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ferval
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PostSubject: What is Art?   Tue 03 Jan 2012, 12:51

This topic is prompted by a discussion on another board addressing the topic History, Fact or Fiction. In a reply I made a comment on the difficulty of defining Art being worthy of a thread of its own so here it is here.

What is Art, does it differ from craftsmanship and if so, how? Is it just a matter of subjective taste and thus contingent and situated or has it a more profound characteristic? Is a perfectly formed leaf arrowhead artistic or just a functional artefact; can technology be truly Art? The criteria we use to apply the label of Art have changed over time and continue to do so, how much does this depend on our understanding of the objects? The palaeolithic Venus figurines are a case in point, not beautiful in the modern sense but defined as Art, can you think of any other examples?

I don’t have an answer but I think it involves thoughtful selection on the part of the artist and the desire to create something which has meaning beyond its utility. Art is of course not limited to the visual, anything which impinges on any of the senses can be an art form, so what would you suggest as a piece of great art from the past or what would you like to have seen, heard, smelt, felt or tasted?

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PostSubject: Re: What is Art?   Tue 03 Jan 2012, 14:29

A common definition of art which can be made apply throughout history is not that easy to arrive at. The importance of aesthetic appeal, a subjective term if ever ther was one, has fluctuated wildly not only from period to period but even from region to region, and in truth perhaps from one individual to the next throughout time.

However we still generally know what we mean when we employ the term - an aesthetic quality or a quality of significance which transcends functionality. Kenneth Clark, I recall, once likened "art" to a river. When a common understanding of the term becomes restricted or over-defined, such as during the renaissance when a concept of "high" art gained currency or in more modern times with the advent of surrealism, cubism, etc, then it is like when the river's waters become trapped in an eddy by its banks. However the thrust of the river is relentless and even the most stagnant waters will eventually rejoin the main stream. In effect he was saying that there is no one true definition for the term, and not even a reliable point in history where the definition was ever truly static. But that which can be said with certainty is that an appreciation of art is part of the human condition and is unquenchable.
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PostSubject: Re: What is Art?   Tue 03 Jan 2012, 17:37

Feval,

interesting subject. Wanted to comment, but so busy nowadays...and my thread that I promised to answer on Passion Histoire about the Polish-French Madagascarplan is already a fortnight old without response...

Kind regards and with esteem,

Paul.

PS: If I have time I will start a thread overhere too with among others the Nazi "Madagaskarplan"
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PostSubject: Re: What is Art?   Wed 04 Jan 2012, 10:57

"Contingent and situated" - I always start wriggling when I hear that expression, perhaps because I have a deeply unfashionable and old-fashioned (prepostmodern) view of art and the arts.

I actually like very much a definition of art that I read years ago in a little book called "The Meaning of Art" by the British anarchist, Sir (can you be an anarchist knight?) Herbert Read. He simply said, "Art is an escape from chaos". That struck a real chord with me - the artist as God, or acting for God - even when he or she apparently *embraces* that chaos? But perhaps Read didn't mean that at all.

Ferval's point - that although "art" is most usually associated with the arts which we distinguish as "plastic" or "visual", it also includes literature, music and dance - is important. So is the "escape from chaos" definition applicable to all? I think it is.

Music, I believe, was the very first of the arts. According to a book I'm reading at the moment, "The Master and his Emissary" by Iain McGilchrist, man sang - or hummed rather - before he made pottery, drew pictures on cave walls or even acquired language. And it was Schopenhauer who said that all arts aspire to the condition of music, but I'm not entirely sure I understand what he meant. confused The "music of the spheres" comes into my mind, but is probably quite irrelevant.







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PostSubject: Re: What is Art?   Wed 04 Jan 2012, 12:14

I know, Temp, but C & S is such a handy shorthand!
Have you seen this, I don't recall the series but I do have the book. A bit dated in places but excellent in others. http://thinking-about-art.blogspot.com/2008/06/john-berger-ways-of-seeing.html

You are right about music, I'm sure. Rhythm seems to be instinctive, in most people at least, but I'm sure we underestimate smell, something of which the aesthetics must have changed enormously. How on earth did the people in Skara Brae or the mesolithic encampments beside the shell middens tolerate the pong?
The importance of smells in rituals can't be overlooked either, the value of frankincense proves that and even today some people, but not me, will spend a fortune to have an attractive aroma.Texture as well. I wish there was a way of attaching documents here but here's a quote from 'Making sense: Archaeology and aesthetics by Chris Gosden, if you access it, the full text is here. http://www.jstor.org/pss/827896

Quote :
Cultural forms educate the senses, privileging some over others and structuring the means by which we make sense of the world. Many cultural forms pick out both certain classes of objects and of experience as especiallyimportant. In the West we use words such as ‘art’ to designate objects of particular sensoryvalue in our culture, but not all cultures have a category of art. Notions of art andaesthetics have long been part of archaeological discussions, but few, if any, of thesediscussions focus on the links between objects, embodied experience and the senses.

Good stuff and not too post pooh ( Still haven't had a chance to do more than flick through it)
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Temperance
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PostSubject: Re: What is Art?   Wed 04 Jan 2012, 13:04

Ah - Berger's "Ways of Seeing" - I have my dusty and chewed (by dog, not me) copy of it in front of me as I type. I bought it in 1973, having been told that my taste in art was "bourgeois"!

I open it and read Berger's first words - I'd forgotten this - "Seeing comes before words. The child looks and recognizes before it can speak."

Where art is concerned, I still feel like the responding but inarticulate child!

Frankincense represents prayer rising up to God, doesn't it? When did the use of incense become part of religious ritual - did the Greeks use it? Certainly frankincense was a hugely symbolic gift from the Magi (who I know were just symbols too! ). But why was *frankincense* so important - simply because it was precious and rare? Does it have any hallucinogenic qualities?

Religious ritual is hugely interesting - an art form in itself, the earliest kind of drama.


Last edited by Temperance on Thu 05 Jan 2012, 08:31; edited 1 time in total (Reason for editing : Spelling correction - hallucinogenic hallucinogenic hallucinogenic.)
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PostSubject: Re: What is Art?   Wed 04 Jan 2012, 13:11

@Temperance wrote:


"Seeing comes before words. The child looks and recognizes before it can speak."


This is not quite the case, though, is it? The child looks and constructs a reality from what it observes. Recognition requires at minimum a measure of familiarity, which is beyond the capability of the first time observer.

I remember Jacob Bronowski's comment in a review of Robert Hughes' "Shock of the New" where he queried Hughes' basic premise by asking "Are we to take it then that infants are in a permanent state of shock?".
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PostSubject: Re: What is Art?   Wed 04 Jan 2012, 13:27

Oh I want to respond but have just been gifted the joy of the granddaughter for a while, back later.
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Temperance
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PostSubject: Re: What is Art?   Wed 04 Jan 2012, 14:09

Mmm. I suppose so. Re-cognition.

Jung said "all cognition is akin to recognition". By this does he mean that we come to know in the sense of "cognise" something only by recognising something we already knew? In the process it becomes clear, familiar where before it was latent, intuitive? I am confused.

Now why am I thinking of Wordsworth here - "Our birth is but a sleep and a forgetting" - (Ode. Intimations of Immortality).





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PostSubject: Re: What is Art?   Wed 04 Jan 2012, 14:20

I don't know what to make of Jung's point. To me recognition is a requisite for basic survival in that it removes the requirement to cognise when faced with input to our senses and therefore input is processed all the faster. So yes, they are akin, but two very different actions, and two sequential actions at that. We cannot recognise that which has not first undergone cognisance and while we may be capable of making intuitive connections which allow us to "recognise" something apparently new to us, it is still a process being informed and enabled by prior cognition.

Which also invokes Wordsworth and his "Faith is a passionate intuition".
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PostSubject: Re: What is Art?   Wed 04 Jan 2012, 21:23

Hmmmm, is that Heidegger's hammer I see on Husserl's table over there?
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PostSubject: Re: What is Art?   Wed 04 Jan 2012, 22:53

Art is usually a thing of beauty, and beauty is in the eye of the beholder, I certainly see art and beauty in a painting by… say Gainsborough, or Constable… but not by van Gogh, Picasso, Edvard Munch, or Warhol.

Sculptures… look at any monumental statues in a church or cemetery… that’s art, not a lump of stone with a hole in it that Henry More calls mother and child by moonlight. I note that he had an influence on Sir Antony Caro… it doesn’t surprise me… I knew him and worked on one of his sculptures… away with the fairies. By his standards, I’ve seen better examples of artwork tossed into scrap bins when I’ve been teaching kids to weld.

The performing arts… I don’t know enough about them, I like a lot of the operas… but I don’t have a clue what’s going on… and ballet, the physique of some of those dancers is almost Olympic athleticism to an extreme… but again I don’t understand what it’s all about… but the music is wonderful.

However… I think it’s an art form for the likes of Warhol, More and Caro to have the persuasive powers to get people that should be able to make up their own minds about what is art or not, and screw vast amounts of cash out of them… it’s a bit like the kings new clothes.

All in my humble opinion of course…
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PostSubject: Re: What is Art?   Thu 05 Jan 2012, 05:49

@nordmann wrote:
But that which can be said with certainty is that an appreciation of art is part of the human condition and is unquenchable.

Very much agree with this. I also think art is anything and everything a person wants it to be and is entirely dependant on the eye of the individual beholder, so to speak. Art can be found in any object crafted and expressed both by hand and by thought.
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Temperance
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PostSubject: Re: What is Art?   Thu 05 Jan 2012, 08:37

I suppose photography is the new art form.

I wonder what Holbein could have done with a camera?

PS You ought to write a Philosophers' DIY Song, ferval.

Rorty's Ratchet? (Spinoza *did* have a hatchet!)
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PostSubject: Re: What is Art?   Thu 05 Jan 2012, 21:20

That’s as maybe but would you consider an unmade bed a work of art that would make every teenager an artist. Every individual is of course entitled to their own idea of art, personal taste, but where do you draw a line… half a cow submerged in a tank of formaldehyde… is not art… it’s a butchers shop.

A local artist often came to my workshop and asked for me to cut shape and prepare various sections of steel for us to assemble into complex bird cages, just one of his ‘lines’… later when he was too busy, I completed them alone, he sold them for a huge profit as art. I actually made them… he sold them… exactly who was the artist…?
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PostSubject: Re: What is Art?   Thu 05 Jan 2012, 21:52

Bandick, I saw the Tracy Emin bed, accidentally as it happened, I'd gone to see another exhibition. First of all, it's not, as you might think, a standalone piece in that it is a accompanied by a gallery of other items, embroidered quilts, drawings, letters, found objects and so on. The whole taken together is, in my mind, a work of art. Not conventionally beautiful but a quite profound insight into a person, her life and the events, people and things that have made her.
The other thing that struck me very forcefully was the similarity in the process of interpreting it and interpreting an archaeological site; the bed is, in every sense, a midden and the other artefacts are the context in which you come to understand it. I don't think that that way of looking at art is restricted to contemporary installations, out of context all one can really appreciate is technique.

Did anyone see the 'Imagine' programme on Grayson Perry's 'Tomb of the Unknown Craftsman' at the BM? I would love to see that.
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PostSubject: Re: What is Art?   Thu 05 Jan 2012, 23:25

Many years ago I went around Vindolanda… I was interested to see the mock up displays etc… showing how the people lived, such a lot of detail went into it… but it was a display… not art. By that token you could look at anything that pleases the eye… I could call it art, but you might not. It strikes me that you could take any everyday article and after analysing it, and discussing its form, the material it’s crafted from, mainly the person that made it… then anything could be art. ‘Prestige’ make a range of cooking pots… but if Picasso made one, it would become an object of art… same thing as the chap working either side of him on a production line.

I’m quite a keen photographer… I just spent a packet on a new camera and lenses, it’ll take me an age to understand how to get the best out of it… but I can take 4-500 photos a day, and I’ve sold a few… people have told me I ought to assemble a collection to show… they’re the arty ones that tell me they are wonderful and I have a good eye for a picture ect, etc… … I look at it completely differently… I take so many the law of averages say I must have one or two good ones out of the hundreds I take… but people get so over enthused with art.
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PostSubject: Re: What is Art?   Fri 06 Jan 2012, 06:26

I think you miss the point norman, art is a combination of thought and craft so if the birdcages were your design and making then yes, you would be the artist. But if they were not your idea and design, then no.

Likewise, any commercial brand who make cooking pots would be machine made and mass produced, this is not art. Yet a cooking pot made by Picasso would be enitrely designed and crafted by him, plus there would only be one or two in existance. Btw I'm not an admirer nor a defender of Picasso!

Imo, the commercialisation of art (as in many other things) has done much damage and the increasing drive to generate a profit has pushed some rather suspicious concepts onto an unsuspecting public. But then again, beauty is in the eye of a beholder and the value of anything is only in accordance with what someone is willing to pay.
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PostSubject: Re: What is Art?   Fri 06 Jan 2012, 08:15

Only time for a quick comment - Norman and ID, I've found your discussion fascinating.

Inspiration and technique - the artist needs both - or not? A competent technician can produce "good", but dreadfully dull work (I'm thinking of all those dreary Victorian painters and poets), but a wild, undisciplined approach to a subject - whether in literature, dance or painting - is also not acceptable (unless, I suppose, you really are a genius).

"You lack technique, but the ideas are magical," Rochester said of Jane Eyre's painting.

Magical - what is the "magic" in art and whence does it come? Makes me think of the Muses. What is odd is that there was *no* Muse for the visual arts, and the Greek word "techne", which is apparently mistranslated as *art*, simply means a mastery of craft, no more. Is it true that painters were actually despised in Ancient Greece?

Garbled thoughts - apologies - I'm half asleep and in a rush!

PS Has anyone seen Derek Jarman's film about Caravaggio? What that man does with a camera is amazing - *recreates* the paintings.
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PostSubject: Re: What is Art?   Sat 07 Jan 2012, 06:58

@Temperance wrote:
Only time for a quick comment - Norman and ID, I've found your discussion fascinating.

Inspiration and technique - the artist needs both - or not?

I think yes Temp, all the great masters of their disipline have both. Whether painting, literature, sculpture, music, architecture, photography or whatever, what has been admired most is that which is both expressive, inovative and wonderfully executed. Many have the talent for one or the other, but for one person to have that very special combination of all required to go down in history as great, is quite rare.

And that doesn't necessarily mean that only the giants in their field need be appreciated, anything created that is pleasing to the eye or strikes an emotional cord in someone can be equally admired, even a child's painting.

Oh now I'm waffling, this is a confusing subject and difficult to define, is it not?



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PostSubject: Re: What is Art?   Sat 07 Jan 2012, 08:58

As has already been said, this is so subjective that I find it difficult to participate - as the old adage has it
Quote :
De gustibus non est disputandum
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PostSubject: Re: What is Art?   Fri 13 Jan 2012, 01:59

This whole question of what is art is an enigma, as anything is art if the observer desires to call it so, and is articulate enough to labour the point.

I doubt that theatre goers, and those likening opera, ballet and orchestral musical performances generally described as the performing arts, would agree to accept the performers at the Glastonbury music festival to be artists of the same magnitude.

By the same token… those that follow the great ballet performances would hardly rise from their seats to watch a performance of northern clogdancers. Nor I doubt would they arouse any interest in watching a school play, unless their little Wayne or Tracy were to perform, and then they would become the ‘bore’ of the neighbourhood.

I happen to enjoy watching the ‘Antiques Road show’… to see small pieces of art not seen by the public in galleries, but it so annoys me to see the art specialists pouring scorn on a beautiful painting because it is unsigned or by an artist that hasn’t exhibited. And then they go on to make utter dipsticks of themselves by going into raptures about the brush strokes and technique involved in creating something resembling a bad accident in the paint isle of a B&Q DIY store. Not my idea of art.

I’ve just seen BBC’s country file, with presenter Ellie Harrison interviewing David Hockney… they were walking in the woods while he was using an electronic pad to paint his latest ‘works of art’… and then he went on a waffle to Ellie about the colour of trees being purple, the blue grass etc… and his ‘totem’… an old tree stump he’d painted many times… but ‘today I see the tree as red’… and she was egging him on telling him how wonderful it all was. So with his gift of the gab more of an art form that his brush and palette he’s persuaded another to see art through his eyes, I pity the poor girl. Heaven forbid that he should ever be called upon to be a witness to a serious crime… I just wonder what he’d see. Pink elephants driving down the road playing violins…

I feel an artistic moment coming on… I’ll just dash outside and empty my bin all over the floor; I’ll call it ‘images of a wasted youth’. I bet that’s not the way the local authority will see it no matter how hard I try to persuade them… but then perhaps I’m just an old palestine philistine.
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PostSubject: Re: What is Art?   Sat 28 Jan 2012, 14:00

I am afraid we are philistines together Norman. Modern art does nothing for me at all.
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PostSubject: Re: What is Art?   Sat 28 Jan 2012, 15:06

At last, a kindred spirit.
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PostSubject: Re: What is Art?   Sat 28 Jan 2012, 18:24

Norman, was it Moore with whom you have worked? At Perry Green? My visits there turned my reluctance to accept modernity to one of awe. Sculpture is the most demanding artform I have ever experienced. I slid back to painting after a while. I guess you do not like modern dance either. With a youthful grounding in both - with a working knowledge of what I am watching I am an enthusiast of modern work - but as with fine art find it hard to explain it to someone who is dismissive. As for music - my grandmother who lived in a two up two down terraced cottage, she fornced me to listen to Carl Neilson and Shostacovitch from an early age along with the old masters so that opened my mind. Would that I could ever be as useful to my grandchildren. It will, alas, not happen.
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PostSubject: Re: What is Art?   Sat 28 Jan 2012, 19:26

Hi P… it was Sir Antony Caro’s sculpture of ‘Sea Music’ I worked on, a monstrosity displayed on Poole Quay. Trust me there is nothing artistic in it. Just bits and pieces of scrap steel that he conned the council into accepting as a gift… As I recall it was we that did the work that had to supply the materials and labour free of charge.

As we were craning it into place he stopped the work… looked up in horror, scratched his chin and shook his head… a moment later some poor soul was sent shimmying up to the top with a cutting torch to slice a couple of inches off a large curved piece of box section… after the shower of sparks had ended… he looked up again and decided it still needed a bit more removed… again the poor feller was ordered up… and cut a larger chunk of steel away… Caro took another peek at it and beamed his approval… yes… that looks much better he said. It must have taken a couple of steelworkers hours to have shaped that steel section… and then so haphazardly cut it adrift… the most useful part of the whole thing is the viewing platform built around the ‘sculpture’ where the visitors can climb to get a better view of the quay. But I suppose it serves a purpose… it’s somewhere else for the seagulls to perch.
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PostSubject: Re: What is Art?   Sun 29 Jan 2012, 08:40

I remember a modern art installation being placed outside Darlington Town Hall and the North East News were interviewing people to ask what they thought of it. After a number of people who just said 'rubbish' or other variants the interviewer stopped a North Yorkshire/Durham farmer type who said "I think it is very clever". Delighted to have found someone who appreciated the work so he could have balanced views, the interviewer asked him why he thought it was clever only to get the response "Any b**ger who can get Darlington Council to pay for that load of rubbish must be very clever!"
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PostSubject: Re: What is Art?   Sun 29 Jan 2012, 12:21

In modern graphic arts I admit I used to be a bit of a philistine: “it’s rubbish - it looks like a kid's painting!”, although I have always liked the impressionists, and the surreal works of say, Rene Magritte etc. However my true damascene road came when I visited an exhibition of the works of Piet Mondrian. This charted his progression from simple drawings (and yes, he could be a damn fine draughtsman), through quick sketches and his attempts to capture movement in a single image. I defy anyone not to appreciate his artistic skill when they see some of these sketches: just a few simple lines, but they capture the spirit and movement of, say, a wind-tossed tree etc. The exhibition continued to chart the development of his ideas in trying to simplify down to the basics of form and colour, thus leading to the classic modern art of “a few straight lines and a red square”. Once I understood what he was trying to achieve I could look beyond the “child-like” painting and see what he was striving to represent. Art is not just something pretty to look at, it must surely be a communication of ideas and impressions etc between the artist and the viewer. Personally I do not particularly like the later works of Mondrian, but then I don’t particularly like Gainsborough’s paintings, but if pushed I’d probably prefer a Mondrian on my wall to one of Gainsborough’s.

Through inheritance and circumstance I actually have quite a few original modern paintings on my walls. They are not by top league artists but mostly by some well-received local artists, based around Céret and Collioure - which both have strong traditions in modern art. (The French Musée de l’Art Moderne is in Céret, Collioure was much favoured by the impressionists etc). Although these paintings now have personal connotations, I still treasure them for artistic reasons. Since they hang on my walls I see them every day, and the more I see them, the more I find to see in them… despite some of them being “just” simple washes of colour, or "just" childlike cubist representations.

But I'm still not sure exactly what is art!


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PostSubject: Re: What is Art?   Sun 29 Jan 2012, 13:36

I remember an anecdote which I read in my childhood and which stuck with me, though in all likelihood it came from no more profound an analytical periodical than the Readers' Digest or Woman's Own. It concerned an art teacher at some elevated French college of art who is taken to task by one of his more garrulous but brilliant students about the fact that for all his academic prowess he himself had never been recognised as a "good", let alone "great", artist and was now reduced to teaching it instead of doing it. The student asks the professor had he ever once aspired to be a great artist.

"No, because I don't know what a great artist means," the professor replies, with a hint of a sigh.

"A good artist then?" asks the student. The professor shakes his head.

"Then you mean you are in fact a bad artist?" asks the stroppy student.

"I am afraid I don't know quite what that means either," replies the professor equally wistfully.

"If you cannot distinguish between good and bad art, then can you at least tell me what on earth art actually is then?" asks the student, realising that he now has the old man on the run and will swoop in for the kill. The professor thinks a moment and then replies "No, that I cannot."

"Good grief," exclaims the student in mock horror. "You are after all an art teacher! Tell me, what do you actually know about art?"

The professor fixes his gaze on his protegee and replies with firm tenor in his voice "That I will not live in a world without it."
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PostSubject: Re: What is Art?   Sun 29 Jan 2012, 19:21

Quote :
"That I will not live in a world without it."
I think it goes beyond that, I think we cannot live in a world without art, the need to express ourselves through what are termed the arts seems to be a fundamental human characteristic.From the Blombos Cave ochre plaque at 70000 BP onwards we have created things which seem to have satisfied some aesthetic need, to go beyond the purely functional, things that are better than they need to be for simple utility. Polished stone axes are beautiful and tactile and yet are no more efficient than unpolished.


Although I have difficulty with the designation 'modern art', I'm don't think that it is any more helpful than talking about 'modern books' given the variety of forms that seem to get lumped under that umbrella, I do think that many of the works require a degree of understanding to be accessible since they do not have the immediate visual and emotional pull that other,usually older and more representational, works do. It is necessary to learn to appreciate them but then it was always thus. Just consider the opprobrium heaped on the Impressionists before they became the icons they are today.
The Blombos plaque




Last edited by ferval on Mon 30 Jan 2012, 12:04; edited 1 time in total
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PostSubject: Re: What is Art?   Mon 30 Jan 2012, 05:05

@ferval wrote:
I think it goes beyond that, I think we cannot live in a world without art

100% agree with that ferval.

On another thread Caro said that she doesn't look at pictures, which is a right/left brain thing and Temp will know which one of the two, is totally alien to me. I see colours and shapes in everything, so for me, pictures and design tell the majority of the story and a world without it would be unimaginable and unthinkable.
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PostSubject: Re: What is Art?   Mon 30 Jan 2012, 07:25

I acknowledge ID that the fault is entirely mine in that I inherited my artistic abilities from my father who was renowned for having 'five thumbs' when it came to anything practical or artistic. My mother who was quite talented artistically strangely had no appreciation whatsoever of music - I think it all just sounded like a noise to her. I do wonder sometimes though how much art is appreciated because critics have told people it is 'good' while someone equally talented has been ignored because of some bad reviews. Unfortunately with my lack of ability I would never know the difference!
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PostSubject: Re: What is Art?   Mon 30 Jan 2012, 08:20

I think, MadNan, that this was the point of the anecdote above - once one starts thinking in terms of "good" and "bad" art one loses sight of the far more obvious and existentialist reality; whatever we might presume by way of judging its quality we cannot eliminate it as a fundamental feature of human expression. In which case the answer to "what is art?" is "us".

When I studied art history years ago I remember being uneasy with the term "modern art" in that the majority of the examples on the course were by dead people. It simply showed how relative this flawed term was. If they were "modern" then what about the graphic design in the advertisement on the side of the bus I had taken to college that day and which had not existed a few weeks previously, even as a concept? Yet there it was now - whether one thiought of it as good, bad or indifferent - and a part of the human race's artistic ouvre for better or for worse. If, as we were taught, modernism surpasses style then by the same logic this was more correctly termed "modern art" and in fact had already been superseded by even more "modern" art, and so on.

This realisation at the time (I was young) was like a liberation for me when it came to art appreciation. One can only appreciate art honestly if one acknowledges that doing so is a subjective exercise. The moment one pretends to an objectivity (or uses an even more flawed method such as monetary valuation set by others) then one is vulnerable to a myriad misapprehensions regarding what constitutes actual art and is in danger of excluding so much of it from the definition that what remains is a parody of the term.

I ditched that course. But I have steadfastly stuck to my guns ever since and do not allow any mention of style to influence my relationship with the graphic image. That is why I could not take part in the discussion above when it got bogged down in what was "good" or "bad" art, or "real" or "phoney" art for that matter. To me it's all just a visual medium and one sorts out that which makes an impression from that which doesn't as subjectively as one picks out what to focus on when one walks into a room.

As regards the "artist" who seeks to manipulate that tendency in us so that we concentrate on his or her "creation" - well, fair dukes to them. But the process will always have to be hit and miss on their part, so they too miss the point the moment they wish to be regarded as "successful" or "great" or enjoy being so described. It might enhance their notion of a career to be labelled as "great" and superior to the creator of the image on the side of the double-decker bus, but it most definitely does not enhance the prospect that their next "work" will be worth looking at - by me at any rate.

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PostSubject: Re: What is Art?   Mon 30 Jan 2012, 13:43

@nordmann wrote:
I think, MadNan, that this was the point of the anecdote above - once one starts thinking in terms of "good" and "bad" art one loses sight of the far more obvious and existentialist reality; whatever we might presume by way of judging its quality we cannot eliminate it as a fundamental feature of human expression.

Exactly Nordmann.
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PostSubject: Re: What is Art?   Tue 31 Jan 2012, 09:02

You are of course quite right Nordmann. I should have abided by the old adage 'better to keep quiet and be thought a fool than open your mouth and confirm it"



Regards
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PostSubject: Re: What is Art?   Tue 31 Jan 2012, 09:19

Hi MadNan - I cannot see anything you said which could be construed as foolish, by me or anyone. If I gave that impression with my last post then I can only apologise for my unintentional ambiguity. In fact I had intended to convey agreement with what you had just said.

Sorry about the confusion!
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PostSubject: Re: What is Art?   Tue 31 Jan 2012, 10:22

Absolutely no need to apologise Nordmann I truly acknowledge my vast lack of knowledge of things artistic and am enjoying learning from you and the others on the board.
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PostSubject: Re: What is Art?   Fri 03 Feb 2012, 16:53

Just sat back trying to think of anything other than pain, and I recall seeing an interesting piece on the overnight news… someone has taught an elephant to paint. It grips the brush in its trunk and manipulates the brush into the water paint and onto the ‘canvas’… so what if there’s a keeper whispering in its ear…

I don’t have any time for modern art… but I could see that the elephant had painted was a bunch of flowers… it wasn’t a mass of sploges but clearly defined brush strokes… and I have to say quite appealing…

And then there was a chimp taking abstract art lessons… and he was good… I guess I may be coming around to a new idea on art… but why did it take an elephant and a chimp to change my mind… and were they artists… they’re works were selling for huge sums of money… and what do they get out of it, a bunch of bananas.
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PostSubject: Re: What is Art?   Fri 03 Feb 2012, 17:07

I too saw that bit about the elephant painting, and was quite intrigued. Unfortunately the elephant's owner/controller rather gave the game away when he said it was done by tweaking the elephant's ear to direct the animal: "just like using a joystick", to use his own words.

So basically it's just a well trained elephant who does what its master wants it to do.

A bit like the cartoon fim "Ratatouille", but with the boot on the other foot as it were.
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PostSubject: Re: What is Art?   Mon 02 Apr 2012, 09:40

I'm resurrecting this to let anyone in the UK who might be interested know that there's a couple of programmes on Channel 4 tonight about Damien Hurst. Norm, take your blood pressure tablets now. There's a look at his new exhibition at 8.00pm and the more interesting looking doc about his work, thoughts etc later at 12.15am. I've said I'm not a fan but something he says in the trails for these interested me, something along the lines of 'in conceptual art, the art is not in the work but in the mind of the person viewing it'.

On the TV theme, have you seen the 'Sex and Sensibility' series on BBC 4 on Art Nouveau?
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PostSubject: Re: What is Art?   Mon 02 Apr 2012, 13:49

"Sex and Sensibility"? Be careful, ferval, mention of Jane Austen - or anything even vaguely connected with the woman - is regarded around here as a symptom of a chronic lack of anything worth *talking about*.

I suppose I'd better put a smiley.

No, I've just deleted it.

Put it back.
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PostSubject: Re: What is Art?   Sun 08 Apr 2012, 10:58

@nordmann wrote:
@Temperance wrote:


"Seeing comes before words. The child looks and recognizes before it can speak."


This is not quite the case, though, is it? The child looks and constructs a reality from what it observes. Recognition requires at minimum a measure of familiarity, which is beyond the capability of the first time observer.

I remember Jacob Bronowski's comment in a review of Robert Hughes' "Shock of the New" where he queried Hughes' basic premise by asking "Are we to take it then that infants are in a permanent state of shock?".

Hi Temperance,

When I was a very young man, I read a book by the famous English Art critic, Clive Bell. The book was called 'Civilization'. He takes the four paragons on civilization: Ancient Greece, Ancient Rome, the Renaissance and 19th Century France and discusses each in turn. His definition of Art was simply "The Creation of Significant Form". Since I read that book, that is the way I have viewed Art.

Tas
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PostSubject: Re: What is Art?   Sun 08 Apr 2012, 12:15

Tas, good to see you, you should drop in more often. We've been missing you.
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PostSubject: Re: What is Art?   Sun 08 Apr 2012, 13:45

I'd say Bell was missing at least four tricks, though, Tas - Egypt, China, India, and Mesopotamia.
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PostSubject: Re: What is Art?   Mon 09 Apr 2012, 07:25

What a surprise, Tas - and a very welcome one - to find you posting here!

Clive Bell - Virginia Woolf's brother-in-law - I honestly know very little about him, but I believe his ideas about "significant form" go straight to the heart of the discussion led by Normanhurst above.

Didn't Bell talk a lot about the difference between *actual* form and *significant* form? For Bell, recognition of a work of art as "representational of a thing" was less important than capturing the "significant form" - that is, capturing the essence, the true inner nature of a thing. (Reminds me of a painter - I think it was Titian - who said that it was his job as a painter of "likenesses" to "capture the intention of a man's soul".)

Which is of course all very well and good, but as ever we can go round and round in circles, always coming back to the issue that is the curse or the blessing of our times, depending on your point of view: who decides what is the "true inner meaning" of anything? The artist or the viewer? Is art about ways of seeing or ways of perceiving? We all may *see* the same object (or person or scene or anything really), but *perception* of it differs from person to person. Normanhurst's heap of pretentious crap may be something that moves me deeply, stirring what Bell calls my "aesthetic emotions".

To be honest, I think Gilgamesh of Uruk had it right when he came out with the Latin maxim, "De gustibus non est disputandum", or, as Tristam Shandy, Gentleman, put it: "There is no disputing against Hobby-Horses, and, for my part, I seldom do."

Disputing no, but discussion yes...
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PostSubject: Re: What is Art?   Mon 09 Apr 2012, 09:51

@Temperance wrote:
What a surprise, Tas - and a very welcome one - to find you posting here!

Clive Bell - Virginia Woolf's brother-in-law - I honestly know very little about him, but I believe his ideas about "significant form" go straight to the heart of the discussion led by Normanhurst above.

Didn't Bell talk a lot about the difference between *actual* form and *significant* form? For Bell, recognition of a work of art as "representational of a thing" was less important than capturing the "significant form" - that is, capturing the essence, the true inner nature of a thing. (Reminds me of a painter - I think it was Titian - who said that it was his job as a painter of "likenesses" to "capture the intention of a man's soul".)

Which is of course all very well and good, but as ever we can go round and round in circles, always coming back to the issue that is the curse or the blessing of our times, depending on your point of view: who decides what is the "true inner meaning" of anything? The artist or the viewer? Is art about ways of seeing or ways of perceiving? We all may *see* the same object (or person or scene or anything really), but *perception* of it differs from person to person. Normanhurst's heap of pretentious crap may be something that moves me deeply, stirring what Bell calls my "aesthetic emotions".

To be honest, I think Gilgamesh of Uruk had it right when he came out with the Latin maxim, "De gustibus non est disputandum", or, as Tristam Shandy, Gentleman, put it: "There is no disputing against Hobby-Horses, and, for my part, I seldom do."

Disputing no, but discussion yes...

Hi Temperance,

When Clive Bell wrote that, Cezanne had started his peculiar way of painting that later lead to Cubism, Braque and Picasso. I think Bell was trying to onclude all that in his definition, although I have never liked cubism. I once saw a cartoon in punch. It showed two intellectual looking young men looking at an abstract painting and many other people in the background laughing at those paintings. The caption was, "What a pity we were brought up o admire all that art; we are missing all the fun."

I do not post on this message often because I cannot understand how to post a simple reply and it is a little too complicated for me. How nice it would be if we had a board close to the old BBC message board. I do miss it a lot. I still have not figured out how to post a simple reply without quotes of the message I am replying to in quotes.

Tas
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PostSubject: Re: What is Art?   Mon 09 Apr 2012, 10:47

Oh lord, I'm going to have to steel myself and read up a bit on Heidegger and art but not until I've had a fortifying brandy first!

In the meantime, in case you haven't encountered this resource yet http://www.googleartproject.com/

I think you will find it a most congenial way of passing too much time, amongst everything else good about it, the zoom facility is terrific
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PostSubject: Re: What is Art?   Mon 09 Apr 2012, 11:35

@ferval wrote:
Oh lord, I'm going to have to steel myself and read up a bit on Heidegger and art but not until I've had a fortifying brandy first!

Here you are, ferval:

http://plato.stanford.edu/entries/heidegger-aesthetics/

I've come over all headachy at the very thought of reading any of it: it's the sort of stuff of which my husband used to say, "Yes, very interesting, ***, another drink?"

I intend spending the rest of the day eating chocolate and watching "Masada". We dug this DVD out of the Bargain Bin at Sainsbury's on Friday (£5) and I thought it was going to be rubbish, but I've found it really interesting - Peter O' Toole, Anthony Quayle, Timothy West (Vespasian) and David Warner - all excellent.

That ramp the Romans built was amazing - did it all really happen, or was it just that Josephus Flavius (or should that be Flavius Josephus) letting his imagination run away with him?

Sorry, off-topic, will be in trouble again. Might be worth starting a Masada thread elsewhere...
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PostSubject: Re: What is Art?   Mon 09 Apr 2012, 12:29

Yeeeesssss, I'd started reading this http://socrates.berkeley.edu/~hdreyfus/189_f08/pdf/Heidegger%20OWA%20sept13_08.pdf but decided that the hoovering was rather more pressing.
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PostSubject: Re: What is Art?   Mon 09 Apr 2012, 12:51

Well, I got as far as Heidegger's "the thinglyness of things" - and I then reached in desperation for the chocciness of my choccy egg.

Thanks to bloody Martin Heidegger I probably now weigh 10 pounds more than I did an hour ago.

Back to "Masada".
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