Art Defined is Deadly
For a small word, ‘art’ is a big thing. Not only big but disputed, changing, personal and cultural, ancient and modern.
It’s like the colour blue. We all know it when we see it. We can all name things that are blue, or are not blue. We have our own favourites shades of blue. Blue can describe a feeling, or music from the Mississippi Delta, or language of a comedian not suitable for children. We could describe blue light as ranging from 490–450 nm of electromagnetic radiation. Yet we can see a colour and disagree as to whether is more of a green or more of a purple than it is a blue. Art is like the colour blue, known to each of us but deadly when defined.
Art Historian EH Gombrich said “There is no such thing as art. There are only artists” as the opening line of his 1950 book ‘The Story of Art’. People have agreed and disagreed with Gombrich for decades. But for the purposes of this blog, I side with Gombrich, on artists or at least the making of art.
In a Medium article here the author says
‘I am starting to think that it is only through freeing your mind of what Art is, that you actual create real art. I believe the best art comes from allowing yourself to fail; thinking to yourself “this is going to look terrible” or “this sounds awful” may stop you from creating the best piece of work you have ever done. And it is that freedom to truly think, for want of a better phrase “outside the box”, that makes artists unique and so integral to society.’
“DON’T THINK ABOUT MAKING ART: JUST GET IT DONE’
LET EVERYONE ELSE DECIDE IF IT IS GOOD OR BAD,
WHILE THEY ARE DECIDING, MAKE EVEN MORE ART’
CHRIS SLATER 2014
Chris Slaters statement contains elements familiar to experiential education and artists alike. Avoidance of overthinking, doing, learning from mistakes, getting outside the box, avoiding judgement of right or wrong, good or bad. Art is experiential.
Art as a Noun or as a Verb.
Whilst art is experiential we can experience it in two major ways, by viewing or by doing. Art or ‘The Arts’ relates to art as a noun, a viewing thing, a thing experienced but made by another person. The other ‘art’ or art is a doing thing, a verb, and is a thing made by yourself. We cannot separate the noun and the verb, each informs the other. So whilst ‘The Arts’, the viewing, will be touched on here, the emphasis is on making or doing art. Viewing other artists work is an important part of doing, but as a means to enhance personal arts practice.
‘Art’ as a cultural phenomena is often experienced as artworks by established artists and the sale of their work, or the attendance at concerts by professional musicians, or reading best-sellers by skilled authors. Debates by lay people and experts as to what exactly is or is not art are ongoing and ancient.
But we can all make art, anytime, anywhere, out of anything. For the purpose of exploring and expressing personal experience, doing art is more useful than viewing ‘Art’.
Understanding ‘Art’ is useful to making art, but we can usefully make art without being experts on ‘Art’.