12 Mar 2010

Tolkien On Fantasy = Pure and Potent 'Art'


What is art ? To me art is Freedom! Yet there are some that thinks, fantasy art is not worthy to be called 'art' at all. But wait a minute, claiming that fantasy is not art is like saying Tolkien was not an artist - are we talking about same Tolkien that is regarded as one of the greatest writers that ever lived, which created the most fantastic legendarium ? So Tolkien has been called 'creative and skilled' but not an artist (source) only because there are still people that thinks that fantasy is not and nor will ever be a form of art. I've been thinking long and hard about this topic. As a hobbit that in real life is art-trained, I know well the (some time) very restrictive Western aesthetic canon, and yet I chose freedom to create art as I see it through my very own eyes which is often not conforming with canon. Same can be said for an artist that create art through words. Fantasy is indeed a very good thing, and it is sad that there are still people that believe that fantasy art is nothing more then a 'lie', an improbable work of make-believe made up by the maker of such fantasy- Professor Tolkien himself does not agree with with this ways of thinking - in his essay 'On Fairy-Stories' he called fantasy 'worthy'. Fantasy is not a denial of reality but instead a 'new' way to look at it. As readers of fantasy we are asked to separate reality from fantasy and perceive the truth . As an author Tolkien become a sub-creator of a secondary world that feels very real because strongly rooted in the primary one (the real world). Art is what one makes of it - now more then ever, in an age of global sharing and connections, we are learning that art can be found in the most unlikely places and its not necessarily what we are expecting it to be. I can paint a beautiful tree in every details but as in Tolkien's Leaf by Niggle I am more interested by the incredible world appearing behind the painting which seem to expand in never ending beauty in my vision. Tolkien IS an artist because art is freedom to create (sub-create) therefore fantasy IS art. Professor Tolkien once said that every one can create a world where the sun is green but it takes a lot of skill to make this world so credible one wishes he or she could live it it for real. Creating images and an entire world with words is indeed a form of art not everyone can master - Tolkien did master this art and no one can take this away from him. Like a true hobbit Professor Tolkien saw art and beauty in places where maybe other people just saw skills and crafting- Art is freedom to be and create, therefore fantasy is art and Tolkien one of the greatest artists that ever lived. He was humble, a very fun-loving man (hobbit), for these reasons he is probably giggling in heaven while we on earth discuss and debate his work but he has left us some words on this subject which I'd like to quote in closing this post :

"Fantasy (in this sense) is, I think, not a lower but a higher form of Art, indeed the most nearly pure form, and so (when achieved) the most potent."
(J.R.R. Tolkien On Fairy-Stories)