Is art an expression of the mental state of the artists mind?

by Sean Boru

If we look at how art is expressed by the artist and then compare that with other forms of art; will we start to see art in a different light? We have tended to look at art and see it as a message that the artist is conveying to us, that may be a scene from the Bible and how the artist is telling us what they see in that particular scene in a story or a psalm. Let’s now look at it as a way of the artist expressing a fault or defect in their mental make up; after all, many of history’s greatest artists and portrait painters have ended up having a break down. There were also a great many who have committed suicide, all have had one common trait at least and that is a drink problem and/or a penchant for spontaneous violence. You could blame Absinthe on the mental state of Van Gogh, but really you’d just be excusing him for being the rude and arrogant bastard that he really was. Caravaggio was another `nutter` who liked to get drunk, and then express his true character through giving some innocent bystander a slap or two, he also had a penchant for knifing people and in fact he was a hunted man most of his adult life. There seems to be no early signs that would normally give a criminal profiler an insight into what is the cause. All the serial killers that have been profiled to date have proved to have one common trait, and that’s an early tendency to animal cruelty. Do artists have a similar trend that links them together like serial killers? It would seem as if they do, albeit doesn’t come out as animal cruelty. Let’s take a few different well known artists from different countries, periods in time and style, and then let’s see if we can find a common denominator that links them to violence and excessive drinking. Silvestre Stallone is a name that most people will be familiar with, but as an actor. Not many people know that Silvestre is a fine artist as well, and he may well be the modern day equivalent of an artist like Caravaggio, Michelangelo, Toulouse Lautrec and Van Gogh in that he has a violent streak in him that he only usually displays in his films. I’ve recently seen a whole collection of his work, and by the standard of work that passes as art these days, it may well turn out that Silvestre will be revered in the future as an artistic genius, maybe. He certainly has the temperament for it; he has a penchant for violence when he plays Rambo or Rocky who both love nothing better than killing a victim after they have been torturing him mentally and physically. Can you imagine Silvestre in his Rambo role living in Milan with the likes of Caravaggio and Van Gogh, I think not, but it is an interesting thought. The thing about Silvestre is that he isn’t a drinker, and doesn’t seem to have a public persona whereby he becomes his film character persona on a night out. The one redeeming factor is that Silvestre has managed to capture his character Rambo`s mental state so accurately; it is quite amazing how a man with very little artistic training can get his message across in a simple series of paintings. Silvestre makes a lot of money out of his art work these days, whereas Van Gogh was lucky if he could to eat every day, let alone have a chauffeur, and in fact Vincent would still be an obsolete artist if it hadn’t been for his sister in law. It was in fact she that discovered and marketed his genius well after his untimely suicide, when you think that The Sunflowers was recently valued at £32m, and it wasn’t even his best painting! In conclusion I can say with conviction that there definitely is a connection between the violence portrayed in certain works of art and the mental state of the artists, especially those that are painted by geniuses that were extremely troubled souls in their own lifetime.