What do we call art? Most of us have a fixed mental image of what a work of art looks like: some paintings are universally known and recognised. Nobody would hesitate to dub them art. But what about those works of painting that are widely thought-of as art, but never caused us a stir? What about those that we actively dislike, and dont understand why anyone would call them art?
And finally, why are some works that appeal to us -pictures that wed gladly decorate our room with- scorned by the critics and society?
The word for art in ancient greek techni (english derivatives of which are technique, technician, etc) used to plainly mean skill, and craft.. The later latin word ars, had the exact same meaning. Since Plato, however, art is also upgraded to Ideal; only Beauty can be considered Art. According to the platonic philosophy this means that art can only be the most perfect specimen of each object in nature.
|Following this, the humanistic Western culture of the Renaissance adopts an ideology in which Ideals are very highly thought of. The universal human conscience is bombarded with concepts borrowed from ancient greek philosophy and politics; Justice, Equality, Liberty, and other nice and Capitalised notions. Our culture has settled on definitions for what Altruism, Democracy, Isonomy are, and we all more or less accept them as self-evident. Nobody wonders, in every-day life, if all these notions are Eternal and Unchanging, or just fabrications of a nae, subjective philosophical explanation of the world. Similarly, the Renaissance decided on equally narrow-minded criteria about what art is, essentially labeling High Art only the most ingenious, beautiful and celebrated paintings. The emergent problem is of course, that when High Art is defined, there also has to be Base art.|
|Naturally, since the 16th century our outlook on art has
changed, so that it doesnt exclusively mean the Grand Masters, any
more; Art doesnt nowadays only consist of works by the Superstars
Da Vinci, Michael Angelo, Raphael or the more recent Vermeer,
Gericault, RenoirSince Plato weve come a long way, and various
definitions of art have been worked out by many a remarkable
personality. Among them, these are the ones I consider crucial, in
a few words; The Formalists insisted there are subjective visual
criteria which differentiate between works of Art and lesser
paintings. Leo Tolstoy used to believe that a painting may only be
called Art if it causes an emotional reaction in the viewer, and
that High Art must bring the viewer in touch with God. Finally, the
more modern theories hold that the title art can only be awarded
by the collective art world.
All those theories aspire to being complete. Naturally, no single one of them succeeds. And to put it simply, each theoretician dubs the art she likes as the only worthwhile art, and scorns the rest. Such dogma is dangerous to the average person who struggles to organise things in her mind; it narrows down our aesthetic and visual criteria and detracts from our subjectivity.
||On the thematology of art now, it can be said that the artist it doesnt have to mimic nature, but now and again do something more. The themes that fascinate each century are often unexpected; take constructivism as an example. It is a movement in painting that insists on depicting machinery, gears, metal and in general an industrial aesthetic, which cant be argued to be universally agreeable, but still it cant be disproved as art because of this. Further examples are cubism, which defies the real visual form of objects, fauvism, which willingly ignores the ordinary color of objects, surrealism which challenges gravity, optics and logic itself.|
|Look at Starry Night by Van Gogh , for example; He doesnt bow to technique, or realism, and admittedly it may be off-putting and incomprehensible at first. But if it happens to strike your fancy, its priceless how honest, passionate and respectful this painting is with regards to its subject matter. It's true that people who see in works of art more than meets the eye can be annoying and stupid at times, especially when they extricate monumental meanings out of simple paintings, which we ourselves find childish, or indifferent, or untalented. However they are occasionally right about this: some works of art require a little bit of familiarisation first, and the average person really isnt ready to accept the specific emotions and meanings portrayed.||
||Weird as it may sound, the work of some modernists, for example
Mondrian with his -boring or tasteless to some people- colourful
squares directly stimulates very specific regions in our optical
brain. The psychological processes that allow us to appreciate art
havent been researched on a neurological level yet, but we know
this much; when something stimulates our optical brain, its
visually interesting. Of course, then our learned aesthetics
intervenes saying no way am I going to regard this as art. Its
just squares for crying out loud.
Nonetheless, Mondrian himself was one step ahead of us all in terms of sensitivity and perception, so perhaps more of an artist than we are willing to acknowledge. However its not difficult for anyone, with the proper education and persistence, to attain such a perception of painting.
However dont allow your pursuit for visual satisfaction to succumb to the frustration that the narrow-minded experts of the art world tend to cause. We have every right to like even the humblest creation, and this right is inalienable, because it stems from our own brain, which is the one chiefly interested in what we feed into it. Let art critics exercise the advisory role that society has allotted them and they should! But otherwise, art is a personal matter, and up to this day we are thankfully allowed to choose what we like, measuring only our personal needs and pursuits.
The essence of this all is, I deem, the following odd and perhaps heretic axiom; if a creation fulfills our aesthetic, spiritual and ideological criteria, or if it simply and inexplicably causes us a stir, then it doesnt matter if it belongs to a known art movement. In fact, it doesnt even have to be art for anyone else but ourselves. So, when they ask you what art means to you, you may boldly reply anything I want.
Recommended for further reading:
E.H. Gombrich The story of Art (introduction)
Richard Wollheim - Painting as an Art
Leo Tolstoy What is art
Gregg Simpson So painting is dead again at
We agree and acknowledge that art, and the beauty of art, is always "in the eye of the beholder". We encourage all artists to express their own unique vision and style.
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Art is a free expression of inner and outer beauty exprienced by our seven senses, i.e what we have seen (eyes), heard (ears), smelt (nose), tasted (tongue), touched (skin), felt (heart) and thought (mind). It should not follow any fixed pattern, tradition, culture, customs, race, religion, politics, etc. It is a living form of communication like language and music. It lives on while its creators passed away. It communicates ideas from the artists to the public. It evolves and adjust according to circumstances, environment and time. From Garry Png (Singapore)
Very well written and thought provoking! (Btw, it's "Michael Angelo" is incorrect; his name was Michelangelo Buonarroti.) To what is written here, it might be added that there is another aspect to "art", and that is the business side. But that is fodder for an entirely different topic, I know. Fab
I never much cared for what the official critics thought, or for what the politically appointed heads of major museums attempt to present. How many times in Norman Rockwell's life time was painting declared dead? I can appreciate much of 'high art' from Da Vinci through Rodin and Monet. Past that time, I think many have confused art and illustration. To my mind, the Science Fiction novel covers of Michael Whalen project theme, character, emotion and realism. Modern illustrators are doing things the classic artists couldn't. We in the 3D computer art community have tools that were unavailable to the classic artists. We might achieve realism using these tools in new ways, and go beyond realism in ways undreamed of. So long as we can touch the hearts of those who view our works, those whose hearts are unmoved matter little.
A very interesting essay indeed. We all would like to think we know what art is but, as presented in the article, art of any genre is very hard to define. Why should we try to define art. Definition is an attempt at objective classification. However art is subjective and the two really are incommensurable. In a way this touches on the crossover between academic treatment of art criticism and the practice of creation. And yes the business aspect of art as an investment opportunity has nothing to do with assessing the quality of art to us as individuals. Many thanks to the author for this thoughtful discussion.
since the renderosity terms have been added at the bottom of my essay, I assume they can be commented on as well. Gericault and Picasso would have had many many of their paintings denied at Renderosity. Family- and poser-oriented art isn't necessarily the ONLY thing worthwhile enjoying. But that's no reason to not support the Renderosity Galleries and to not check it out for some really outstanding work. (btw thanks for the comments and thanks for reading this) Christina
Excellent - I use CG mesh to make shapes and renders which I supplement with wax minatures to show potential clients for architectural fountains and sculpture which I then make with tangible media. Throughout it all I consider it a craft, and myself a simple craftsman, and leave it to the beholder to decide if it is art. Aside from the money, aside from having my own artistic expression displayed, my real satisfaction is in knowing my incised name, my toolmarks, my design, will endure far longer than myself.
Interesting to think how many recognised works of fine art violate the renderosity TOS..... I can think of several pieces named "The Rape of the Sabines", quite a few pictures of christ on the cross, countless works of tribal art showing erect penises and sexual acts..... All these things are shown in art history courses.... Does the "No Genital contact with ANY object, other than sitting or clothing" rule mean we can only render a woman riding a horse if she's riding sidesaddle? And of course, Joan of Arc burning at the stake is out, as are the Salem Witch burnings...
very well written and it makes you think but brainmuffin is right about the fine art.. there is a lot of things out there that do violate the TOS but some violence rrelated art makes people think of how lucky they are and what life is...although the images can be disturbing. loved the article well done rosty
Thought provoking article. As always the question "what is art" is one which brings us to balance many aspects of how we value art. Yet it leaves unanswered why we create art in the first place. Art is a term which has to be experienced, like justice and hot and cold, it is part of those terms which seem to defy definition but rather like the word "love" or "passion" evolve from the state of being. Unlike the proverbial tree falling in the middle of the forest, it seems to exist despite the limitations of time and space. There always seems to be a niggle of sorts over the tos, however, Renderosity has been a wonderful exhibition hall of extraordinary encouragement and support for the cyber-artists...
dear Lorraine thank you for the kind comments. Your point does seem to contradict what I wrote though: Justice, love and passion are all subjective (as stated). That makes them the OPPOSITE of eternal and the opposite of "existing inside us". So art, justice, etc are subjective and stem from our own personality as shaped by society. Hence, art is in my opinion exactly like the tree falling where nobody can hear it: it DOESN'T make a sound if nobody is around to hear it. To put the metaphor away: What drives us to make art may be innate to humans and directly related to our senses and instincts. However art itself is really REALLY (believe me) "limited by time and space". And again, people, please do not generalise about poser. Nobody seems to have read this: By: igohigh on 2004-08-05 So is Poser art? ducks and runs for cover By: cneofotistos on 2004-08-06 igohigh> so, are a piece of charcoal, a paintbrush or 3Dstudio Max art? :-) Art tools aren't art. Not ALL of the brushes held by DaVinci made art. Not all Poser Renders are destined to become works of art. please, please do not generalise... it hurts my soul. kisses, Tina
Poser is the eliquidity of slip dialed into specific increments of distinction and coldslapped into wobbly centered emotional echodisplays of explainmental exercise. Sophistiaction is a matter of control. Sure them tool bearing apes were the great ones but then you had the fire bearing apes, too. Civilization is balanced by pendulous motions.We now may corral the random chaos of herds, packets and dollops to describe a specific without defining it. Why do synthesizers imitate music? For the same reason dreams have recognizable symbols, as a connection from the known to the yet unmapped realities. As cameras lifted the burden of the painter to supply the collected reflections of our world the artistic view grew to connect the inner reality to the outer reality. Intent and meaning are the projected gravities that we acclimate with subject and image. Beyond are evidences of distant knowledge, bent by these gravities but measured by the tools of image. First we will draw our plan and then we put the actuity in it.
??? > bear in mind though that synthesizers don't immitate music, they immitate real life instruments, and nowadays not even that. So does digital art, it is now venturing into the stuff that traditional painters can't do. Oh, and painters (philosophers actually) painted what they thought should be painted instead of what they actually saw long before the advent of the camera. Just some points to keep your arguments error-free.
Art can never be reduced to something that can be understood as understanding itself is only a reduction of reality to what we can grasp without overloading our brain-cells/minds. Of course these reductions are based on one's beliefs, obsessions and prejudices. Too much emphasis is put unto explaining-away in parabolic phrases of "this is nothing else but...", larded with a sauce of intellectualism. Even the best attempt to come to a synthesis would still strand on the limits of our minds to grasp the fullness of life and its expression in Art.
Intelligent and thought-provoking article, but... To the cynical eye, there hasn't been much change in art over the centuries. The Old Masters painted portraits and propaganda - and pornography - for their patrons. Flatter the prince by picturing him the way he sees himself in love & war, and humble the peasants by showing them the glories of the kingdom and the church. Add to that the Playboy bunnies of the day (all those Susannahs and Venuses in the palaces of rich noblemen and ditto clergy) and you have pretty well covered it all. Nowadays the prince is the rich people who buy weird-looking art as a critic-certified proof of their sophisticated tastes, and the peasants are the rest of us, who're supposed to "Oooh" and "Aaah" when they tell us how many $$$ they paid for the proof, er, picture. So it's easy to understand why every picture-maker wants to be labeled "artist" - it adds all those nice zeroes to the price tag ;o)