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Nick Cave on separating the art from the artist: 'I don’t think we can, nor should we need to'


Separating the artist from the art is a question that crops up almost daily these days, and it is far from an easy answer. However, Nick Cave has once again displayed his artistic sincerity by taking the opportunity to answer a fan’s query on the matter

“I don’t think we can separate the art from the artist, nor should we need to,” Cave begins. “I think we can look at a piece of art as the transformed or redeemed aspect of an artist, and marvel at the miraculous journey that the work of art has taken to arrive at the better part of the artist’s nature. Perhaps beauty can be measured by the distance it has travelled to come into being,” he judiciously adds. 

In his ever beautifully written Red Hand Files responses he has often boldly ventured into nettlesome terrain to return with some emotive rationale behind human quandaries. His notion of how art offers hope regardless of its source is no different.

As he goes on to explain: “That bad people make good art is a cause for hope. To be human is to transgress, of that we can be sure, yet we all have the opportunity for redemption, to rise above the more lamentable parts of our nature, to do good in spite of ourselves, to make beauty from the unbeautiful, and to have the courage to present our better selves to the world.”

Cave’s logic is that any expression of art is the silver lining to a bad person, thus we can still condemn the artist, but their output, no matter how small, is still a cause for hopeful redemption. “Hope,” he explains, “Resides in a gesture of kindness from one broken individual to another or, indeed, we can find it in a work of art that comes from the hand of a wrongdoer. These expressions of transcendence, of betterment, remind us that there is good in most things, rarely only evil.”

Before concluding how such an attitude can help us to heal the world, “Once we awaken to this fact, we begin to see goodness everywhere, and this can go some way in setting right the current narrative that humans are shit and the world is fucked.”

It is this considered wisdom, candid humility and a wondrous ability to be able to express it that has made him not only one of the greatest living songwriters but also an artist that we can all get behind.