What is Synonymous with Flaw?

Four You Gallery
January 20, 2021| Diane Young

To create a masterpiece, artists often struggle a great deal. Writers write words that they scratch and pages that they tear. Painters dispose of so many canvases. Directors take the same shot a hundred different times to get where they want. In general, artists seek perfection. They want to make the image in their heads a reality. It takes multiple attempts and a lot of hard work to create a masterpiece you would sign your name on.

Interestingly, this isn’t a rule. Not all artists want to create the most perfect, most beautiful, most symmetrical piece. In fact, artists also seek truth in their work and the truth isn’t always beautiful nor is it always picture-perfect. The truth is imperfect and, often, an artist’s truth is what shines in their work. In other words, imperfection makes of art valuable. Artist Miki Matsuyama’s process begins with pencil drawings. In this initial step, she avoids using erasers. She does not want to fix her “mistakes,” she rather prefers the charm that imperfections add to her paintings. This rawness to her pieces makes them all the more engaging. When you look at a Matsuyama piece, you delve deep into it. You experience it with all your senses and you feel that as perfect as it is, the “mistakes” set it apart and make it more “believable.”

Across disciplines, artists find themselves indulging in the imperfection. Many artists built their identity around gruesome and repulsive pieces. The end goal here is to derive a reaction from the audience, even if it were negative. Not all emotions are positive, we are not always in awe. Sometimes, we are disgusted, appalled, angry and much more. Nothing should stop art from representing the entire spectrum of human emotion, of challenging the mind and asking the audience to think a little more, to analyze a little more and to feel a little more.

Different art forms are founded on the idea of spontaneity and capturing the moment as crudely as it is. It comes without saying that when we discuss the art of “capturing” we mean photography. Across the years, photographers have taken some of the most heartbreaking photos; photos that marked eras and are part of the collective human memory. Not all imperfect photos are shocking. For instance, photography master, Henri Cartier-Bresson’s famous “Man Jumping the Puddle” is in almost every “most iconic photographs” list because it encompasses Bresson’s school of thought. The picture, blurry and imperfect as it is, reflects a deep photography concept: the decisive moment. A photographer has the power to choose a moment and make it timeless. When everything is in motion, happening, the photographer singles out a millisecond and immortalizes it. This, alone, is beauty in imperfection. It is truth and reality. Moreover, Stanley Forman’s “Woman Falling From Fire Escape” is another photograph that falls under the same category but takes a totally different approach. The photo sees the photographer snapping a picture of a woman and child falling after the collapse of a fire escape. Seeking the moment, Forman’s photo indeed portrays life unedited but poses an ongoing ethical debate in photography. What comes first the photographer’s duty to document and capture a moment, or the photographer’s human duty to assist and help another human in danger.

Stanley Forman, Woman Falling From Fire Escape

Evolving in parallel with photography is cinema. Since its inception, different art movements transgressed towards cinema as a medium of expression. Realism and neo-realism are both impactful and substantial phases in the history of the art form. Here, directors put all their effort into producing a film that feels, looks and sounds like real life. The dialogues they write, the camera movements they adopt, the locations they choose and even the actors they handpick all culminate into an end product that feels like everyday life.

Pasolini’s Salo, one of the most known films in the history of cinema, is a grotesque depiction of 4 wealthy Italians who take 18 teenager slaves. While the film is a complex watch, the scenes in it are as raw and, may we say, disgusting as can get. Pasolini is not concerned in making the film easy or pretty to watch. He rather pushes the boundaries with shocking scenes, ones you would never imagine could make it into a film.

On another note, so many directors from Italian neo-realism cast non-actors to play in their movies. This practice is still widespread today and its main aim is to find real life humans that resemble the characters in the script and have them act themselves rather than pretend to be fictional characters. Sometimes, directors who cast such actors allow much more freedom and seek improvisation. They want the actors to say things the way they would say them and not necessarily the way they were scripted.

This takes us back to Matsuyama who doesn’t erase just like neo-realist directors who would not edit moments out if they felt these moments are real and honest. Building on the same idea, a particular school of acting starts out by asking the actors to improvise a scene and act it out the way they feel. After this first take, the actors continue to rehearse in order to perfect their lines, their expressions and their body movement. The only difference is that while they hone all these elements, they are also asked to repeat until they regain the spontaneity of that first effortless attempt. It’s a complex progress but many directors adopt it to reach realism.

Pier Paolo Pasolini, Salò, or the 120 Days of Sodom

The relationship between imperfection and realism is visceral because on so many levels one is synonymous of the other. When Miki Matsuyama builds on imperfection, her pieces are still extremely visually appetizing and this is what makes her work so unique. Other artists, whether painters or not might not necessarily seek the same outcome from their imperfections. In both cases, the intention is similar; creating art that reflects reality, art that is timeless and art that makes you react and interact.

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