[A few thoughts]
The illusion of permanence. Timelessness is a fantasy all art shares. A moment, whether captured by a camera or in paint, passes, and the understanding of that moment enters a near-constant state of transformation. Before the photograph, the moment had to be assembled out of a great many moments, as the artist refined his or her work to completion.
Some artist aspire to reveal a moment of life as they are living it, whether that is their individual experience, or aspects of the society they are living in. Many artists aspire to speak not only to the present, but to the future, to have their works hanging for centuries, as the Old Masters do.
The idea that the soul can be captured through physical means. I keep coming back to C. S. Lewis: “I saw well why the gods do not speak to us openly, nor let us answer . . . How can they meet us face to face till we have faces? (Till We Have Faces, 1956)”
Every artist who has ever painted, drawn, photographed, etc., a portrait has searched for the way to express a personality through the subjects lineaments. This is possible, in some cases, though Hamlet’s line, “…one may smile, and smile, and be a villain (Act 1, Scene 5)” comes instantly to mind. But assuming the person’s looks reflect their personality, there is then the challenge to the artist to render that face to capture both inward and outward personae.
We most certainly have faces, more than one, and to capture both together is the challenge.
Love. You cannot hate the visual world and be an artist. Perhaps there are exceptions for artists who work only through text, but I don’t believe that. Despite the complex and often difficult personalities of some artists, I think a love of humanity is also a requirement. Perhaps an artist makes art for him/her self, but to put it out in public calls for a need/want for others to see it. Call the public uninformed, without taste, greedy – yet they are the recipients of the artist’s gift. All that work to give something to someone you don’t care about? That’d never happen.
Communication. This love for humanity becomes abstract, embracing a future that can only be imagined. Timelessness allows the dialogue to extend beyond the present, in both directions. Artists talk to their forebears, albeit in one-sided conversations, which can then be picked up by others later on, a sort of exquisite corpse within art history. Inevitably, the content mutates and alters as it is passed along, becoming something new for others to pick up and adopt. The road goes ever on and on, as Bilbo Baggins wrote, and though each artist can only walk a certain part of that road, they can see what lies behind them, as through a mist, and perhaps even see ahead.
[More to come? Perhaps.]