What is Art?

It is the height of either arrogance, hubris, or ignorance that allows for me to ask this question. I may as well have asked “What is truth?” or “What is beauty?”. It is of even greater arrogance that I intend on answering this question. Although, in my defence, this activity is more to help me define the boundaries in which I hope to work in order to gain at least a passing appreciation of some of the weirder aspects of modern art.  I don’t need for my answer to be correct, only adaptable as new evidence comes in. However, as arrogant as the question may be, it should be asked by anyone looking to understand art.

Note that I don’t use a “shall” here. It’s not a requirement to ask this question in order to enjoy art. It is perfectly acceptable to go into a museum with no knowledge of the various philosophies of art and walk away being satisfied by the experience.

Let me use Édith Piaf as an example (Flash Needed) -


I’m a fan (obviously, as I wouldn’t use her as an example if I didn’t), but I speak French very poorly, to the point that I’ve frustrated several French folks in my attempts to use their beautiful language.  Would me learning French properly allow me to appreciate Mdme. Piaf’s work on a greater scale? Sure.

Is it necessary for me to do so?  No. Sometimes the aesthetics of any given work transcends language, either spoken or painted.

My point is this – I’m choosing to approach art this way. You don’t have to. Neither approach is incorrect.

All of this rationalization is so I can state the following -  Art is a form of communication*. This idea of communication is the most minimal definition of art I can be satisfied with.  Much like Mdme. Piaf’s declarations that she regrets nothing, artists and their works have something to say. This communication has to occur through a medium of some sort or another. Something that message is clear, other times not so much. Sometimes the idea being conveyed is complex, other times simple.

For these series of posts, I will focus on the medium of the painted canvas primarily, although others will be mentioned from time to time, as they did have their influences upon the canvas.  And I expect my definition of what art is will likely change during these exercises.

*Note: Yeah, sure – art is communication. Before you send me a comment or e-mail stating that the dadaists or the surrealists would have scoffed at the definition, note that this is simply my starting point. And by bringing in the Dadaist movement so early in my studies means that your far ahead of where I’m at. Allow me to catch up before critiquing this definition too much.

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