Dear Art Doctor,
I am an artist with an interest in critical theory. If there is one thing that critical theory has taught me, it is that people like me do not make good art any more. Really, I belong in the eighteenth century, safely under the patronage of a flirty duchess. I am not made for youtube and performance art.
What should I do? Any art I do produce will be reactionary, but I’m really a revolutionary!
First of all, you need to relax. If there is one thing that curing the woes of students has taught me, it is that critical theory does not make people happy. Step away from the self-referential intellectualism and you may find your creativity mysteriously flourishing. As for art to help you do this, I think impressionism may hold the key. My first thought was to prescribe some Matisse or Mondrian – they both use a gloriously deep blue that has something inherently calming about it –but I can’t help but think that you might not be in a state to accept its simplicity without a bit of analytical hand-wringing, which won’t do you any good at all. There’s a certainty to impressionism, a cheerful belief in the fundamental beauty of the world. You need to let yourself enjoy these paintings and, if worry starts sneaking back in, remind yourself that beautiful fine art is still appreciated –you only have to look at the enduring popularity of David Hockney (who, as your lovely editor Michael discussed last week, has actually embraced modern technology with his iPad ‘paintings’) to see that true skill will always win out.
And this may all be a century too late, but eighteenth-century flirty duchesses come with their own problems: solitude and contemplation will be key for you, I think. And when I say contemplation, I don’t mean sitting around grappling with whether you are a reactionary or a revolutionary. I mean go and look at a tree – look at the shapes its branches make, breathe cold air, and enjoy.