Unlocking the Mysteries of Art Part 1

Brian GriffithsWhat is art?2 Comments

You know what you like but you hate what you see

Have you ever been presented with a piece of “art” (but you could call it a piece of something else) and someone insisted that you “just didn’t get it”.

Has art to you become synonymous with pretentious garbage?

Does the whole field confuse the hell out of you?

There’s no conspiracy but you weren’t meant to understand.

Art itself acts as a guiding spirit to our civilization’s mind and body.

Society’s thoughts, dreams, and aesthetic are guided by, or created by, artists. So why is it completely inscrutable to the average person?

You weren’t meant to understand it, nor benefit from it. Art was made into the fodder of the so-called elite, those with more “taste” and more money than you.

Let’s face facts: there are some humanoids who seek to create an illusion of value based on the scarcity of something that isn’t scarce. Much of the art establishment has survived on this mindset for a century and it’s time for it to stop.

Between the establishment elevating garbage to the status of gold, and schools focusing on STEM (science, technology, engineering and math) to the exclusion of everything else, it’s easy to see why you might not understand a field that affects you and that you interact with every day.

What is art?

In this series, I am going to define art for you in a way that you can think with, and then outline the essentials that I think makes art, well, art.

My definition of art

“Art” is a word that symbolizes the tendency of certain crafted communications to strike deeply and stimulate emotions: these can be anything from joy to fear, anger to awe, sympathy to courage, and on and on, and can include very complicated feelings. This is accomplished through the vehicle of aesthetics (the principles and practices of creating beauty) and utilizing a certain form of creativity (for example, paintings, drawings, songs, photographs, poems, novels, movies, etc.)

Let’s pick art apart

Art is communication but it’s indirect.

For example, stories in Western Civilization are almost always morality tales – movies, novels, short stories have the purpose of teaching you a lesson. Poems use metaphor, symbolism and literary devices. Paintings employ visual cues and imagery to convey a message.

It’s maybe more direct to say to someone, “I love you” or “be courageous and strong despite obstacles” but when it’s subtly “stated” in a piece of art, the message can sneak past literal thoughts, mental clutter and resistance, and then open the door to the emotions where it’s more likely to inspire and stick.

The emotions won’t be the same for each person and the message will be interpreted differently from one person to another. Art fails when it’s impossible to understand, causes revulsion, boredom or annoyance for its intended audience, or exists solely to shock without aesthetic content or emotion.

This means that what is art to you is what is art

I’ll make this entire post even simpler: art is a word that encapsulates those works of creativity that please you and excite your sense of what you consider beautiful.

Art can’t be defined by scholars, gallerists, museum curators, art brokers, or critics. They can only comment upon what has been created, and promote what they’re trying to sell while trying to discourage the public from what they consider junk. But only you can decide for yourself what pleases you.

And that can be anything from a heavy metal song to a painting by Van Gogh, from rap to Shakespeare, from graphic novels to Michelangelo. As an individual, the whole world of human creativity is open to you.

From this simplicity, this underpainting, if you will, we can build up the rest of the picture of what art is. It’s my hope that this short post will help you to enjoy what you experience just a little bit more. Or a lot more – art can be truly awe-inspiring and life-changing.

And if you are an artist, if this helps you, go out and create more art that matters.


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