What is Art
Am I an artist?
I’m going to attempt answering this question from my perspective as an artist and consumer of art. I find this neccessary since i’m often confrontent with the idea that art = painting. Besides explaining my thoughts here, a few weeks ago a facebook contact posted his paintings, struggeling about his work and asked:
“Am I an artist or just a man with a brush?”
I’m not going to add his name because i’ve answered him and his question disappeared shortly afterwards. But i’m going to tell you that his painting is more or less made out of color areas. He did not paint a figure, landscape etc.
A popular view about what art is
Art is an object, a painting, a photograph we hang in our Museums. Art is my neices scribbels and gifts, Art is an expression of the artist. Its a visual approach to tell a thought. Its a masterpierce of craftsmenwomenship in sketching, painting or what ever visual approach the artist chose.
And I disagree! This opinion is widely popular and many people put themselfes down for not being an artist because their visual expression does not align with this popular view ( Often they lack the ability to sketch ). As we discover new media such as animation or new styles we have to align our idea about what art is and take a look what art was.
A common piece of art, a portrait painting.
I would agree and say, this is art. Portraits hang in lots of museums and embody one of the most important disciplines for painters and photographers. We consider them as piece of art because of their excellence in visual appearance but also because of their history. Portraits served for our society as a way to communicate and shape it. Kings and Queens, traders and rich people (basically polititians) in general admissioned portraits to gain influence and communicate their status. Still happens today. A portrait is a powerful way to communicate and I still struggle to understand how it changed our society since everyone is blasting portraits of themselfes out there. We know that as a #selfie. And in a way people do that to influence their immidiate environment or network.
Art as a way to shape society
Over the years our idea what art is changed. We gained other mediums to communicate and the borders between literature, dance, painting, photo, film, animation, music begin to fade. Computer science enabled us to have a portrait and communicate instantly. We are able to craft and distribute our work across the planet, shaping our society.
Merete Sanderhoff pointed out (and this will never leave me) that in Germany we have the word “Bildung” for gaining knowledge. The word is made out of “Bild” (translated as “picture”) and changed into a verb “Bildung”. Gaining knowldege might be seen as gaining a picture in our heads. A wonderful detail about german language.
And so is art a way to make our environment aware. How awareness can be raised is picked up by neuroscientists. The Washington post did a wonderful special on an example of a dancer, explaining our emotions. Most impressivly I found Dr. Eric Kandels insight on how our brain is proccessing art using two different patterns. One of them is adding information to a clear information we see and the other one is figuring out what we see. A painting artist is able to recruit these patterns and embedd her/his intention.
“We all know that Art is not truth. Art is a lie that makes us realize truth, at least the truth that is given us to understand. The artist must know the manner whereby to convince others of the truthfulness of his lies."
— pablo picasso, found via cnn
So I like to think a picture, an image, an impression, film photo…is made to build knowledge. Art is made to shape our society. Winston Churchill thought funding for the Arts is important and the internet made up a few few words for it. “to remind us what we are fighting for.”, Churchill never said that but experts like to believe it aligns with his thoughts.
Am I an Artist? or not?
I like to think it depends on how your doing is exposed. Painting a picture will most likely do nothing as long its hanging over your kitchen table and nobody is able to see it. As soon you allow your painting to be seen (no matter which media it is) you are an Artist. And the older your work gets, the more people it will touch, change, add a thought or reflect one. As long you share, you are an Artist. Unfortunatly lots museums have not learned yet how to share in our times and they are not fulfilling their duty.
Professional artists know that being sold and praised by society is about marketing. Not about being a perfect artist. Its about having a concept, a good gallerist, an audience, time, material, money and so on.