Intentional vs Unintentional

Self collage with mat

These thoughts were prompted by another self portrait which I produced yesterday – all of a sudden. Again.  I claim that I am not inclined to introspection and I never really take to self portraiture deliberately, so one can say that my self portraits, of which I already have five (??) are unintentional. Looking at them raises two questions – one, of course, is what do these self portraits tell me about me and the other – what is the role of intention in art – mine and in general. As a person not inclined to introspection as proclaimed, I am more interested in the latter.

In my view, intention has to do with one’s sense of mission and purpose – things undoubtedly very important. But then, sticking to intention, or rather, to the principle of intentionality requires control – the instant creativity killer. Is intention in art antipodal to creativity?

Looking at my work in general, I can divide it into two parts – completely unintentional – most of it you can see here, and intentional – or rather work that has started with intention.  On two instances already, I have started working on an intention – something a lot less specific than a plan, but with a certain vision in mind. Both times the end result has hardly anything to do with my initial vision/intention. One resulted in the Abduction series and the other – in the  pieces which I am working on at the moment – you can see them Here and here. What I found out is that intention, once I start working on it (and this is a long thought process with or without a pen in hand), leads me outside itself. It is not even a gradual shift but an abrupt revelation – an idea literally strikes.

Then there is the unintentional work, which usually occurs when I decide to try this or that technique, and which includes some of (what I believe are) my best pieces. I usually have no specific idea or outcome in mind when I do that.

The question which I am pondering over is whether creativity is born at the point when intention meets serendipity. Let me know your thoughts.

4 thoughts on “Intentional vs Unintentional

  1. Jocelyne Mullis

    This is most interesting and although not being an artist per se, I can somehow relate to it. Writing offers the same conundrum. Frequently the writer sits down with an intentional subject in mind, whether a next chapter or a new short story or a set article. But often the inspiration will capture the mind , fingers will fly on the keyboard and what emerges is totally unintentional. Is this good or bad, that is not the question here, but the end result of this creative effort is poles apart from the intention. Is the creative process similar for all those artists who have the freedom to work at their own pace, and are not restricted by the need to make a living? Do boundaries create this intentional or unintentional divide? or is this part of the normal processus of creativity.

  2. chantal Bethel

    I usually start with an intention. However as part of my process, my creativity kicks in as a conversation begins with the work and then often the result is unintentional.

  3. artmoscow

    Literature has been already brought up in this discussion. Just a reminder: spontaneous writing, pushed by surrealist writers, died in its infancy. No one was interested in the unintelligible gibberish produced by spontaneous letter combinations )

    In the visual arts, somehow, spontaneity is often valued as the necessary condition for a true masterpiece. Yet, the big question is, is there any spontaneity at all if there’s the hand of an artist is involved?

    I’ve interviewed a few artists who claimed their painting was spontaneous. Yet, their decision to choose the tone or the next tone, or colour, or next colour has never been blind. Their choices of lines were not blind – they’d tell me “it just felt right”. But the feeling that something’s right is a premeditated decision itself, except that the meditation time is so brief we don’t apply the word meditation to it.

    It is a very interesting topic – but with the discussion of whether we have free will or not still raging on – I don’t think there’s a conclusive answer available right now)


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