Truth in Art

Food for Thought

My parents and I love this nondescript Chinese restaurant near my parents’ apartment in a suburb of Japan, tucked away between two train stations. The dishes look Chinese, but something is fundamentally different from the Chinese food I’ve had in New York. The food at this restaurant speaks to me; that’s all I can say.

“Truth” in art is only figurative. We cannot verify it with logic, but the word “truth” feels fitting because it’s a proposition waiting for agreement. As a painter, you have a vision of beauty you want to reproduce on a canvas, and you want to see if anyone agrees with your vision of beauty. Even when someone does, there is no logic to back it up. In other words, the truth in art isn’t defined by the binary opposition “true” and “false.” You relate to the “truth” not because something about it is true.

In logic or facts, there is only one truth. Generally, it is determined by intelligence. We debate to arrive at the truth. We could dedicate our whole lives to proving something true and discover that it was false. Logical truth says nothing about you. The value of it lies in the fact that it’s independent of you or anyone else.

When someone makes a piece of art or cooks a dish with the goal of vindicating her vision of beauty, I can sense it, although “I agree it’s beautiful” is as far as I can say. Words of rationalization serve no purpose other than amusement, but it does feel like we’ve shared some type of “truth.”

Last night, I watched two episodes of “Painting with John” but could not get into it. It seemed that John Lurie wasn’t trying to communicate any truth but simply doodling for his own pleasure, like a musician might “jam” for their own entertainment. I’m not saying art must share truth; I just can’t relate to this type of art because it is literally not engaging me as an audience. It has no expectations for me. I’m simply a bystander of someone’s masturbation.

I value the desire to share one’s personal truth in art. The objects are secondary. Even if I don’t relate to the truth, I can appreciate the desire. And, it is often tucked away in the most unlikely of places.