Art and Aesthetics of Robert Maddox Harle

Robert Maddox-Harle

Sunil Sharma recently conducted an email interview with the leading Australian artist Robert Maddox-Harle (aka Rob Harle), a recipient of the Setu Special Award ---2019, on a gamut of wide-ranging topics that have bearings on art and culture in general.


Excerpts from the enriching conversation:


Q: Your conception of art, please? Views on art and writing?

A: I believe art can be thought of in two ways.

Firstly, REAL art is that which is an integral part of life, has been practised since the beginning of human history. Embellishing a spear shaft, carving a fishing canoe figurehead, dancing around a fire. Secondly, commodified Art is a product which is traded similarly to a car, kitchen sink or shares on the Stock Exchange. Fairly simple, except there is a “grey area” between the two which complicates the matter significantly.

Some art starts as real, then is appropriated by the merchants and becomes Art. Other artists think they are producing real art but have one eye on the end financial status of their work therefore contaminating it from the start. As one example Brancusi made real art, Warhol made commodified Art. Neither of these have anything to do with Commercial art, which Warhol was before becoming a fine Artist. Further this view of art applies to all forms of art and writing. An Emily Dickinson poem was pure, real art a Stephen King novel is a commodified piece of Art.



Sunil Sharma

How does mass society affect art and art production?


It contaminates art just the same as it contaminates, trivialises and “dumbs down” everything else.



How can an artist battle increasing hollowness and reification of market economy?


Either an artist creates art or Art.  If the former, an artist must do what their inner compulsion is to do regardless of the outcome – financial, political or ideological.
If the latter, learn to play the market game better than your competitors, just like Picasso and Warhol did.



Art, its meaning and relevance at personal level?


People do all sorts of work of course, many are content and get great personal satisfaction with what they do, baking cakes, writing computer programs or painting a picture. Contentment and personal satisfaction is ALL that matters, if an artist is a commercial success but basically hates what they produce then they are living the greatest lie possible.



 Do you think art could save you from cynicism and nihilism at some point in your career as an artist working within the soulless circuits and networks of the hungry markets?


No! Cynicism and nihilism may be part of a person’s life, it doesn’t matter if you are an artist, a doctor or a professional golfer none of these activities will save you from cynicism or nihilism if you are not being absolutely true to yourself. Even if you are true to yourself, art is more likely than other professions to engender these conditions.

Your views on the current MC-driven universe of Hollywood?


This is a ubiquitous and very powerful global phenomenon. Its impact is quite staggering and frightening, one of the key factors in the “dumbing down” of society. I personally despise the whole vicariousness of Hollywood (and Bollywood), especially compared to a small and select minority of European film selections.



Fantasies. Monsters. Vampires. Werewolves. Where is art headed? Is it authentic one? A moral guide?


Art (not art) is headed the same direction as almost everything else is – towards extinction.



Your personal anthem?


“Better to light the smallest candle than curse the darkness.”



Creatives that speak to you in a bleak social system as guiding spirits? The ones that uplift? That talk of sanity, order and hope?


I take this question to mean those still alive? There are plenty that have passed-away. So, living ones, Charles Simic (poet), Philip Glass (composer), Ken Bowman (painter), Adrian Rogers (poet).



What is your message to the young generation seeking these fields?


If you are a young person with a deep inner need to be an artist, there is little that can be done to dissuade you. However, to prevent disillusionment, heart-ache or even suicide, try to address these three cautions carefully and honestly.

1 – If your main motivation is fame – forget it!

2 – If your main motivation is to make a good, reasonable living – forget it!

3 – If your main motive is to change the world directly and immediately – forget it!

If these are your motivations try expunging the artistic desire and become a doctor or farmer.

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