Indulge me in a bit of a pondering. Much has been said about the literary and visual artist’s need of finding a voice. On the one hand, I understand that this is an attempt as stating that the artist must not be silent and, simultaneously, has a need to find something unique to say. In that sense, the metaphor of finding a voice is explained. However, as important a notion as that may be, it is not this aspect of the metaphor that intrigues me.
This guiding metaphor of finding a voice interests me on different grounds. As a conceptual trope, it captures my thoughts because it employs an insinuation of language but gives primary emphasis to the sense of embodiment. The metaphor of finding a voice implies language but, more directly, it implies the very presence of the artist as a speaker. If we talk of visual images and images created with words as “giving voice” to the artist, we are, to some extent, giving thought to an advent of the artist being both present and speaking.
Why do we not talk about artists as looking for a language? Undeniably, artists do develop a visual language and gather a particular use of written language that can be recognized as a verbal style. These aspects of their work are what is being referred to as their voice. Even in this elaboration, however, the question remains – why is this metaphor worded in this specific way? Even with this point in my mind, I am still left wondering why we persist in a metaphor for the artist’s work that stands at a bit of a distance from this notion of style. We are not speaking of their language? Why are we are speaking of their voice?
Having given a fair bit of my art practice and personal study to exploring the nature of visual semantics – specifically, the representational relationship of words and images – I have some considerations on this matter. However, I set this thoughtful gaze before you without offering any further elaboration of my thoughts. I do so mainly because I think that there is sometimes more useful to be found in laying out questions than in offering elaborations. I think this way because I assume that the former tends to open up our thoughts while the latter tends to close them in or shut them down. I also think this way because I assume that the process of analysis is often much more interesting and productive that the conclusions of it.
To be sure, what I am offering here does little in laying a firm foundation for concrete thought. However it does chart an area of thinking to explore. Therefore, I leave this with you.
Regardless, I am left wonder what voice you would give to this thought as an artist?