What Makes Art?
When one views a painting, or listens to a composition, or hears a poet preaching about contrasting beauty and ugliness of a city, what does one feel exactly?
No one can really understand what art is for. And many would assume it fails to acquire a more practical role in human society. Much of this fanfare has its origins to how people today have evaluated art. Technology is at the center of art’s progress over time, but it has also trivialized it to the extent that people believe they know everything there is understand a piece of art. People now will shrug off classical paintings like the Mona Lisa or more modern masterpieces such as The Scream. They will look at these paintings, observe them, and go back to their business.
Aesthetic tastes have changed. And this is the reality that artists need to accept, but it is also something they can bring in meaningful change. As a start, they will need to begin by asking “What makes art?”
Various schools of thought have grappled with the problem on art’s usefulness in the society. People will argue that the arts are only for the artists. Since artists were the only ones who acquired the gift of creation, they are seen to have little regard for people who are not of the same mind. This has only maintained an elitism that possesses a narrow view of art.
What is ignored is the fact that art serves a higher purpose and that art itself is the natural instinct of man to replicate his surroundings and his feelings. We can then argue that art and the artists hand are shared by all, and not one group has exclusivity over them.
Art is what it is because it is a vessel by which human experiences, aspirations, defeats, triumphs, agonies, and epiphanies are recorded. Art reminds us of our intrinsic place in the world and any such piece – from a simple pencil drawing, to a vast mural – shows what we are as human.
And that describes what art is and what it should be: an expression of the human condition. The efforts of artists are never really geared towards attaining fame and glory in the art world. They are aimed at confirming the very human inclination to communicate what cannot be communicated in simple terms.
Art, then, is the sum of all human expressions, feelings and experiences. And it is important for people to acknowledge this fact.
Aside from that, art must also function to keep the discourse on morality going. Art is essential in the same way that to breathe is essential to human life; because we can never really progress without first learning where we have done wrong.
Cases in point are the many novels written to oppose totalitarianism and the efforts of painters to express in canvass their disdain for war. Orwell’s Nineteen Eighty-Four, for instance, captures the ugliness of political control over individual lives. Picasso’s Guernica, on the other hand, shows the very same ugliness, the only difference being the extent that human beings would go towards self-destruction.
Such works will always serve as reminders of the dark side of humanity. The fact remains that people will always look for ways to destroy themselves shall involve intervention of some kind.
To truly describe what art is, in closing, we will only have to look at both the potential to create and to destroy in a piece of art. Only then can we begin to understand what makes art.