It has always been characteristic
of the artist to ponder about the meaning of
the relations into which he enters with other
people by the medium of his works.
The purpose of creative work
consists in raising the voice of art in order
to open human hearts to oracular uttarances.
One of the important professional
problems, understanding of which moves the artist
closer to the performance of his social mission
is the issue of completion and incompleteness
of his work of art. The history of the problem
goes back to the ancient thought that discerned
in this problem two distinct aspects which provided
the two channels for almost all subsequent speculation
on the score.
According to Plato, the eternal
idea alone can be genuinely perfect, while its
embodiment always remains imperfect. Aristotle
saw in a genuine work of art harmony of completed
and perfected cosmos. They both of them arrived
at the idea of art as a necessary phenomenon
for realizing the ideals of a perfect human
society – as the only genuine work of art with
Plato, and as an elitist phenomenon with Aristotle.
True, time has expanded the boundaries and the
tasks of art, while having preserved its goal:
achievement of personhood and making of society
– but now to the scope of their ethical and
If we consider the notion of
completion in its application to art, we may
assume that this notion is applicable in full
measure only to a perfect creative act which
creates perfect, spirited, live life.
Genuine culture creates images
of perfect life as its call and its anticipation.
It is artist’s immediate gift to create perfect
being only at the moment of his creative act,
as a form of his own spiritual life; and it
is his intermediate gift to create perfect being
through the cultural product, his work of art
which, in the process of affecting life, acquires
completeness of existence in the creation of
the perceiving subject. It becomes clear therefore
that imperfection, incompleteness of a work
of art without the act of its perception, is
a basic property demanding completion of the
image in the creative perception of the spectator.
It is at this precise moment that the formative
potentialities of art come to be realized.
A possible degree of completion
is acquired by a work of art not as a thing
in itself, but only as existing inside a kind
of triunity in which one can conditionally identify
the artist’s creative act, the materialization
of that act in the piece, and the perception
of the piece of art as a creative act. In certain
arts these three levels of the being of art
are realized at the same time. This must be
one of the reasons of the powerful effect of
music at the moment of its performance. An especial
manifestation of this phenomenon is provided
by the process of artist’s working when he is
simultaneously both a creator and a spectator.
In the sculptural arts this
triunity, implying a contact of consciences,
may realize itself in temporal extension. It
is as if the embodiment of the creative energy
of multiple perception is accumulated by the
piece of art, increasing its prophetic potentialities,
its spiritual saturation. Let us visualize “The
Trinity” by Rublev or imagine hearing a folk
sing. Completion of image in perception may
also be understood as process of expansion of
spectator’s conscience, as inclusion into an
It seems to me that realization of a work as
a piece of art at the moment of its creation,
when the artist acts in two capacities simultaneously
– as a creator and as a spectator – cannot be
considered as sufficient, for this cuts off
future potentialities and plans in the life
In a certain sense, the existence
of the work of art can be considered as the
process of its completion.
From the professional point of view, the problem
of completeness interests the artist in its
more narrow sense, as seen in the plane of embodiment
of concept in material. It is in essence a matter
of creator’s artistic tactfulness rather than
a problem of a particular state of the form,
which is determined by the artistic presetting.
But objectively it is possible to discuss a
work of art as to the degree of its completion.
If we proceed from existence of different creative
presettings inside a culture, then it becomes
clear that there cannot be any absolute state
of completeness of form. This coheres with the
idea of incompleteness as a sine qua non property
of a piece of art.
The character of the work is
constituted by the complex interaction between
the image, behind which stands the artist, and
the exercised understanding of the sculpturing
properties of the material.
Being closely connected, these
two aspects of the work of art always stay,
however, in a state of contradiction, and a
clear primacy of one of those results either
in a profanation of the image, or in a naturalistic
destruction of artistry. The properties of solid
material, seen as its artistic possibilities,
turn out to be exhausted at a certain moment
during the sculpturing, and thus become an obstacle
in the way of a perfect embodiment of the idea.
On the other hand, the idea may use only some
of the properties of the material, leaving other
properties unutilized. An attempt to cross these
boundaries imparts a negative effect to the
content of the image. Complete correspondence
between the idea and the material carries the
work over unto the plane of applied art, as
its ideal version.
It is obvious that both the
material as such, and the image in the piece
of art must remain in a state of certain incompleteness,
which makes the creative work of the imagining
spectator a necessary part of the artistic phenomenon.
This creative work of spectator's imagination
must, ideally speaking, supply the completion
of the piece of art which is understood as not
only an abstracted object.
At this level of the existence
of the piece of art they are the potentialities
of the spectator’s ethical and esthetical senses
which become the measure of the piece’s completeness.
The full value of the life of art depends largely
on the degree to which the spectators are prepared.
Thus the degree of completeness
of a piece of art may be considered in three
aspects, respectively: as completeness of the
subjective creative act of the artist, with
possible inclusion into the analysis of master’s
artistic presetting; as technical completion
of the material embodiment of the concept and
its changes connected with vicissitudes of subsequent
fate of the piece; completeness of the image
as it is manifested in the temporal existence
of the piece of art through the power of its
The problem of completion becomes
particularly acute during historical periods
in which non-canonical art is dominant.
The sense of incompleteness
makes it possible to take the piece of art as
part of something larger. Passing through various
stages in the process of creation, the sense
of incompleteness reaches its highest point
with the artist: new horizons of the theme become
opened to conscience, which transcend the structure
of the piece already created. Here comes the
completion of artist’s labor and the ethical
There can be no absolute
completion in art.
Valery Yevdokimov, 1982.
«Magic Mount» journal, No.3, 1995, Moscow.