Oil Painting Blog

Blog about oil paintings by Robert Dawson

Imcreativity - in search of impractical creativity

Tonight, I turned my attention to the meaning of creativity. Wikipedia defines creativity as that which is both novel and useful. Using this definition, any new product or technology is creative.

But is art useful? My first thought is no. However, the reinforcement of beauty is a very useful pursuit in that it is often forgotten amid the plethora of pain and suffering we encounter. But is appreciation on par with practical use, as in the case of a new product or technology? If you're trying to save a life, then appreciation is not only useless but irrational. However, if you're trying to cheer someone up, then don't count on a shiny new toy to bring a lasting smile. Although, a novel antidepressant might help.

I'll leave it up to others to compare the importance of appreciation and action in our lives. What I want to do is to plant the seed of a new kind of creativity that is more suited to art. This kind of creativity is novel, but it is not useful. It is impractical. To distinguish this from creativity, I call this imcreativity. If something is imcreative, then it is new and worthy of appreciation but not useful and cannot be applied to achieve a practical result.

An example of an imcreative work of art is Dalí's The Persistence of Memory. This famous painting brings to mind any number of strange thoughts, like the relativity of time, a summer day so hot that even clocks melt, a paranoid man who was deathly afraid of grasshoppers, and so on. But is this painting useful in any real sense, except perhaps for understanding more about Dalí or his ingenious and outrageous self-promotion techniques? I don't see how.

Of course everything can be useful for something, even if only to recognize that it isn't useful and that a useful use of time would be not to waste any more time thinking about it. But that useless scenario aside, some things are clearly not useful while also being worthy of appreciation. Art tends to fall into this category in that, like philosophy, it does not seek to provide useful answers but to provoke interesting questions. A beautiful seascape painting is certainly worthy of appreciation, but it will not buy you a yacht. It will, however, help you appreciate the beauty of nature, just as an abstract painting might, if you open your mind wide enough, help you appreciate color and form in nature.

Back to my notion of imcreativity, I find it, as a concept, useful because it frees me to explore dissimilar concepts in a visual space without worrying that it makes a point (i.e., that it serves as an illustration). Art blurs boundaries and being imcreative helps it achieve that.