• Guy Martyr

Do We Still Want The Shaman Artist?

Do We Still Want The Shaman Artist?


Shaman Artist, definition: one whose (evidential) outpourings offer ‘insight’ – an insight whose source is a rare connection/attachment to life’s ‘originating spring’. The ‘special’ work of these ‘special’ artists offers a small glow in which the viewer may bask.


Well, yes and no. There is a general systematic desire to buy and sell this ‘specialness’ – individual perceptiveness, rarity, sometimes skill, (collectability).

Artists who work in this milieu benefit, or potentially benefit. Even artists who orchestrate/stimulate/animate ‘democratically’ the artistic potential of the wider population might possibly allow a moment of feeling themselves ‘special’ – why not? With all the years of training and dedication? There is little talk these days of artistic ‘genius’; but there are many ways in which high esteem is ascribed – media talk, sale prices, prominent exhibitions, critical engagement.


At the same time, democracy advances. ‘Specialness’ is de-valued, beneath accessibility-for-all. UK public funding is skewed in this direction. It feels right for the age. In some ways, expertise becomes de-valued – that is, art-insight- (or shaman-) expertise, in favour of the ‘new’ expertise whose expectations might centre around twirling the public art-potential into art-outcome: the would-be ‘viewer’ or ‘engager’ will be re-positioned nearer to the stance of the ‘creator’.

The ‘artist’ is still expected to come up with the idea.


Democratic ideas feel right – part of a true growth of humanity. They are almost impossible to realise while we cling to the need for ‘expertise’ in any role. If we cling to expertise, we cling to shaman (pl.) in which there are many inherent attractions. The danger is in this becoming patronising.


The great challenge is to achieve the true democratic artistic potential, while realising the self.



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