The idea of creativity conjures notions of newness in visual arts, literature and music. Of course, creativity exists in all fields in different ways, but it exists in an idealised form in disciplines with fewer constraints.
Yet the perennial challenge in being creative, especially in artistic fields, is in trying to throw off subconscious notions of the way things have been done before. Visual culture influences what our minds view as possible and impossible. It took centuries before artists, first in France, realised that art was more than a competition to reproduce real life on a canvas; and it took perhaps a century more for others to realise that art might specifically seek to create what does not exist in reality. That necessity of breaking out of mental silos could be thought of as the artistic struggle.
Wassily Kandinsky’s essay On The Spiritual Art captures this idea perfectly: that the artist is the person who sees his or her role as being creative in order to break through the invisible barriers of right and wrong, correct and incorrect, instead looking inside themselves for guidance.
“The artist should be blind to “accepted” or “unacceptable” form, deaf to the precepts and demands of his [or her! — Kandinsky published this in 1911] time. His eyes should be always directed toward his own inner life, and his ears turned to the voice of internal necessity.”
Kandinsky continues, arguing that “internal necessity” of the artist arises from three separate desires or drives:
“1. Every artist, as creator, must express what is peculiar to himself.
2. Every artist, as child of his time, must express what is peculiar to his own time.
3. Every artist, as servant of art, must express what is peculiar to art in general.
Through following that internal necessity, and by being blind to what is accepted and unaccepted, an artist (or, anyone who sees creativity and innovation as necessary in their projects) can find what is larger, and can find what is universal.
That process drives progress, in the sense that progress represents a given culture’s new ways of doing and understanding universal and established tasks.