Sunday, 28 October 2012

Infinite Artworks

In light of various events, the vandalized 1958 Rothko, the ‘Ecce Homo’ restoration and the lipstick Twombly to name a few, I have decided to ask and attempt to answer the question, when is a work of art truly finished?

Infinity, though of another kind, causes much of our pleasure in agreeable, as well as of our delight in sublime images. The spring is the pleasantest of the seasons; and the young of most animals, though far from being completely fashioned, afford a more agreeable sensation than the full grown; because the imagination is entertained with the promise of something more, and does not acquiesce in the present object of the sense. In unfinished sketches of drawing, I have often seen something which pleased me beyond the best finishing; and this I believe proceeds from the cause I have just now assigned.1 

Burke seems to suggest here that the potential outcomes of a work of art, during the process of creation are what make a work of art infinite. The ways in which we can change the work are available to us in those initial marks made. Those first stages post creation, like a puppy, have the potential to become something extraordinary, full of expectation. The puppy may become a wonderful companion, or it may contract rabies and prove fatal to a human being. The promise of the unknown, may allow us to consider something to be sublime. In the same way, a few marks on a page; could lead to either disastrous or phenomenal results. This mystery allows our imaginations to consider something we are perhaps unable to visualise, to be great regardless, based solely on potential. All artworks could be considered infinite, if all artworks possess the potential to change, to develop with the times. Artworks are susceptible to change and are therefore infinite unless destroyed.

1. Burke, Edmund & Phillips, Adam, ed. A Philosophical Enquiry into the Origin of Our Ideas of the Sublime and Beautiful (Oxford University Press, 4 Jun 1998) SECTION XI: INFINITY in pleasing OBJECTS, 70.