We can try answering the question “what is art?” by understanding the definition given in Britannica online which says that art is “the use of skill and imagination in the creation of aesthetic objects, environments, or experiences that can be shared with others.”
In this regard it will be apt to have a glance at what Leo Tolstoy had to say about art in his book called “What is art?” written some 200 years back. One of the important points that he said about art is that “in order to correctly define art, it is necessary, first of all, to cease to consider it as a means to pleasure and to consider it as one of the conditions of human life. Viewing it in this way we cannot fail to observe that art is one of the means of intercourse between man and man.” There are many other interesting views on art that has been expressed by him in his book titled “what is art?”
Many other definitions emphasize that
1. Art is subjective and art is more subjective than objective.
2. Art is form and content.
3. Art has an artistic process.
4. There is a connection between beauty and art and beauty is the measure of quality of art.
Then there are debatable questions to the basic question “what is art?”, like
1. Can anything be art?
2. Is there any objective crieteria for art?
Perception of Art and the identity of the artist have always changed through history and contemporary society and therefore the question of “what is art?” looks like a bottom less pit.
Art & Artists in the Ancient World and Middle Ages, Art & Artists in the Renaissance are very different from Art & Artists of the modern world. What is the affect of modernism on art & artist is a highly debatable topic. It throws up issues like whether modernism has led to the end of art. It is an interesting study to see how modernism and politics and postmodernism have affected the art and artists of today.
Discussion of art and the question “what is art?” needs a detailed understanding of the usage, theories and utility of art. It should address the classification disputes, touch upon the controversial art scene and it should weigh the class and value of the art.
There are different forms, genres, mediums and styles for expression of artistic abilities and all these have their own characteristic skills & craft, value judgment models and communication styles.
The various types of commonly accepted artistic expressions are Architecture, Cinematography, Drawing, Erotic art, Music, dance, writing, Painting, Poetry, Sculpture and Photography. There are many more valid types of artistic expression apart from the one mentioned above.
Further the question “what is art?” will not be fully answered and the study of art and artists will remain incomplete if we do not touch in some measure the History of Art, Basic Art concepts & famous artists.
There cannot be a complete definition or answer ever to the question “what is art?” but still we can try to muster up some logical structure based on the following below mentioned points.
1. the product of conscious intention with a mix of the unconscious expression,
2. a self rewarding activity but with a mix of larger view of love, empathy and compassion also,
3. a tendency to unite dissimilar things and break down similar things,
4. concerned with change and variety and bringing a stability in change and variety,
5. the aesthetic exploitation of familiarity vs. surprise and the journey into the known vs. unknown,
6. the aesthetic exploitation of tension vs. release and it is a balance between the creative tension vs. the destructive tension.
7. the imposition of order on disorder and a mix of creating disorder from order,
8. the creation of illusions as well as clearing the clouds of illusions,
9. an indulgence in sensuousness or at the other extreme it is a bucket of moral outpourings,
10. the exhibition of skill and craft,
11. a desire to convey meanings as well the desire to hide deeper symbols and expressions,
12. an indulgence in fantasy and also an attempt at bringing the fantasy into reality,
13. the aggrandizement of self or others,
15. the heightening of existence through the knowledge of eventual destruction
16. revelation and hiding,
17. personal adornment or embellishment,
18. therapy, love, compassion, empathy and healing,
19. the giving of meaning to life knowing the meaninglessness of life,
20. the generation of self conscious experience and superconscious connection,
21. the provision of paradigms of order and/or disorder,
22. and training in the perception of reality by traveling the path of the surreal.
The list can be as long as we can imagine as it has to be said that defining art is just like defining life itself. I think now we can appreciate the depth of the question “what is art?