what is art?
an excerpt from:
Art is choice.
In all mediums: Oil, acrylic, charcoal, auditory, performance, all things visual and everything taken in through the senses – art is choice. However abstract, however obtuse – art is choice.
Art is the clothes that you wear: The watch you bought. The shoes you slipped-on and never unlaced. The blue jeans you tore-up at the knees. That sweater that you wear – that’s much too baggy for your torso. With all these items, a choice was made: to wear them, to keep them, to buy them. Here the importance is in the choice. That you decided – however implicitly, or explicitly – to wear those clothing items. Together and apart. With that green tunic, or without it.
Art is choice.
Art is the choice you made – to layer the yellow oil over the charcoal sketch of your girlfriend. Art is the choice to make a sketch of your girlfriend at all.
Here, everybody is an artist. Here, everybody makes choices.
Here, the downfall is when the choices are not being made artfully. Carefully. With thought and a diction that comes only from examination into the aesthetic and the pride of ownership.
What goes unsaid is that everyone is an artist. Afterall, everyone makes choices.
The challenge is to make artful choices. To exert our creative forces on the world around us.
Now, with that said, there comes the grand critique of art – the one-act play that all egos so desperately want to play out. In the end, and admittedly, we are all itching to impose our rational faculties upon the world. Because,
Undoubtedly, there is bad art.
Undoubtedly, there is good art.
And while it may be true that this endeavor, like all other assessable endeavors, is not an objective pursuit – there are grounds by which to measure. For this author, the dichotomy in assessment is two-fold: that which can be measured qualitatively; and that which can only be measured quantitatively.
A quantitatively measurable assessment can be made on the skill of the artist: The way in which the paint was laid onto the canvas; the aptitude involved in the sketch of the girlfriend; how adept the photographer’s eye is in creating a composition and texture.
But there are those components which cannot be measured by qualitative analysis – by a simple score on a chart. Qualitative analysis is the best form of assessment when it comes to the subjective, and personal, pull of a piece of art; of the way somebody wears their clothes; the impact of the lyrics in a song and the textures therein. Qualitative analysis is best-suited for the task of explaining why it is that something pulls you in, and something else pushes you away. A narrative account, a written or verbal explanation, is the only way to aptly, and comprehensively, describe why it is that something actually repulses you, instead of turning you on.
With these premises in-hand, I would like to turn to the notion of the artist’s aim.
It has often been argued that the artist – that human in the world operating on touchstones and baselines – doesn’t always hold regard for the opinions and critiques of others. More simply stated, the true artist does what s/he does only for their own personal sake of operation and satisfaction.
Here, for sure, there is a distinction that needs to be made: between professional and personal art. What I will argue is that the success of professional art is contingent on connecting with the outside world; and that, to some large extent – the professional artist is concerned with what other’s think and believe about their personal work. On the other hand, personal art is not necessarily contingent upon a desire to connect with the outside world.
There is this caricature of the artist, in his cave, his studio, his lofty perch – creating passionately and wildly and madly, work that is intensely private; work that is only contingent upon catharsis. Because the artist does not know what else to do. Because they have been cursed with this blessing of talents, to the extreme.
Here is the prevailing notion that the professional artist operates uncaring to the notion that they are striving to connect to their peers and contemporaries. However, I will argue that while this may hold true on some elementary level of construction – on the level of striving to turn their art-piece into a monetary value – the aim of professional artists is to connect with the world at-large.
Professional success is necessarily contingent upon this premise. The films that gross the most; the authors with greatest longevity; the musicians that endure throughout the decades – these are the ones that have connected with an audience; and moreover, retained that audience. This notion of connecting with an audience is, alas, what has made those that use their methods of choice and artform, successful.
Only because others see something familiar, and understandable in the work of the artist, does the artist find monetary success.
Personal success is not always contingent upon this premise of connecting with an audience. Personal success is often more ambiguous, and quiet in its means and end. For the clothes that one wears, may be for a myriad of reasons that do not concern the outside world.
Within this I will not neglect the fact that, every form of art is, at base, an intensely personal experience – and that it is a private affair, created inside the artist. In the end, this may be the most interesting component to this whole situation: That, while the artists penultimate aim is to connect with an audience, to create understanding and familiarity – it is intriguing that, in order to connect with the world around them, the artist’s process does involve this most personal and private component, wherein the artist retreats from the world – into his/her cave to conjure and create these wild works. There are multitudes of stories to back this notion. But even apart from these tales, it is also just a necessary part of the required processes – of writing; of painting; of composing, that the artist must retreat from the world in some capacity to spend time creating his/her work.
However, while the artist, immersed in their required process – must retreat from the world for a period of time – their ultimate aim is to communicate with that same world, from which they have sought solace from. In this way the cycle completes itself: In the striving to reach out and convey information and sensation with the world, with society, with gallery-goers – an artist must leave that same world in order to communicate what it is that they have set-out, implicitly or explicitly – to communicate.
Afterall, art is choice. And choice in communication.