Archive for the ‘What is Art’ Category

Freud and Art

Monday, October 26th, 2009

Freud-artSigmund Freud is perhaps one of the most famous thinkers of the 20th Century.  He made huge strides both in psychology and philosophy, birthing what became the psychoanalytic movement.  He made some groundbreaking and controversial ideas regarding the subconscious and the desires that it can communicate through dreams, psychoanalytic discussions, and the repression that goes along with this.  Freud explored a number of ways in which people could tap into this subconscious and start to explore the issues bothering them.  Art was one of the strongest ways in which this was possible.

Freud had a long lasting interest in art, feeling that the insights, which an artist could find within their art, were fully equal and sometimes even superior to what a scientific approach could discover.  The untapped potential available to the artist allows one to immediately tap into the subconscious when making the art, proving that it can be incredibly therapeutic and informative.  Additionally, Freud was often jealous of the way that an artist could access those subconscious ideas almost instantaneously while someone approaching it through a scientific, psychoanalytic method could take many, many hours to even scratch the surface of these feelings.

The psychoanalysis approach that he helped to create was often referred to as a work of art by many of its admirers, although Freud himself would often dismiss these claims.  He felt that true art was something, which used the unconscious itself, where as psychoanalysis, was something that tried to access that subconscious.  His high regard for art, however, is something, which shines through in his writings.

Art is Provocative

Monday, March 16th, 2009


Art is designed to stimulate the senses, to excite people and get them talking and thinking.  Some art will do this loudly and some art will do this more subtly, but unless art evokes some reaction in the viewer, it cannot properly be considered to be art.  Whether it’s love or hate, art should make the person looking at it feel something.  Some art, though, is specifically designed to ensnare the senses, exciting and stimulating the viewer.

If an artist is working correctly, their work will be able to reach out and grab the person viewing their work.  There may be an undercurrent to the work with which the person looking at the art can identify with and it is this undercurrent which will make that person be arrested by the art.  The artist making this provocative art can be doing it intentionally, trying to shock and excite the viewer, or it can be a natural by-product.  Any artwork which resonates truth, however, will naturally be able to carry that effect.  Truth is the highest standard of all and any work of art which is truthful will accomplish many things at once.

Objectivism – The Role of Art

Monday, February 2nd, 2009

Art and Objectivism - Ayn RandA form of personal philosophy which was born over the 20th Century by the novelist Ayn Rand, Objectivism takes the views that man is a heroic being whose only true moral purpose during life is his own happiness.  The philosophy expands on the idea that reality is independent from consciousness and that individuals are only in contact with that reality through their sensory perceptions.  Concept formation is how individuals will begin to understand and interpret that reality into their own lives.  Art itself is an important part of Objectivism, as it is how man can transform large, metaphysical ideas and ideals into a tangible, physical form to which they can react and understand.

Rand chose the name Objectivism for her philosophy, basing it off of musings of other philosophers, such as Kierkegaard and Sartre, who helped establish and define Existentialism.  She felt that her idea sprang forth from Existentialism but that her ideas were a little more specific.  Knowledge and ideals are objective, not intrinsic or subjective.  These values do not make a part of the reality, which actually exists, but at the same time, those values are not defined on a person-by-person basis.

The role of art is an important one with Objectivism, for it allows human beings to understand concepts as if they were perceptions.  The art becomes a selective representation of reality based on the artist’s particular viewpoint of metaphysical judgments.  Objectivism itself considers art as an ethical way to convey an idea or a moral for its purpose is not to educate but merely to project a certain set of ideas. In fact, Objectivism says that art should be uplifting and that is should show things that uplift. Good Art should represent the rational man, and the ideals that are associated with human reason.

Photo: Infiltec

George Dickie – Art and Audience

Monday, January 19th, 2009

People Visiting Art MuseumGeorge Dickie, a professor of philosophy at the University of Illinois in Chicago, postulated a theory about the relationship between art and the audience meant to receive it.  His theory set about to define what art actually is and the context in which it applies to society.  According to Dickie, art is something that is consciously presented to an audience with the intention of it being art.  He does not seek to determine how this art is made; he gives no qualifications about what it takes exactly to make something art.  What is important is the person presenting the piece.  If they do not present the piece as art, the piece is not art.  It is only based on the intentions that a work can become art.

By the same token, however, the audience, which receives the artwork, is just as important.  In order for something to be truly art, it needs to be shown to a group of people who have the ability to understand it and the intentions of the artist.  They do not necessarily have to understand the theme of the work or, even to truly accept it as art.  Having the potential to accept the work as art, though, is important.  Without the audience, the work simply remains as a work and does not truly become art.

This definition is actually rather broad in what it aims to accomplish.  It simply states that unless an artist is consciously presenting a piece as art, it is not that.  By turn, if the audience is not able to accept the piece as a work of art, it is not art.  Therefore, a painting submitted to a field of cows is not art, but the same painting in a gallery would be.

Photo:  Courtesy of Hibino

Art is Creation

Monday, January 12th, 2009

Art is Creation - Sistine Chapel

Art is more godlike than science. Science discovers: art creates – John Opie

Creativity is one of the most important parts that makes an artist.  Without the act of creation, no artist exists.  Taking an idea that they have, whether it be an entertaining story or a commentary on the society around them, an artist has something to say.  However, without the creative process, the artist would not have any way to express these ideas.  The entire beauty of art comes from the artist making something new to show the world, using this as a way to express their innermost thoughts and desires to the world.

The act of creation is what gives artists a special power.  They are allowed to make statements about things which they have come to recognize and they accomplish this by giving the world something new to ponder.  There is an unending amount of beauty in this world and it is the responsibility of the artist to effectively capture and display this beauty to the world.  Only artists have the ability to create this beauty.  Using all the powers of their imagination and talent, they can give the world a gift that never would have existed without the influence of that artist.  Therefore, their act of creation leaves a mark of beauty on the world that can never be taken away.

Kant – What is Art

Monday, December 29th, 2008

Kant - What is ArtImmanuel Kant, a famous German philosopher who published a very influential work called Critique of Pure Reason, which was an investigation into the nature of reason itself.  He felt that only by understanding the true limitations of human understanding and knowledge could one begin to pose valuable metaphysical questions.  Kant posed that a mind can only think about things based on its own experience with them and that since the mind is wired toward the idea of causality, everything that we encounter comes to be thought of as either a cause or an effect.  This, however, stops man from understanding some basic things, such as the nature of the world itself.  It can only be experienced during the span of a man’s life and therefore, one will never know if the world has indeed existed forever and, if not, what might have actually caused it.

His views on fine art stretch to the idea that it must be intentionally produced.  Additionally, art is something, which must be experienced through intuitions and sensations instead of concepts, which are already known.  Therefore, each work of art is meant to be experienced as a completely unique piece, independent of every other work of art in the world.

Kant believed that art needed to be beautiful and pleasing because good works of art would stimulate the mind into reacting to that beauty.  This viewpoint is rather limited in today’s art world, however, for modern art will often produce works, which are neither.  Instead, Kant believed that to truly be successful, a work of art has to be judged immediately, in the form, as it exists to the viewer.

Art is Mastery

Monday, December 15th, 2008

Michelangelo\'s Pieta

“If people knew how hard I have had to work to gain my mastery, it wouldn’t seem wonderful at all.” –  Michelangelo

While some people can be preternaturally talented artists, knowing immediately how to draw a stunning likeness or paint using a vivid color arrangement, this is not the case for most people, including some of history’s best artists.  For an artist is only as good as the tools that they have to work with for those tools are what shape the art into being what it is.  If the tools are shoddy or the artist doesn’t know how to properly use them, the artwork will suffer.

The artist will have their vision held firmly in their head.  To get that image out to share with the world, however, they will need to use a physical medium to express themselves.  Exploration of this physical medium is a great way for artists to come into themselves, but only though lots of study and practice will they be able to use these tools and this physicality to take the vision from their head and shape it, paint it, or express it for the world.  Only by proper study, dedication, and eventual mastery will an artist be able to take a vision from their head and share that vision with the world.

Schopenhauer – Art Definition from Philosophy

Monday, November 17th, 2008

Portrait of Shopenhauer by Angilbert GobelArthur Schopenhauer was a German philosopher most active during the middle 1800s.  His work set about to examine whether reason could answer any questions about the world and his primary target of concentration was on man’s motivations, which he referred to as the “will.”  His studies led him to conclude that man’s basic physical, emotional, and sexual desires can never be fulfilled and that abstaining from trying to fulfill these desires was the best possible course of action.  He consequently greatly supported art as a way of being able to escape an oppressive servitude to the will as it allowed an artist the means to stop lusting after the earthly desires they were feeling and to enter a realm of purely mental satisfaction.

Schopenhauer believed that the will was not something to be indulged for failed attempts to fulfill the will only led to sorrow in man.  If man succeeded in fulfilling the will, they were only led on to either boredom or new desires.  An endless cycle would be started that would leave man being unsatisfied for the majority of his life.    Art could, however, save everyone by providing a place of escape.  Salvation could be attained through aesthetic experiences.

Geopolitical Child Watches The Birth Of The New Human by Salvador Dali

Schopenhauer was responsible himself for the eventual movement of the Symbolists.  Art was accomplished for art’s sake, therefore rejecting the idea that good art was something, which could be capitalized on.  Through Schopenhauer’s beliefs, art was something, which could remove much of the pain and sorrow from the world, as it was something, which could remain elevated over it all.

Martin Heidegger – What is Art?

Monday, November 3rd, 2008

Portrait of Philosopher Martin HeideggerMartin Heidegger was a famous German philosopher from the early to mid 20th Century.  His philosophical views were largely based on investigating not what it mean to be a being, but what being in itself means.  He believed that all of the questions which philosophy had attempted to answer over the preceding 2,000 years were about all the beings which could be found in the world, but that no one had bothered to question what “being” itself implicated.  Heidegger believed that philosophy got started on the wrong foot and as a result, most of the discoveries made in philosophy were erroneous.

Julian Beever and his Work - BatmanHis views on art took the approach that a work of art not only defined the way that a culture understands art, but it actually creates that same truth to a degree.  The truth, which a work of art represents, will actually become the way that a society will understand that truth.  Furthermore, at any time that an artist introduces a new work of art into society, the entire definition of truth behind the meaning of existence is slightly changed.

Heidegger believed that both artworks and the artist could not exist without each other.  While artworks would not exist without an artist, it was the work itself, which made one into an artist.  At the same time, art itself was something, which is separate from both artworks and artists.  The concept of art is something, which needed to be understood to appreciate artworks, but without artworks, the concept of art did not exist.  Heidegger fully explained that his beliefs were a paradox, which could not be appropriately answered, but that his responsibility was in describing the riddle.

Pop Art Icon and Other Icons

Wednesday, August 20th, 2008

“Life is full of dead spots. Art gives it life”

Big Torn Campbells Soup Can (Pepper Pot) by Andy WarholThis quote was said by Irwin Edman, a 20th century philosopher. He mentioned that artists have a way of making life come alive and have been able to do so through time. Art history is full of icons of every type and nature. They can come in the form of images of Christ or the Virgin Mary or even an icon like “Campbells Tomato Soup Cans” by Andy Warhol. Icons let us connect with culture, nature, our own humanity, our inner self, and our religion.

When an artist gives meaning to a symbol or an image (an icon) then it acquires a certain value to society and to history and mankind.  To an artist the icons he takes on represent a part of himself or of the world he lives in, just as Jesus was a part of the world El Greco lived in and “Campbells Soup” was an icon of the world of Andy Warhol. What makes an icon up to a society depends on the societies beliefs, their tradition, and what they find value in, and these will differ depending on age group and on country.


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