Paul Tonnes


Download "Words," my masters thesis.  Artist Statement The lineage of the word artist proceeds from antiquity in the Latin artem, through medieval Latin and Italian artista, migrating from the French artiste in the 14th century, and finally arriving in English in the 1580s as “one who cultivates one of the fine arts.” An artist was originally a person inspired by the Muses: history, poetry, comedy, tragedy, music, dancing, and astronomy. The meaning shifted in the 17th century to include anyone skilled in any art or craft, including surgeons, professors, and cooks. First attested to in 1747, the word was narrowed in meaning to “one who practices the arts of design or visual arts.” Now the word has again expanded to include musicians and those whose primary medium is sound. The word Statement comes from the 17 century verb state, “to declare in words, to place something on the record,” and the noun-producing suffix ment, which is used to indicate that the word is the result of the action of the verb. For example, I make merry, which results in merriment. Therefore, as one who cultivates and practices visual art I am often asked to place on the record my… my what exactly? My feelings, my techniques, my cognitions, my place in art history, my manifesto, my philosophy of art, my influences, all of these? An impossible task, one that will not make me merry and certainly will not result in merriment for my reader. However, because I must enter something into the record, I declare the following: I believe that art is a relationship between the work and you, the participant. This relationship is reciprocal: ideas, feelings, insights, knowledge, and occasionally wisdom flow back and forth between the art object and the participant. The currency of this flow is what art really is; art is more of a verb than a noun. Art is not the collection of molecules in the physical object alone. Art is not the constellation of thoughts and feelings in the participant alone. Art is the interaction between the participant and the object. If there is friction between you and the object, so much the better; for out of the heat of conflict arises the smoke of meaning. Art arises from this friction. Indeed, I have named you participant to emphasize this relationship; you take part, you share with the object, you share of the object; you are of equal importance to the object, you are what makes art, art. So where am I in this relationship? I am the instigator of the object; I decide and/or intuit the need for the existence of the object in the world, then when I have deemed the object ready for the world, I send it out into the world; now the relationship, the art, begins. As the instigator I can, in an artist statement, get you started, gently nudge you in a direction, but it is up to you to write this statement for yourself. I am hopeful that you will give the work more than an indifferent tweet, and humble enough to know that you won’t feel compelled to write volumes.



© paul tonnes