What is Art?

What constitutes Art and what does not

What constitutes art is a very emotive question and one that has caused debate for many years.

This is one definition that comes from “The Art of the Renaissance”

“The expression or application of human creative skill and imagination, typically in a visual form such as painting or sculpture, producing works to be appreciated primarily for their beauty or emotional power”.

Do you agree with that description?

I would say that the majority would, but there are many who would disagree and would argue that “art” is more than that.  Anything that is created could be described as a work of art.

How many times have I heard someone looking at an abstract painting and remark that their kid could do that, the reality, of course, is that their kid couldn’t because there is more to abstract painting than just slapping paint on a canvas in a haphazard fashion.

Marcel Duchamp’s Fountain

Marcel Duchamp's Fountain as Art
Marcel Duchamp’s Fountain

However, the real bone of contention comes with conceptual art.  I suppose it goes back to 1917 when Marcel Duchamp exhibited his fountain which in reality was an upturned urinal signed ‘R Mutt’.  Since then it has provoked much debate with many people saying “that’s not art!” and others defending this form of creation as art.

Since Duchamp’s “Fountain” which created great controversy we have had a pile of bricks laid out in a pattern at Tate modern, Tracey Emin’s unmade bed, a shark in a tank and many more that I could mention which has left scores of people shaking their heads in disbelief that this can be described as art and others fully embracing the concept and the thought process of the artist.

The Turner Prize

The annual Turner Prize always provokes much media attention and comment.  It is predominately about conceptual artists who are pushing the boundaries of this field.  There have been some weird and wonderful winners of the prize as well as many weird and wonderful shortlisted entrants.

The art of Caravaggio-supper at Emmaus
Caravaggio-supper at Emmaus

We have come a long way from the Old Masters whose skill and mastery of paint leaves one in awe to those lucky enough to have seen and experienced the beauty of them in one of our National Galleries.

Art is no longer just painting or sculpture but encompasses so much more today.

It is about expression, concept and all things in between.  There are no barriers.  It doesn’t even mean that you have had to create it (like the Duchamp fountain) Taking an everyday object and turning it into something else or just calling it something else is “art” in some people’s eyes.

My own view is that I understand some conceptual installations and what the artist is trying to do.  However, there are many installations and concepts that I don’t get at all and even when an artist tries to explain the work, it leaves me no nearer understanding the reason for creating it or the point of it.

What do you think?

studio 18

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