What Is Art? Essay Example
It is difficult to pinpoint exactly what can be classified as art, however, there are certain criteria that can be analyzed to determine if something is good or bad art. These criteria can be applied to various types of art including music, literature, paintings, sculpture, and film. In order to determine if something is art, one must also understand if and why a certain work is meaningful to the audience or the artist. Because art is subjective, one must first define what constitutes are being art.
The music critic Eduard Hanslick argued art is supposed to “externalize an idea actively emerging in the artist’s imagination” (31). Based on Hanslick’s definition of art, it can be argued that in order for something to be considered artful it must come from the artist’s imagination, or the work must be as the artist envisioned it. This vision can be expressed through all artistic media and is not confined to a single media.
Secondly, in order for something to be considered art, it must “have form, whether realistic or abstract, representational or non-representational, meticulously planned or achieved spontaneously” (Barrett 66). Art must also have structural elements such as “dot, line, shape, light and value, color, texture, mass, space, and volume” (66). For something to be considered art, it must comply with a series of principles of design. With this idea of art defined, it is established that art cannot simply be an idea, but that it must become a visual or aural expression of what the artist imagined.
Once something has been considered to be a work of art, one must also take into account how successful said piece of art is in expressing the artist’s ideas, emotions, and ideologies. One of the easiest ways to determine if a work of art is successful, one can look at its beauty. While individual definitions of beauty are subjective, German philosopher Immanuel Kant believed “judgment of taste…is not a cognitive judgment, and not so logical, but is aesthetic—which means that it is one whose determining ground cannot be other than subjective” (51). Additionally, beauty cannot be calculated used scientific methods because “science of the beautiful would have to determine scientifically…whether a thing was to be considered beautiful or not” (58). If scientific markers were used to determine if something was beautiful and determine how beautiful something was, subjectivity would be removed thus negating Kant’s argument.
Additionally, for art to be successful it must arouse pleasure within the audience or viewer. Much like beauty, the kind of pleasure and the amount of pleasure that is derived from art is subjective and it relies exclusively on the experience, bias, knowledge, and beliefs of the individual that is experiencing the art (Barrett 114). Once it is determined that a specific work of art arouses feelings of pleasure, or displeasure, focus is shifted from the artist and onto the audience who must then figure out what sort of pleasure is derived from the work and who must also determine how much pleasure is derived from said work of art (Graham 78).
Finally, in order for something to be considered to be artistic, it must something that can be judged and critiqued. Through criticism it can be determined how successful, beautiful, or pleasurable a work of art truly is. Because critics come from a variety of backgrounds, their inputs help to determine if art builds upon a series of set parameters that are applicable to similar works, or if said work defies conventions and is elevated beyond these parameters. It is important to remember that a critic’s job is not to speak for the artist, but rather to interpret what they believe the artist was attempting to relate.
Definitions of art may vary among individuals, however, it is conclusive that in order for something to be considered a work of art, it must adhere to principles of design and that it must be something that can be seen, heard, or experienced by the audience. Art is first and foremost a product of the artist’s imagination and he or she must work to bring together different elements that will allow him or her to show the public what he or she envisioned.
Barrett, Terry. Criticizing Art: Understanding the Contemporary. California: Mayfield Publishing Co., 1994. Print.
Graham, Gordon. Philosophy of the Arts: An Introduction to Aesthetics. New York: Routledge, 2005 Print.
Hanslick, Eduard. On the Musically Beautiful: A Contribution Towards the Revision of Aesthetics of Music. Indianapolis: Hacket Publishing, 1986. Print.
Kant, Immanuel. The Critique of Judgment. Trans. J.C. Meredith. 1911. Print.
“Principles of Interpretation.” Chisolm Institute. Slide Show. Web. 13 September 2012.
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