Art and Suffering / by Chris Hall

Pablo Picasso, Woman with Bangs, (1902)

It is too easy to become jaded, numb, cynical, and mean. The world gives us ample opportunity, for damn sure. Nights full of tears, years of continued disappointments. And even when you taste success, love, friendship . . . nothing lasts forever. Sometimes you want to scream into the night, shake the stars for all they promised you. That is alright. But then when the morning comes, that is when the real struggle begins. You cannot give up hope, you cannot succumb to the easy temptation to become jaded, numb, cynical, and mean. I make dark cynical art sometimes, and that is fine for its honesty and catharsis - it serves a purpose, screaming into the night - but the best art might still be the triumphant art, the art that seeks the light of the Sun and the Moon and attempts to make peace with the stars, the art that explores and transcends the human condition, the beauty of being human. It is a worthy pursuit, anyways.


I am weary of the trap many seem to succumb to, that is fetishizing one's suffering, romanticizing it as an integral part of artistic production.  Of course many in the art world today mock this notion to the point of denying that there is a connection between mental anguish and art at all - but there is sad documented truth in the cliché, that creative types do disproportionately suffer more mental health issues than those in the general population.  But to attribute suffering as the root cause for art production, or the greatness of a work of art, even, is a fallacy I no longer support.  I once accepted this idea, and it helped me get up in the morning and paint, but it got me nowhere and brought no peace.  It is possible to heal, to seek help, and still be a great artist.  The source of great art is the artist, not the suffering.