Art

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Template:Otheruses Template:Portal Art (or the creative arts) commonly refers to the act and process of making material works (or artworks) which, from concept to creation, hold a fidelity to the creative impulse —ie. 'art' is work distinct from creative work that is driven by necessity (ie. vocation), by biological drive (i.e. procreation), or (in art-purist contexts) by any undisciplined pursuit of recreation.

The creative arts essentially denotes a collection of disciplines whose principal purpose (or sole purpose) is in the output of material whose creation is compelled by a personal drive and echoing or reflecting a message, mood, and symbology for the viewer to interpret.

As such, the term 'art' may be taken to include forms as diverse as prose writing, poetry, dance, acting, music (both performance and creation), sculpture and painting. In common parlance, 'art' is most commonly used to refer to the visual arts —in particular painting, drawing, and sculpting.

Art is a broad term, which may be interpreted in different ways, often relating to creativity, aesthetics and generation of emotion.

Contents

Etymology

The word art derives from the Latin ars, which, loosely translated, means "arrangement" or "to arrange". This is the only universal definition of art, that whatever is described as such has undergone a deliberate process of arrangement by an agent whoms expression is not singular. A few examples where this meaning proves very broad include artifact, artificial, artifice, artillery, medical arts, and military arts. However, there are many other colloquial uses of the word, all with some relation to its etymological roots.

Currently recognized forms of art

There are a variety of arts, including visual arts and design, decorative arts, plastic arts, and the performing arts. Artistic expression takes many forms, painting, drawing, sculpture, music, literature, performance art, printmaking, film, and possibly architecture are the most widely recognised forms. However, since the advent of modernism and the technological revolution, new forms have emerged. These include, photography, comics, video art, installation art, conceptual art, land art, computer art and, most recently, video games.

Within each form, a wide range of genres may exist. For instance, a painting may be a still life, a portrait, a landscape and may deal with historical or domestic subjects. In addition, a work of art may be representational or abstract.

Most forms of art fit under two main categories: fine arts and applied arts, though there is no clear dividing line. In the visual arts, fine arts refers to painting, sculpture, and architecture, arts which have no practical function and are valued in terms of the visual pleasure they provide or their success in communicating ideas or feelings. The one exception is architecture, which involves designing structures that strive to be both attractive and functional. The term applied arts is most often used to describe the design or decoration of functional objects to make them visually pleasing. Artists who create applied arts or crafts are usually referred to as designers, artisans, or craftspeople.

Defining art

There is often confusion about the meaning of the term art because multiple meanings of the word are used interchangeably. Individuals use the word art to identify painting, as well as singing.

General characteristics of art

There follow some generally accepted characteristics of art; after this there is some lengthier discussion of several of those facets perceived as universal or central to art:

  • encourages an intuitive understanding rather than a rational understanding, as, for example, with an article in a scientific journal;
  • was created with the intention of evoking such an understanding, or an attempt at such an understanding, in the audience;
  • elusive, in that the work may communicate on many different levels of appreciation; one may take the example of Gericault's Raft of the Medusa, in the case of which special knowledge concerning the shipwreck the painting depicts is not a prerequisite to appreciating it, but allows the appreciation of Gericault's political intentions in the piece;
  • in relation to the above, the piece may offer itself to many different interpretations, or, though it superficially depicts a mundane event or object, invites reflection upon elevated themes;
  • demonstrates a high level of ability or fluency within a medium; this characteristic might be considered a point of contention, since many modern artists (most notably, conceptual artists) do not themselves create the works they conceive, or do not even create the work in a conventional, demonstrative sense (one might think of Tracey Emin's controversial My Bed);
  • the conferral of a particularly appealing or aesthetically satisfying structure or form upon an original set of unrelated, passive constituents.

Skill

Art can connote a sense of trained ability or mastery of a medium. It can also simply refer to the developed and efficient use of a language so as to convey meaning, with immediacy and or depth.

A common view is that the epithet 'art' (particular in its elevated sense) requires a certain level of creative expertise by the artist, whether this be a demonstration of technical ability (such as one might find in many works of the Rennaisance or in the plays of Shakespeare) or an originality in stylistic approach, or a combination of these two.

For example, a common contemporary criticism of some modern painting occurs along the lines of objecting to the apparent lack of skill or ability required in the production of the artistic object. One might take Emin's My Bed or Hirst's The Physical Impossibility of Death in the Mind of Someone Living, as examples of pieces wherein the artist exercised little to no traditionally recognised sets of skills. It should be noted that this is for varying reasons: in the first case, Emin simply slept (and engaged in other activities) in her bed before simply placing the result in a gallery; in the second, Hirst came up with the conceptual design for the artwork, and left its eventual creation to employed artisans. These approaches are exemplary of a particular kind of contemporary art, that being conceptual art.

The exclusionary view that art requires a certain skill level to produce is often described as a lay critique and derives from the fact that in Western culture at least, art has traditionally been pushed in the direction of representationalism, the literal presentation of reality through literal images. On the other hand, criticism has often been brought to bear on modern artists for having no creative involvement whatsoever in their creations: one might take Hirst's work again as emblematic of this approach.

Judgments of value

Somewhat in relation to the above, the word art is also used to apply judgments of value, as in such expressions as "that meal was a work of art" (the cook is an artist), or "the art of deception," (the highly attained level of skill of the deceiver is praised). It is this use of the word as a measure of high quality and high value that gives the term its flavor of subjectivity.

Making judgments of value requires a basis for criticism: at the simplest level, a way to determine whether the impact of the object on the senses meets the criteria to be considered art, whether it is perceived to be attractive or repellent. Though perception is always colored by experience, and thus a reaction to art on these grounds is necessarily subjective, it is commonly taken that that which is not aesthetically satisfying in some fashion cannot be art. However, "good" art is not always, or even regularly, aesthetically appealing to a majority of viewers. In other words, an artist's prime motivation need not be the pursuit of the aesthetic, and art often depicts terrible images made for social, moral, or thought-provoking reasons; for example, Francisco Goya's painting depicting the Spanish shootings of 3rd of May 1808 is a graphic depiction of a firing squad executing several pleading civilians, yet at the same time, the horrific imagery demonstrates Goya's keen artistic ability in composition and execution, and his fitting social and polical outrage. Thus the debate continues as to what mode of aesthetic satisfaction, if any, is required to define'art'.

It should also be noted that the assumption of new values or the rebellion against accepted notions of what is aesthetically superior need not occur concurrently with a complete abandonment of the pursuit of that which is aesthetically appealing. Indeed, the reverse is often true, that in the revision of what is popularly conceived of as being aesthetically appealing allows for a re-invigoration of aesthetic sensibility, and a new appreciation for the standards of art itself. Countless schools have proposed their own ways to define quality, yet they all seem to agree in at least one point: once their aesthetic choices are accepted, the value of the work of art is determined by its capacity to transcend the limits of its chosen medium in order to strike some universal chord, or by the rarity of the skill of the artist, or in its accurate reflection in what is termed the zeitgeist.

Communicating emotion

Art appeals to human emotions. It can arouse aesthetic or moral feelings, and can be understood as a way of communicating these feelings. Artists have to express themselves so that their public is aroused, but they do not have to do so consciously. Art explores what is commonly termed as the human condition; that is, essentially, what it is to be human, and art of a superior kind often brings about some new insight concerning humanity (not always positive) or demonstrates a level of skill so fine as to push forward the boundaries of collective human ability.

This is not to say that technical skill is a necessary prerequisite of art, but rather that a high degree of skill goes some way in conferring a judgement of high standard upon an artist or artwork.

Creative impulse

From one perspective, art is a generic term for any product of the creative impulse, out of which sprang all other human pursuits — such as science via alchemy, and religion via shamanism. The term 'art' offers no true definition besides those based within the cultural, historical and geographical context in which it is applied. Though to the artists themselves, the impulse to create is undeniable; an artist can no more deny that impulse than he/she could ignore breathing (one might compare Kandinsky's inner necessity to this popular view). It is because of the overbearing need to create, in the face of financial ruin, public obscurity or political opposition, that artists are typically conceived of as unstable, even crazy, or misguided.

Differences in Defining Art

Definitions of art and aesthetic arguments usually proceed from one of several possible perspectives. Art may be defined by the intention of the artist as in the writings of Dewey. Art may be seen as being in the response/emotion of the viewer as Tolstoy claims. In Danto's view, it can be defined as a character of the item itself or as a function of an object's context.

Plato

For Plato, art is a pursuit whose adherents are not to be trusted; given that their productions imitate the sensory world (itself an imitation of the divine world of forms) art necessarily is an imitation of an imitation, and thus is hopelessly far from the source of the truth. Plato, it may be noted, barred artists from access to his ideal city, in his Republic.

Aristotle

Aristotle saw art in less of a bad light; though he shared Plato's poor opinion of it, he nevertheless thought that art might serve a purpose in catharthis. That is, by witnessing the sufferings and celebrations of actors onstage onlookers might vicariously experience these same feelings themselves, and thereby purge such negative feelings.

Institutional definition

Many people's opinions of what art is would fall inside a relatively small range of accepted standards, or "institutional definition of art" (George Dickie 1974). This derives from education and other social factors. Most people did not consider the depiction of a Brillo Box or a store-bought urinal to be art until Andy Warhol and Marcel Duchamp (respectively) placed them in the context of art (i.e., the art gallery), which then provided the association of these objects with the values that define art.

Most viewers of these objects initially rejected such associations, because the objects did not, themselves, meet the accepted criteria. The objects needed to be absorbed into the general consensus of what art is before they achieved the near-universal acceptance as art in the contemporary era. Once accepted and viewed with a fresh eye, the smooth, white surfaces of Duchamp's urinal are strikingly similar to classical marble sculptural forms, whether the artist intended it or not. This type of recontextualizing provides the same spark of connection expected from any traditionally created art. It should be noted, however, that Duchamps act might be as readily interpreted as a demonstration of the (not always beneficial) power of artistic institutions, rather than the universal art potentially inherent in all objects.

It should also be noted that the placement of an object in an artistic context is not taken as a universal standard of art, but is a common characteristic of conceptual art, prevalent since the 1960s; notably, the Stuckist art movement criticises this tendency of recent art.

Related Issues

Social criticism

Art is often seen as belonging to one social class and excluding others. In this context, art is seen as a high-status activity associated with wealth, the ability to purchase art, and the leisure required to pursue or enjoy it. The palaces of Versailles or the Hermitage in St. Petersburg with their vast collections of art, amassed by the fabulously wealthy royalty of Europe exemplify this view. Collecting such art is the preserve of the rich.

However, there is a (not always deliberate) tradition of artists bringing their vision down to earth, and inhabiting a mundane, even poverty stricken, world. The life of Vincent van Gogh is a classic example of this starving artist tradition, as is that of William Blake. It hardly needs to be mentioned, however, that few find such a state of existence desirable, and (bearing in mind that "poverty" in this sense also connotes a certain lack of public approval or appetite) that one of the near-defining characteristics of artists is a desire to be seen universally, if not always to be understood.

Before the 13th century in Europe, artisans were considered to belong to a lower caste, since they were essentially manual labourers. After Europe was re-exposed to classical culture during the Renaissance, particularly in the nation states of what is now Italy (Florence, Siena), artists gained an association with high status. However, arrangements of "fine" and expensive goods have always been used by institutions of power as marks of their own status. This is seen in the 20th and 21st century by the commissioning or purchasing of art by big businesses and corporations as decoration for their offices.

The Issue of Utility

There are many who ascribe to certain arts the quality of being non-utilitarian. This fits within the "art as good" system of definitions and suffers from a class prejudice against labor and utility. Opponents of this view argue that all human activity has some utilitarian function, and these objects claimed to be "non-utilitarian" actually have the rather mundane and banal utility of attempting to mystify and codify unworkable justifications for arbitrary social hierarchy. It might also be argued that non-utilitarian is, in this context, a mis-usage; that art is not in and of itself, useless, but rather that it particularly use does not manifest itself in any traditionally demonstrable way (though advances in neuroscience may arguably enable the isolation of those assocaited cortexes of the brain concerned with the creation or appreciation of art).

Art is also used by clinical psychologists as art therapy. The end product is not the principal goal in this case; rather a process of healing, through creative acts, is sought. The resultant piece of artwork may also offer insight into the troubles experienced by the subject and may suggest suitable approaches to be used in more conventional forms of psychiatric therapy.

The "use" of art from the artist’s standpoint is as a means of expression. When art is conceived as a device, it serves several context and perspective specific functions. From the artist’s perspective it allows one to symbolize complex ideas and emotions in an arbitrary language subject only to the interpretation of the self and peers.

In a social context, it can serve to soothe the soul and promote popular morale. In a more negative aspect of this facet, art is often utlisied as a form of propaganda, and thus can be used to subtly influence popular conceptions or mood (in some cases, artworks are appropriated to be used in this manner, without the creator's initial intention).

From a more anthropological perspective, art is a way of passing ideas and concepts on to later generations in a (somewhat) universal language. The interpretation of this language is very dependent upon the observer’s perspective and context, and it might be argued that the very subjectivity of art demonstrates its importance in providing an arena in which rival ideas might be exchanged and discussed, or to provide a social context in which disparate groups of people might congregate and mingle.

History of Art

The term 'art history' typically refers to a historical examination of the various trends of the visual arts through certain periods of human history. It may also be taken to encompass a study of the theories of art, which may or not not include an examination of their historical context.

See main article: Art history

Symbols

Much of the development of individual artist deals with finding principles for how to express certain ideas through various kinds of symbolism. For example, Vasily Kandinsky developed his use of color in painting through a system of stimulus response, where over time he gained an understanding of the emotions that can be evoked by color and combinations of color. Contemporary artist Andy Goldsworthy, on the other hand, chose to use the medium of found natural objects and materials to arrange temporary sculptures.

See main article: Symbols


See also

Further reading

External links

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