“What is art but a way of seeing.” – Saul Bellow
Wikipedia puts it this way “Art is a diverse range of (the products of) human activities involving the conscious use of creative imagination to express technical proficiency, beauty, emotional power, or conceptual ideas.”
Art is one subject matter that has no generally agreed definition as ideas have changed and will continue to change over time.
However, some elements in art remain constant and identifiable – the three classical branches, which are visual art which encompasses painting, sculpture, and architecture), Theatre, which is expressed in dance, and other performing arts, as well as literature, film, music. In some climes, interactive media, are included in a broader definition of the arts.
In the perspective of the history of art, artistic works have existed for almost as long as humankind; from early pre-historic art to contemporary art. However, some theorists say that the typical concept of “artistic works” fits less well outside modern Western societies and this is because thousands of years before now the definition of art was closely related to the older Latin meaning, which roughly translates to “skill” or “craft,” as associated with words such as “artisan.” For example, ability of an artisan or craftsman, in the case of Africa, to preserve history through his skill.
Over time, philosophers like Plato, Aristotle, Socrates and Kant, among others, questioned the meaning of art bringing about several debates;
Socrates says that poetry is inspired by the muses, and is not rational.
With regards to the literary art and the musical arts, Aristotle considered epic poetry, tragedy, comedy and music to be mimetic, that is, imitative art, each varying in imitation by medium, object, and manner. For example, music imitates with the media of rhythm and harmony, whereas dance imitates with rhythm alone, and poetry with just language.
Let’s take a look at more recent thoughts on the subject matter;
“The purpose of art is not to produce a product. Art is a human act. Art is Risky. Provocative. Generous. Courageous.”- Eric Wahil.
“The purpose of art is self-expression. A way to show someone’s feelings and emotions. It can make a political statement, a religious statement or even a whimsical statement. Art is very personal and evokes different feelings in different people. To one person, a painting may be breath-taking and to another, it is simply offensive. Sometimes art isn’t understood or appreciated right away and must be viewed several times or even over many years, before its greatness is recognized.” – The Trophy Hunter.
“The viewing of art is aesthetically pleasing–an arousal of the senses and emotions that will differ with each viewer. Likewise, the quality of the individual piece will elicit different feelings to each observer. It is this human experience that best exemplifies the purpose of an artistic endeavor.” – Bullgat Ortail.
Art is one subject matter that keeps evolving, the key words here are Individual, creativity, expression and idea. Once all these are involved in a piece, then it can be called art. Furthermore, the purpose of art (especially in recent times) described above are not mutually exclusive, as many of them may overlap. For example, a work of art can be for the purpose of entertainment and may also seek to sell a product.
What are your thoughts? If you have a wholesome definition, do share with us in the comment section.