What is Art - Part V...
Art is, not surprisingly, deeply tied to historical and social events. No wonder then, that the ‘goal-posts’ for the definition of art are, like the seasons, ever-changing. But, as is often said, the more things change, the more they stay the same. There are always, of course, grey areas of contention about what art ‘is’. However, we can generally agree that any definition will always include at least two factors that are to be indisputably found in any and all artworks. These two factors are ‘form’ and ‘content’.
By form, I’m referring to the myriad of ‘measurable’ elements that an artist employs to create his or her work. Performance arts aside (ie., dance, theatre, music, etc.), all image-based art must be derived from a variety of elements such as color, line, dimension, perspective, contrast, and balance. And, of course, the artist draws from a limitless number of materials and mediums with which to employ those elements. These are the ‘tools’ the artist uses to create what, ultimately, becomes the ‘content’. This content may be a personal interpretation of some subject matter, or perhaps, simply an evocation of an emotional or intellectual statement, intentional or otherwise. Many artworks can often be seen to be a ‘reaction’ to social or political events. Other art digs deeper into something that is more visceral or symbolic, and whose message may be entirely different from one viewer to the next. Indeed, it’s entirely plausible that the artist may, in fact, not necessarily intend or understand the ‘message’ they have created.
And in the context of historical events, that message may even be altered over time. In all cases, though, those two essential factors, form and content, are ever present. They are the ‘bones’ of artistic creation, and identifying and evaluating how skillfully the artist makes use of them is a good place to start when assessing any work of art. It’s value, in a monetary sense is, of course, another matter!