Artists and Suffering by Vincent Mars

Reblogged from Boy with a Hat


The Scream

If you read the biographies of preeminent artists – writers, painters, musicians – you discover an encyclopedia of suffering. Some cut their ears, others drank their sorrows away, a few found life unbearable and ended themselves.

Are artists born tormented souls?

If some people are born with genes that make them prone to misfortunes, or at least apt to interpret what happens to them negatively, and you happen to be among them, then art surely must be a positive thing for you.

It transforms your suffering into a fuel that powers your artistic endeavors, and gives you a commendable title, artist, and thus a good reason to stay alive.

“When suffering knocks at your door and you say there is no seat for him, he tells you not to worry because he has brought his own stool.” (Chinua Achebe)

In time, art helps you find happiness in your suffering, and your love woes and shames and disappointments become your muses.

Or does the art-making bring the suffering?

People who don’t dabble in art seem to have lower suicide rates that those who do. It’s understandable, since the making of art entails solitude, egotism, and overindulgence in one’s thoughts.

The life of the artist is characterized by extremes, of thought and of feeling, and by bouts of sexual fasting and feasting.

Also, I would say that making art changes the way you perceive the world, turning you from a participant into an observer, and thus encouraging detachment.

“You desire to know the art of living, my friend? It is contained in one phrase: make use of suffering.” (Henri-Frederic Amiel)

If art causes suffering then why would anyone do it? When you suffer you feel important. And your silence and moroseness will make you seem interesting to some.

As to me…

I must admit that I am somewhat of a tormented soul. I don’t drink, I don’t do drugs, I don’t go to whores, I don’t even smoke. But I live locked in my ‘attic’ and I rarely go out.

And I have a bad opinion of myself, and no friends, and I am cold with my family, and I dropped out of school to write Oliver Colors’ biography, and to tell you the truth, sometimes I scratch my head and wonder whether it would have not been better for me, and for those around me, and for the world if I became a banker or at least a shop clerk.

But then I am not sure I’ve had a choice. Life has more control over me than I have over her.

“The reward of suffering is experience.” (Aeschylus)

Life is a struggle. If you don’t struggle, if you don’t suffer, it doesn’t mean that you don’t make good art, it means that you don’t live. Because the way you respond to the struggle shapes your character and fills your memory. Suffering is a positive force.

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