What is art? It’s hard to define, because it’s so many different things to people. What appeals to one may not appeal to another, but often we can agree it’s art. Sometimes, though, there is controversy on the subject when a piece for whatever reason isn’t catching the imagination of segments of the public.
One of the things that define us as humans is our ability to create and express ourselves through the medium of art. Many of us couldn’t tell exactly what will speak to us until we see it. For some it will be Italian Renaissance classics, while others will find themselves moved by a beautiful piece of street art that others view as a nuisance. Many times, of course, the same person will be touched by both. We can, though, all agree that a Rubens masterpiece is ‘art’ while an intricate mural on a wall may not be seen likewise.
Creating in Order to Express
A portrait tells a little about the personality and social standing of the person sitting. A street artist may be expressing politics, love and anything an oil painting can. Taken out of the immediate context of its creation, the street art may have as much to say about its time as the portraits of great revolutions and small social gatherings of the past that hang in our galleries. Location, and where we expect to see art, plays a part.
What the artist intends while they’re creating and what we, as audience, take from the experience aren’t always the same thing either. When we view cave art we recognise it as art, as depicting something between an expression of day-to-day life and an interpretation of how the artist may have related to that life, but we cannot understand exactly how that felt. Yet it moves us, connecting us to history and something indefinable.
Art Around Us
Some people can see potential art in the world around them more easily than others, and luckily for the rest of us, some of those people carry cameras, preserving moments they see and we share after the fact. But even then, is it art or is it merely documenting the mundane? Does art have to tell a story? Some people prefer ‘traditional’ art, made with tools and materials such as the ones you can see if you click here. Pieces such as paintings, drawings and carvings are something we all recognise as ‘art’, though some people prefer different forms of expression. Which is more valid, the oil paint or the graffiti spray? Germaine Greer has some thought-provoking ideas on the subject. In her opinion, anything can become art if it’s removed from the every day and seen in a new light.
So what is art? An unmade bed? Blobs on a canvas? A near photograph-quality copy of something or someone? All of these things are objects of beauty to some and pointless to others. Perhaps what makes an object into a work of art is somewhere between artist and viewer — an expression of something that’s picked up and interpreted by a certain person on a certain day under unique circumstances and, somehow, for better or worse, speaks to them.