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His hand skitters across the page. Experimental, instinctive. An angular curve, a hasty slash and impatient scrawl appear as the nib drifts outwards, trailing a maze of marks. A twisted face here - a jagged window there…an abstract rush of thoughts and ideas that bloom, crisscross and jostle for attention.
Observing a fellow artist at work can be mesmerising – indeed, we might go as far as to say, that art is in innate part of us as humans. From a very young age, we are drawn to colour and to light, impulsively using implements to make marks that represent our ideas and our perception of the world around us.
But what do we really mean by ‘art’?
According to the OED, art is ‘the expression of creative skill in a visual form such as a painting or sculpture’ - although this is all encompassing, it is somewhat vague. Philosophically, on the other hand, we are told art has the capability to inform, inspire, documentate, express, question, theorise and whimsically entertain via a subjective response to our world. Taking this a step further, we could also add that we value art that has been executed in a way that is notable or praiseworthy. Additionally, common sense dictates that that art should not be defined such, merely by its placement within the walls of an art gallery, and should be identifiable regardless of its location.
Art may be viewed in two ways. One, with the perspective of the artist in mind and secondly, that of the onlooker.
Intentional fallacy is the fallacy of basing an assessment of a piece on the intent of the creator, as opposed to our response the actual result of it. As idealistic this is however, it is difficult for a viewer to do so, as work, more often than not, stands alone for interpretation in the same way we - despite our best efforts to avoid doing so - will judge a book by its cover, both literally and metaphorically, when we know nothing of its contents. Although presumptuous of us to do so, we must remember that in this case, art is visual and therefore, primarily aesthetic. If appearance and form is so significant, do the artist’s views then matter at all? Should judgement really be based on physical attributes alone?
Yet others may argue that the process is a ‘personal’ experience for the artist, a channelling of emotions and individual feeling, the final piece being merely a by-product of this. This however, dramatically diminishes the importance of any artwork ever created, dismissively rendering them as only as significant as the creator themselves.
Surely a wretched view for any art enthusiast, as it implicates that any judgement we form of a piece bares no relevance , distancing us ever further from even a basic understanding of any creation we see.
Though, a more positive slant to this theory, is that art is a means of self-expression and discovery, thus giving us insight into the workings of the artist’s mind, perhaps revealing truths inexpressible in any other form, perhaps similar to how our body language and our voices identify us, and are a part of who we are.
But to what ends does an artist’s input impact the result produced? What are the ulterior motives for creating art? Is art merely a selfish cry for attention and recognition? Or, more disappointingly – simply money?
The demand for commercial art - art that sells, persuades and entices, is ever increasing in our day and age. Art now often serves a purpose of seductive marketing, glorified concepts and idealistic connotations - from advertisements to branding and packaging.
Returning to the concept of intentional fallacy, a further shortcoming emerges that, we quite simply, can never be sure of the sincerity with which a piece was created – for example, the infamous Damien Hirst himself has been quoted stating he ‘couldn’t be fucking arsed’ to paint more than a handful of splotches on his bizarre spot paintings ( the majority of ‘his’ work having been completed by his team of assistants ). In his defence, he makes the comparison between himself and an architect - who are unlikely to be found physically building structures they have designed.
Be that as it may, HIrst is now incontrovertibly, no longer an artist in his own right – but has become merely a name, a brand - manufacturing his pieces on an alarming scale, as it has been revealed that over 1,365 spot paintings have been created, the abundance of which clearly eradicates all of what little worth they may have once had.
Yet, art remains an expensive game, an investment made by the wealthy, as demonstrated by the recent auction of
Francis Bacon’s triptych of Lucian Freud, auctioned and sold for $142.4 million, clearly it would be absurd to base the value of art dependant on the amount another individual is willing to pay for it.
It may seem strange to question the existence of art, but on the contrary, for the most of us, art is not ‘purely’ visual - but may also be emotional and psychological, perhaps evoking feelings such as nostalgia or amazement, thus begging the question : does art exists outside the human mind at all - or is it simply a delusion, a subjective classification of aesthetic appreciation and acknowledgement?
In the same way that ‘beauty’ is not a physical object in itself, but a trait we exclusively identify, perhaps it is then wrong, for any one of us, to declare any ‘one’ thing as ‘not art’, as we may only speak of our own perceptions.
As we differ on our opinions on what we find beautiful, it is therefore only understandable, that we also disagree on what we consider as art, as each of us will perceive such, differently .
But yet again – perhaps the true beauty of art is its purposelessness, and any reason at all, intent or worth is insignificant. Art is not definable in itself, but merely is; as it is inconceivable that we will ever understand art completely, wholly agree on the existence or non-existent boundaries of art and where they lie, or ever define such a fickle phenomenon that so fiercely evades definition.