Recovering a Sense of Integrity

I’m entering my 4th week on The Artist’s Way. The introductory essay to this week is called “Recovering a Sense of Integrity”. In order to have self-expression, we must first have a self to express. It’s pretty obvious, isn’t it? But even so it might be rather difficult; to find one’s own voice, to listen to it, to take it serious, to see the value of it …

Living in complex social relations might not make it possible to take self-expression for granted after all. What would my parents, my partner or my kids say? My friends? My enemies … A woman in a male culture, a new voice up against the establishment, a middle-aged writer up against the freshness of youth –

All this self-reflection made me suddenly remember this great etching by Ludvig Eikaas.

“Jeg”, Luvig Eikaas (ca. 1968)

The print is simply called “Jeg”, which is the Norwegian word for “I”. When first exhibited in 1968 it met a lot of opposition, you know the kind: This isn’t art! It looks cruel! A kid can do better, etc. etc.

Eikaas, who was a great humorist, had this to say: In school I was rather annoyed to learn that I could never start a sentence with the word I. This picture is my revenge. Now, as an adult, I can say I, I can express myself in my own way – as myself. 

To me this picture became a good exemplification of Cameron’s lesson in “Recovering a Sense of Integrity”.

We become, says Cameron, original because we become something specific: an origin from which work flows, just like Eikaas exemplifies in his different versions of “Jeg”.

4 Comments Add yours

  1. Rio says:

    That is so interesting. The other day I found something I had jotted down while working on a painting. When I am working random phrases fall out. I can’t even say they are original, I try to write them down for later when I am using the part of my brain that can ponder with words. This is what I had written:

    “At some level our inaccuracy becomes relevant because it defines us.”

    1. Sigrun says:

      How interesting – thank you!

      I was just thinking the other day, that having a voice is not necessarily the same as having one’s own voice. I’m a writer, I publish texts all the time, but is the things I write identical with what I think, or what I want to say, or is much of it defined by conventions? Including the conventions of language … ?

      1. Rio says:

        Well, it is true that the meaning of words is dependant on context. We have to try to understand the language of the people we are talking to, or writing for, so we can say as closely as possible what we think and have it understood. Do we sacrifice aspects of our uniqueness to achieve this? I don’t know. How important is originality when one has something to say and is making the effort to be understood?

        I don’t think being obtuse is original at all, but no one is ever going to be completely clear.

        When you say “having a voice” and “having one’s own voice” what is the essential difference for you? I don’t know that I have either, really, not really. I’m not trying to be funny. I don’t write for other people. Sometimes “my voice” is just shocking to me because it has come from the need to say something and yet I remember even more clearly when I didn’t speak because I was afraid.

        I don’t think our inaccuracies are a problem. They are inevitable and even necessary, they are a part of creativity, they are part of the effort to communicate. I think the fear of our inaccuracy is a problem and our denial of the fudgy-ness of expression in our pursuit of understanding is a problem.

        I think out of everything I have tried to say here, for example, “fudgy-ness” defines me.

      2. Sigrun says:

        I’m not talking about originality in the sense of saying something no one have ever said before. My concern in this case, is to listen to my own thoughts. What am I thinking here, and how can my thoughts go into a meaningful discussion with my readers reflections? In my writing I am always addressing a reader, readers, and it is very important for me to express myself in a way so that the readers can connect to whatever I have said. Of course they do not have to agree, but they have to be able to go into negotiations with my assertions, or else I have not done a good job. As a writer of factual prose, I’m not writing letters to myself – but to a lager public.

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