Henry Moore: Artist’s concerns about the risks of writing

Liabilities associated with writing expressed by sculptor Henry Moore in his own writings (1937). Specifically, he suggests that writing about art and art processes will inherently shift the artist-author social identification from artist to theorist. Of course, despite this concern he sets down in writing, he goes on in the essay to concerns of art and process.

Henry Moore, Notes on Sculpture, Excerpt.

SCULPTURE IT is A MISTAKE for a sculptor or a painter to speak or write very often about his job. It releases tension needed for his work. By trying to express his aims with rounded-off logical exactness, he can easily become a theorist whose actual work is only a caged-in exposition of conceptions evolved in terms of logic and words.

But though the illogical, instinctive, subconscious part of the mind must play its part in his work, he also has a conscious mind which is not inactive. The artist works with a concentration of his whole personality, and the conscious part of it resolves conflicts, organizes memories, and prevents him from trying to walk in two directions at the same time. It is likely, then, that a sculptor can give, from his own conscious experience, clues which will help others in their approach to sculpture, and this article tries to do this, and no more. It is not a general survey of sculpture, or of my own development, but a few notes on some of the problems that have concerned me from time to time.

From experimental psych studies in self-affirmation and expressive writing, the text in its entirety engages with acts of value affirmation, affect labeling, and reappraisal. Further, relative to a common experimental psych claims about the artists dispositions, they argue that the artist intuitively (automatically) cognitively orients toward the world through affect, emotions, and aesthetics, but not oriented toward ideas or rational deliberate processing and problem solving (e.g. Mussel et al; Kaufman et al; DeYoung et al). Artists themselves seem to suggest that they have a dual disposition in how they engage cognitively with the world–intuitively and deliberately through rational means. This is supported when from results of computational text analysis on natural writing samples of eminent artists and Nobel prize-winning scientists. When compared along linguistic dimensions experimentally correlated with analytical thinking style, intelligence, cognitive complexity, and actively cogitating, artists and scientists are not statistically different.


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