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April 24th, 2014 #1
Should art convey an idea or an emotion?
I hope I didn't start an already existing thread.
I recently met an 60 years old artist who exposed in New York, at the Louvres and other great exhibits. By the way, I am 23 years old and live in Belgium, tiny country with an amazing painting history but that only swears by contemporary art nowadays..
We started talking to each other about art. Me the young, self taught more traditional painter/drawer who never had the opportunity to show anything and him, the senior experienced contenporary artist. We came to ask ourselves what the significance of Art is, without the debate traditional/contemporary?
I beleive every form of art, music, litterature,painting, drawing etc is a means of conveying an idea, a thought, of communication. The idea communicated can be a feeling to something we saw or felt towads someone, something or society. I beleive huge amounts of technique and realist training helps you support your idea,give you the foundation to exress this and use of emotions amplify your communication. The technique helps you broaden the audience and give a depth to the idea. I postulated that for exemple Bouguereau's paiting about a gypsie painted in the manner he did, at a time where drawing women of law birth was considered absurdity, was a bold statement.
The professional artist told me I had it all wrong. The artist must not express an idea but an emotion he told me. He must translate emotions on the canvas. Art with a capital A should not have any meaning. It should be self sufficient. The artist should paint because he feels like it, he feels an emotion he has to paint, without regards to an audience. That s why to him drawing can not be Art. For him, drawing lacks the necessary colors to convey the full range of emotions.
I have my counter arguments to his opinion, but I also understand his philosophy. However I would love to hear what other peaople have to say about this and how you feel about Art.
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April 24th, 2014 #3
I always have to chuckle at these false dichotomies. Why choose between 2 options when they're not mutually exclusive and there are other options as well?
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April 24th, 2014 #4
I think you both are thinking of the question in a material way. I wanted to understand the philosophy of it. What makes you consider this painting great rather than this one, for you personaly. Why when we look at the auto portrait of Rembrandt we, human beings feel things when there is no special idea expressed, no image of some dear friend and yet some people will form such a bond. That is the question, what makes that sometimes art becomes magic rather than just describes magic. Is technique just sufficient? Of course not. So what is the plus! There is no dichotomy, just the eternal pondering we live by. As for "be the best artist you can be", of course, but by what standards, what are your goals. A man who loves color, and just wants to capture not the portrait of a person or a landscape but it's soul or personality, does he need to know how to draw. If it is purely personal, just translate into at what touches your hart. However how would you proceed? By materialisating an emotion through images, be it good or bad technicaly (doesn't matter as it should just be a personal reflection of what you find magic in this world)or by constructing an idea through attaining your "best" (in the sense of dpaint) to get maximum impact and make your feeling resonate to the viewer.
If you prefer to answer with one liners like who cares, do what you like, please refrain, this thread is more of a intellectual masturbation type to write long phrases that in the end do not change the way the earth spins.
sorry for my english if there are any mistakes
April 24th, 2014 #5
April 24th, 2014 #6
there are no options, you say that I break it down in two, that is how I presented the question to simplify a very complex idea . Maybe I don't express myself well enough. Why di you draw and not your friends. Why do you stop to watch that flower and your friend rather that one. Your own sensibility is activated? But what excites it?
What is the sense of art? communication, self destruction, self sacrifice, catharsis,emotion liberator, idea conveyor etc... Eveyone has his reason and can make great art! But SOMETIMES and to SOMEONE, a certaine piece can make your heart stop. That is the question, why? Is it the idea that created feelings inexplicable in you! Or the seeing of feelings translated into paint? What you think is a two option I present, is! But not about what you think! It can not be both! Is the magic happening on the canvas, or in your hart while seeing the canvas. Is Art in the human's hart, or is it the product of his mind. I cannot go further into simplification than this.
April 24th, 2014 #7
Lol - you might be on to something (or you might just be on something) - but damned if I can understand it. Good luck getting people to understand this. I'm gonna go draw now!
April 24th, 2014 #8
There is no heart, there is only the mind. The mind has thought-feelings. You can't really separate them because you are experiencing them both, all the time. It is like trying to separate eggs from sugar after a cake has been baked. You cannot do it, they have been mixed and become a new thing. An artist trying to communicate ideas also communicates emotions, and vice versa.
I don't see why the magic cannot be both in the canvas and the audience's mind. It HAS to be in both because communication requires two people! Say your friend says "I have a red box" and you see the red box inside your head. Is the magic in your friend or in you? Let's remove your friend. He says nothing. You do not see a red box inside your head. So your friend is necessary for the magic! Let's put him back and remove you, then. Your friend says "I have a red box". No one is there to hear him. No one sees the red box inside their heads. So you are necessary for the magic as well! There must be a sender and a receiver, or there is no communication.
With art you send a visual message. Does the audience receive this message? Only if you do a good job and you and your audience speak the same visual language.
April 24th, 2014 #9
I agree with you vineris, that is why I beleive art is communication. And as you put it, every communication needs a sender, a message and an audience. The magic must happen within the three. That is why I am a big advocate of realist drawigs and paitings, exactly because it is the visual language we all understand. That is what I told the artist.
He then told me, art should not be a way of expressing. It is not meant for an audience, it is meant for you to capture your feeling into a material world. Cezanne didn't bother with depth on his moutains because he knew the canvas was flat, there was no need to create a lie. Modigliani knows how to paint a face yet paints it his way. Does the majority of the non averted audience speak this visual language. No. Yet they are great painters.
The main debate I had with him in the end was about realism. Because to communicate an coherent idea, you need at least a certain amount of it. But as for an emotion, there is no need.
April 24th, 2014 #10
Ok, well then we're largely in agreement. When I said ideas and emotion are not mutually exclusive, I was getting at the same thing Vineris said, that they're inclusive of each other, you can't really separate them. Though of course you can lean heavily more toward one or the other if you want to.
I'm mostly a fan of realist art, but I do like a certain amount of modernism. Especially the early stuff - made by artists who were thoroughly trained in academic principles but exploring ways to use the elements of art that go beyond the kind of boring realism that can be done better by a camera anyway.
However I don't like it beyond a certain point, when it becomes self-serving and self-contained. I like to see identifiable representations of reality, but they can be distorted or playfully re-organized at the artist's whim - especially if that serves some coherent idea or feeling. But personally I think abstract expressionism is self-indulgent masturbation. It's not made for an audience, so it's to stroke the ego of the artist, right?
When I look at huge abstract fields of color I don't really get any emotion from it for the most part. There's often a disconnect between what the artist thinks he's accomplishing and what he's really accomplishing, which become apparent if the viewing audience doesn't 'get' it.
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April 24th, 2014 #11
I couldn't agree more with you darkstrider. Every art event or schooling available in my country tends to go to this crap abstractionism/investment product. For a good critique of abstractionism, there is a great article on the Art Renewal Center website, dedicated to fine arts:
I am however still pondering what that man told me. You used the word coherent. To show you the way that man felt, he would have opposed coherent because the feeling should just make sense to you. That is why I told him art is all about communication. He replied: if you want to communicate, or critique or express an idea, go write.
So was he just entirely caught up in his way of art or does it make sense in a deep personal and metaphysical way. To take what vineris said, imagine you were all by yourself on an island. And you had enough things to paint. If one day, the magic happened, because you felt it, you took a brush and painted. Would you bother with realism, would you draw a red box or just what you feel when you think of the red box you saw. Please, don't confuse these questions as my views! I just want people to talk about it for everyone, to lay down their ideas to the public if they are intersted about these questions. I do not want to offer the right or wrong choices, convince or be convinced, I'm just curious! That is why I never said hmm the artist was wrong and I'm right etc.. I used a personal debate, and put down both opinions, merged then, expanded and simplified. Feel free to mold these into the shapes you want! That is what i want to see when I started this thread, not to "do what I like and forget about the others...".
April 24th, 2014 #12
Each has his own definition of art. Decide what you want out of art. When you know that, you can deduce which market to cater to.
If you are into something for which there is no market, then God help you, but I personally applaud you. Niccolo Machiavelli talked about how hard it was for the true innovators. Nietschze in Beyond good and evil suggested that the truly divergent were an entirely different species. (However the fork you spell Nietsaczch3e7657589!)
April 25th, 2014 #13
The problem is that we don't get to hear what this artist had to say from his own mouth, all I can say is that I'm sure it was useful for his purposes.
People like Fred Ross operate on the idea that art started only a couple hundred years ago. They talk about "traditional art", I say who's tradition? Art goes back a long long way, and across a whole lot of countries. Symbolism precedes perspective and naturalism by thousands of years.
To me a piece of art has to be animistic, it has to look like or seem to be emotion made physical. One day I went to the De Young and was looking through the African section, and there was this small weird figure called an imunu figure. The idea was that these artist of the tribe would be walking around and suddenly confront some stick or root that would seem to be the embodiment of a spirit, so they would then start carving out the details to really bring out what they first felt from the stick.
It's the same idea as when someone works from some view from nature, they take their point of view, and then start painting it but start changing it like the imunu carver in an attempt to bring out it's vital force. The same as Leonardo talking about visions in stains on a wall, same as Michelangelo freeing the bodies from the stones.
Last edited by armando; April 25th, 2014 at 11:01 PM.Sketchbook
"Beliefs are rules for action"
"Knowledge is proven in action."
"It's use is it's meaning."
April 26th, 2014 #14
I really really liked what you said armando! As it happens we came to speak about language and the 'primitive' (I hate that word..) symbolism. This is why I used the word translate art into the material world rather than create. Art is already there, emotion is already there. It is the artist, with his own sensibilities (the same way you fall in love with this person rather than this one, the inexplicable magic) who translates a landscape, a person, an object. So you would say the job of the artist is to "uncover to better convey" the spirit of something or someone? Unfortunately I didn't want to write a ton for the first post so I kinda made two distinct sides, forgetting a lot of the nuances we had and a lot of points he said. However, because we couldn't discuss more, I wanted to continue the train of thought and see if maybe it could bring new perspectives to the way I look at art or how others look at art.
If I could indulge, armando, would you say then that the translated art should be beautiful to the artist and/or to the audience in it's particular time and context? Or should it just be as it is felt? Do you think the true sense of beauty is in fact that exactly: the spirit? If the artist unearths it, then his art is naturally beautiful?
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April 26th, 2014 #15
What do you mean when you say that "art is already there"?
"Beliefs are rules for action"
"Knowledge is proven in action."
"It's use is it's meaning."
April 27th, 2014 #16Registered User
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to quote lao tsu "the path that can be followed is not the true path, the name that can be named is not the true name"
basically meaning "screw what ever anyone else says do your own thing"
art I feel is one of those things that is unique to the individual. we all have diffrent experiences, diffrent views on the world shaped by a life time be it a year or a hundred years, we are all unique (even if a lot of us don't embrace that uniqueness) show ten people the same image, and ask them all individually about it they will all express diffrent ideas, and diffrent thoughts, same with any form or art, that's why there are so many kinds of music, film and painting because not everyone likes the same thing.
me I draw because I like to draw, there's rarely any emotion behind it or even any thought beyond "that looks like an interesting subject I think I'll try that" a lot of the time I let whoever views it decide what they think about it.
there's an old trope called "death of the author" which states that anyone's interpretation of a work is as valid as the next person even if they disagree and the next person happens to be the author of the work. because we all see the world in a diffrent way so where one person may draw an emotional experience from a peice of art that wasn't the intent of the artist, another may just enjoy the art for the beauty of it, or maybe for the technique used, or even because they like the idea that the peice represents in their eyes
so to me, when you ask if art should convay an emotion or an idea I say both and neither, it convays what it convays to who ever happens to view it at the time. be it either, both, or neither.
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April 28th, 2014 #20
After so many years, I forgot what a fun place CA was!
April 29th, 2014 #21
My artwork can convey and contain both emotions and ideas though not always together in the same piece of work.
Primarily, my artwork is another medium for stories. If what I'm working on does not have a story, or if the character I'm drawing doesn't have a personality, it doesn't work for me. Also, I'm too lazy to actually write these stories so I draw them instead... how this works, I have no idea since both require the same amount of time and effort. :P
P.S. Bunnies all the way!
April 29th, 2014 #22
I think conveying both ideas and emotions are important. I tend to think of it more as manipulation. Can I, with my artwork, manipulate the audience into feeling a certain way or just force them to think about something? If so, then I have succeeded (in some way or form). I think experimental writing and poetry are also after the same thing, really.
Could poetry perhaps be likened to abstract art then?- Sometimes it doesn't make sense, but some people can still enjoy it. The poetry that makes sense is more like expressionist art within a realist framework.
I'm probably going off my bonkers. Thanks to the OP however for an interesting topic of thought/discussion.
May 3rd, 2014 #23
I'd like to think that those who claim that their art is based solely on an idea, or idea indentations, have an emotional attachment to it. So, at the core, they feel an emotion and then act upon it.
And to paint or do whatever, for the purpose of channeling pure emotion, is already an act of attaching an idea, a concept to your practice.
So before trying to enforce ones own semantic viewpoints as general guidelines that applies to "everyone," through some sort of philosophy or whatever, one might as well just do whatever one likes to do. In the end, it's about enjoying the process.
May 29th, 2014 #24Registered User
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I like art that expresses feelings :-)