They tell us that perfection is unattainable. An unreasonable benchmark that haunts and hinders creatives like a hovering black cloud with impeccable eyeliner. It seems fair enough to ward people off the idea of striving for perfection. It halts a great deal of projects. Stirs up inner conflicts. Turns people into quitters.
“Have no fear of perfection, you’ll never reach it.” Dali said that . But I often have a problem believing the impossibility of attaining perfection because, quite honestly, I feel confronted by perfection constantly and relentlessly. What drives me towards seeking perfection is the pure evidence that it exists. In John Lennon’s Across The Universe. In Mark Rothko’s 1962 Blue & Grey. In Pinterest photos of naked cakes. In fine lace detail on AP lingerie, antique jewellery, pink peonies and Marilyn Monroe in All About Eve.
Now, creative & aesthetic perfection is objective. I’m sure you could actively find fault in any of the examples I’ve listed above (not to my face though, or I’ll cut you). But I think that they’re perfect. And if they can be perfect, then why can’t I? Or at least why can’t I create something that is?
I think the corruption comes from the creative process itself. The sweat and anguish about selecting just the right colours. Or having the lines just the right length or nailing the texture, or perfectly balancing the composition. It’s all trial and error. And even when we’re finished and are left with something that we’re mildly happy with, it still seems far from perfect, because for the creator, that completed work is still charged with the memories of all those little failures that went into creating it. And nothing feels less perfect than failure. Where as when we look at the work we admire of others, there are no memories of failure. No recollections of struggle, or disappointment, or regret. Just something beautiful. Complete. Perfect.
Perhaps the real challenge lies in the ability to allow oneself to recall those struggles and see perfection in the final work even still. God knows its possible, or should I say, Kanye knows its possible…(same thing really. According to him). Or is the greater task to not aim to see things as perfect and imperfect, but rather just as they are, and as they affect you.
I did a painting of some pink peonies. The flowers were perfect. The painting, far from it. And I guess that’s okay.