Can you be an artist without also being a philosopher?

I often have random thought whenever I am cycling, doing Zumba or driving along the M54.

This time, a thought came to me as I was cycling home from dropping off my children at school. The thought was: do philosophy and art always go hand in hand? Are all artists also philosophers?

The motorway where I have lots of thoughts - the M54

The motorway where I have lots of thoughts – the M54

I seem to spend a lot of my time philosophizing about things. I also draw, paint and make videos. Give me a topic and I will go away and think about it, analyze it, churn it around in my head, write about it, ask people about it and then draw or paint something in response.

I’ve always liked philosophizing and questioning things, even during dry spells in my art. However, I don’t profess to be very academic in my philosophizing. There is a very deep end to the study of philosophy and I see myself as paddling around in the shallow end, with arm bands and a float. Hopefully that’s deep enough for me to have credibility as an artist.

This boy is an artist in the pool of philosophy

This boy is an artist in the pool of philosophy

Hegel (a famous philosopher) believed art and philosophy to be very closely entwined. He thought that together they constituted the ‘Absolute Spirit’. Other philosophers have asked: what part does science play? I see the three as aiming for the same thing just with slightly different methods or emphasis on process: an explanation. Why are we here? What are we? I prod therefore I am.

Hegel - he was too busy thinking to look happy

Hegel – he was too busy thinking to look happy

In a way, art, like philosophy, aims to reflect this weird thing called life. It depicts life and the relations between people in their interaction with the world but with a particular focus. An indispensable feature of art is the way it looks at life from a tangential perspective. Perhaps the difference between an artist and a philosopher is that the latter uses images to question life whereas the former uses just words. Or perhaps the artist is different because he or she just takes an snippet of the bigger question. It would be just too much to tackle everything in one go.

I like to take an aspect of life, whatever it may be, and examine it closely. If something catches my attention I will ask questions about it. What does it mean? What does it even mean? I don’t know the answer to that, but I could draw it and see.


Wikipedia article about Hegel Available from: [last accessed 15 December 2014]

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