Rigor (are you serious?)

During a recent studio visit Kate Strain and I talked about ‘seriousness’ in making art, we identified a holy trinity – rigor, thoughtfulness, and awareness of context – as important criteria for identifying seriousness. I’ve been mulling over the ‘rigor’ bit, what do we mean when we use the term in art-making?

Usually the notion of rigor makes me think about being true to something. Rigor equals honest endeavor. But doesn’t the term also suggest something rigid, harsh and stiff? Rigor can imply insensitivity; in botany for example the term denotes inertia. It can imply inflexibility, after death the body succumbs to ‘Rigor mortis ‘, the ‘stiffness of death’!

Maybe ‘rigor’ could be replaced in the sacred trio by a less exacting quality, suppleness perhaps, or openness. Is remaining supple and open (and calm – there is a sign in the Black Church that reads ‘keep calm and print on’) a more effective strategy, and one more in keeping with art’s (and life’s) vicissitudes?

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