A: How do I best appreciate the arts?
B: Whatever you do, you must not look into an artist’s soul or dig at their motives in respect to an artwork. You must savour it independent from the artist’s personality and motives. You must allow it to draw you out and lead you to project on it your biggest dreams, hopes, wishes, fears, rage … let it draw out your soul, or even its soul. But, by all means do not let it coax you into resolving to draw out her soul, the artist’s soul.
A: I do not follow. Why is the artist’s intention not important in appreciating an artwork?
B: You should distinguish their intention from their motive. It may be — and I say it must be — the artist’s intention to conceal what motivates them.
B: Seeing the human all too human in an artist will disappoint and deter you from an artwork. Seeing how their personal circumstances, their political viewpoints, their character flaws feature in the work will give you some pleasure — of the variety you get when you solve a puzzle. But, in so doing, you sacrifice an ever bigger pleasure — that which is borne of beholding something uncanny, mysterious, divine, beautiful without reason, fearsome without explanation.
A: I think I see what you mean.
B: It is all about how you approach the work; what stance you take in relation to it, which determines the sort of pleasure you acquire from it and the extent of that pleasure. Many artists know the previous. Many of them know all too well the effect of honesty about the basis or source of their work. The best among them have very few friends who might, accidentally, reveal the inner content of their souls, which might betray the previous basis and source. They are lonely people, these artists — and with good reason for an even better effect. The best among them know all too well the value of hiding from the limelight, of deception and lies. They know how to pepper their deception with a little bit of self-confidence, a bit of impudence, daring and high-mindedness — even a little bit of moral superiority and holiness. The best of artists are alchemists of the soul that know all too well the value of the mysterious. Those among them who fail to create such a veil of mystery around them and their work, fail to give that work the best chance in life. They are like parents who fail to provide an avenue into life for their children —