance theatre that shakes audiences to the bone. His work takes the darkness of Martha Graham and the raw power of Batsheva, but it is enhanced with ear-drum-exploding scream rock and performance art. Here in London he is a rock star choreographer and world-wide he is quickly taking over as an artist with creative balance.
What all four of these artists have in common is the ability to balance the familiar with the unfamiliar. They blend the expected and the unexpected in a way that surprises, but doesn’t completely bewilder.
Even though education is a mess at the moment, our next phase shouldn’t necessarily be a “revolution”. Instead we should cross-pollinate what we love and works with what we have not considered or been able to consider. We must find creative balance.