Taste vs. Creativity

Janice Tanton, Canoe #2, Red

Janice Tanton, Canoe #2, Red. Oil on canvas, 30 x 24 inches. ©The Artist

Taste

is the enemy

of creativity. – Pablo Picasso

Discuss.

Is this true or false?

Thinking beyond: Where does taste come into the picture?

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22 comments to Taste vs. Creativity
  • I agree, especially since everyone’s taste is different. While I may not appreciate art that I find “distasteful”,I don’t believe in censorship.
    If we never pushed the boundaries of taste, we’d never make progress artistically. (Have you been hearing those formerly shocking punk rock/alternative music standards in the grocery store lately?)

  • Weather this is true or false is not the important point. What is important is paying attention to the influence of taste in making art, looking at other’s work, or listening to people discuss your work. Taste is always there, like an overlay filter, and cannot be ignored; it must be reckoned with. By paying attention to it we can master it, and not be blinded or restricted by it. Like other demons in art, we can harness taste and use it to expand rather than limit our vision. Harness the enemy, and make it work for you.

  • I’m not saying artists have to go for shock value or do something they think will be distasteful to others to be creative. I think what’s most important is being true to one’s vision, and other people’s taste be darned. :-) You can’t climb other people’s mountains, nor should you try. In that vein, you certainly can’t please everyone. Listening to others so that you may improve your work is always a good idea, but it doesn’t mean you have to agree with their opinions or do what they tell you to do.

  • Taste is only the enemey when it dictates yoru work in a negative sense.

    Because on the other hand, taste could be the reason you made your biggest sale by doing a series of paintings.

    Taste is merely what you allow it to become or what you can afford for it “not to become”.

  • For me this statement means that we use taste as a filter or censor of sorts- taste is always seen as what is appropriate culturally or in a given situation, like respecting unspoken rules. To me Picasso just meant to allow yourself to break rules (of aesthetics or composition or just simply things like coloring outside the lines), otherwise nothing new or no real exploration will come from what we create. It’s like giving oneself permission to just go for it and see what happens! I like that!

  • I think Picasso may have been right: trying to be creative while confining your explorations to the inside of a framework is certain to result in less exploration and therefore less creativity. So logically, first there’s a recognition by the artist that a framework exists — next there’s a recognition that the framework is not the final frontier, then an exploration of the frontiers outside the framework, where you get original art, thought and development happening, and art is produced. Once it is produced, the framework of taste is applied by viewers — and some viewers will like the fact that the work goes outside the framework and some will not be comfortable with it or like it. So if you want to be an artist, you just do your thing of finding the framework and stepping outside it. If you want to be commercially successful, you push outside the framework in ways that people can adjust and adapt to at a slower pace, and mostly, their taste will grow to incorporate what you’ve done, and you will have created a market.

    But if you insist on staying within the bounds of other people’s taste, I think you are a reproducer rather than an artist.

  • Let’s be honest: you CAN be creative and still make art (or sell art) that meets people’s aesthetic desires. To me, it’s even more difficult (and therefore I have more respect) for an artist to be BOTH creative AND tasteful.

    Tribal Art Hunter | Professional Art Consulting and Buying

  • I see taste as being the stern of the canoe… Creativity is the bow… The middle paddler is the work…

  • Sari, spot on! I was trying to find a way to say that, and there was your perfect visual.
    Taste is what happens after creativity takes place. To worry too much about taste in the creative process is to stifle that process.

  • becky

    I think to worry about taste initially would certainly dampen creativity – when you’re brainstorming, you don’t want to saddle yourself with such limitations. But you might want to have a sense of taste that you can apply later – or not – depending on what whether what you’ve done satisfies you.

  • G____

    I struggle with this one. Picasso was a master of fluidity and innovative with strokes. I think he was able to achieve this by checking his taste and ego at the door so to speak, and really letting himself be free to explore without worrying too much about offensive colours, subject matter or composition etc. Taste absolutely stifles creativity in my opinion. I think it was Warhol who said you don’t need to be a really good artist to make good art. Art can be powerful and resonate with many people, positively or negatively, regardless of taste and I think the only way really fresh ideas come about is to allow yourself to be open to anything that comes without a taste “filter”. That blessed glimmer of inspiration that can come and go if not engaged with. It’s a common trap creating things aesthetically pleasing only but it isn’t necessarily good art. After all isn’t art supposed to move us or affect us in some way? I don’t see taste helping creativity very much at all.

  • I need to sumo-wrestle this on a daily basis. Basically every time I confront the canvas. I love elegance, and eschew the tacky wherever I can. That said- the only way to really put a fork in my creative spirit is to just leave those potterybarn-crateandbarrel-ralphlauren passages on the studio floor, scraping with a palette knife everything that is too fine, too trendy, too ‘looks good over the couch’. I am pretty certain that the Tate is not looking for anything that is quite that tasteful. Clement Greenberg said, of Pop Art, that it was a little too easy. That good Art should challenge you and make you a bit uncomfortable, a bit on edge, a bit off-center. I think he was right.

  • Hmm, I’ve enjoyed reading everyone’s comments. A couple of thoughts from an art historian’s perspective (though I’m also a practicing artist): I’d be really interested to know how the debate around “taste” was framed in Picasso’s era. In the earlier part of the 20th C, there existed a much more self-defined avant-garde than we have now, viewing themselves as the forerunners of a new type of living, which was at odds with the “bourgeois”, middle class value system. Taste, for Picasso, and later for Greenberg, was associated with philosophical beliefs and values. Can we say the same for our understanding of taste now? Also, it’s important to note (as someone has above) that “taste” is culturally conditioned and changing over time, so that Picasso’s most daring works are now part of established “taste”.

  • […] Alyson Stanfield poses that problematic question of Taste vs Creativity […]

  • This is an easy one to me – taste, in my perception, is what the viewer brings to the table. Creativity is what the artist brings to the table. Taste is the enemy when the artist starts listening to taste to determine what to create, instead of his creativity. Creating for the market, rather than creating from your vision, is the enemy. When creativity leads the way, then you find the people with the taste for your work.

  • Creativity is when an artist pulls out their paintbrush.
    Taste is when a buyer pulls out their wallet.

  • G____

    I’ll try and keep up here. Mind you my sometimes limiting grade 12 education admittingly lacks art history depth but because I value your insightful comments I’ll give it a go! I brought up Picasso because I think he really let the art happen. By happen I mean he got out of the way and simply facilitated what needed to occur to express his art and wasn’t overly concerned with the most pleasing formal elements. There was certainly narrative but I’m talking about it strictly from a visual stand point. As far as our understanding of taste, that’s a tough one. In a interconnected “global village” for lack of a better term, we are constantly exposed to more and more aesthetic variety and maybe the very fact that we see works repeatedly (in print, online, in media etc) somehow validates them and makes acceptance broader. After the massive commodification of art in the second half of the 20th century I would say the price tag and exposure in corporate funded galleries and museums definitely influence taste. Have I answered the question? Maybe not haha..but I think my answer is “yes” because our beliefs and values are formed in part by corporate marketing (consisting of psychological techniques, communicating and relating to the subconscious reptilian brain etc) and basically mass manipulation. I can’t get totally clear on it but I can’t help but think that our tastes are linked to a selection of archetypes we associate with being pleasing to who we would like to be or think of ourselves as, in line with our values and I believe our values to be influenced by what we see…which is manipulated…now I’m going in circles!? Thoughts?

  • Without knowing the context of the quote we have no context for discussion as demonstrated by the already divergent (possibly divergent, really) perspectives of 1) response to quote assuming “taste” means “preference” versus 2) response to quote assuming “taste” means “social and cultural dictates.”

    Or was the idea to see which perspective readers assumed?

  • G____

    Btw on a more personal note, like Elaine stated I also wrestle with this everyday. In fact it drives me nuts. I’ve been told at various points in my life “you’re very talented, but that might work against you”. Oh great! Ha ha That always upset me but also pushed me harder. I am still struggling with it today.

  • Terry Hope

    This week, I told a friend it looked to me like he was looking at pornography, judging by some of his nudes. I thought a few of the paintings were obviously– in bad taste– and I worried it could harm his career to include them on his website. During the discussion I realized those same images in a pop setting would not have struck me that way. I was instantly aware of hypocrisy in me to suggest he hide his art expression. I believe I was wrong.

    In my own work I skirt on the edge of something between unctuously overpolished vs. toss off. Either lean would disqualify it as fine art. My goal is to work fresh, but my ‘fresh’ is someone else’s ‘too casual to be taken seriously’. Too me it’s kind of a profound statement NOT to take art too seriously. Taste is not a filter for profound.

    My ‘sleazy guy’ is trying to encourage me not to care about offending taste. Unfortunately, because I am an artist who wants to be honest, I do care. Fear of it encumbers me big time; it has kept me underproductive for years. I hate to admit that!

  • #

    Taste is an attitude or a style reflecting such ability or preferences on the part of a group of people of a particular time and place. My taste and your taste may differ but that does not mean I am being any less creative. Who’s taste am I battling against in order to be creative mine or yours?

  • Picasso was correct. How insipid and boring my life would be if I read or spoke only to people with whom I agreed, studied only art that that looked like mine, and listened only to music from my generation.