Art and Catharsis / by Chris Hall

Almost all crime is due to the repressed desire for aesthetic expression.  Evelyn Waugh.  

I'd be an ax murderer, if I didn't paint. John Alexander 

I wonder if Waugh’s proposition might be true.  In my artist statement from 1999 I wrote, half jokingly of course, that:  I paint because if I did not I would be a detriment to society.  I’d probably burn your house down.

Would I be a criminal if I did not have art?  No, probably not.  I would like to believe that my moral compass is too strong.  But I can never know this for certain because making art is almost like a bad habit I can never be rid of.  It is ingrained genetically inside my DNA.  Making art is not a choice for me, but a natural activity and response.  Daffy is a duck and a duck swims.  I am an artist and an artist paints.  It is that simple, really.

But can making art prevent criminality in other people?  I can not say for certain, but I do believe making art is a healthy expression and a therapeutic outlet for pent up emotions.  Catharsis is a natural part of being a human being.  It shouldn't be such a dirty word, as it too often is the academic art world.  

Below is my 1999 artist statement:

I paint because I haven’t any choice but to.  It is a strange kind of possession, something very primitive, preternatural, supernatural even, that burns through my blood.  It oozes slow like lava and boils over, suddenly exploding, like a volcano.  It is the occasional earthquake of the soul that has to be dealt with.  Art is my way of making sense of the world; it is a catharsis.  I paint because if I did not I would be a detriment to society.  I’d probably burn your house down.  Art allows me an outlet that safeguards me physically, mentally, and spiritually.  Art allows me to explore avenues of experience that would otherwise be denied to me because of poverty, law, and the physical limits of humanity.  Art is absolute freedom and absolute freedom is what I live for.  I don’t want my art to reflect life, I want it to be life, always growing, unpredictable, and out of control.