Back To The Basics: What is Art?

landscape art

If you are an art lover who loves to admire the beauty of landscape art and adore the unrecognizable shapes and patterns of modern art, then you must have been confronted at least once with questions like – what is art; does art has to be beautiful, original, complex, or have monetary value; it is only art, which is made by an artist; what if an artist creates an idea and the art is made or manufactured by someone else; can a chair or a sack of candy bar be considered as artworks.

Well, answers to these questions vary from person to person and culture to culture. Even artists, historians, and philosophers all have different ideas about what makes art, art. This leads to another question: if no one can come on agreement about what art is, then why should we even try to define it? Here is the answer to this question: the more we discuss what art is and how it impacts the society, the more we get to know about what art means to us and understand what it means to other people.

Many people think of art as a piece of beauty. For them, beautiful landscape paintings are a work of art. We can all recall some artworks that made us pause in amazement and think, “Wow! That is amazingly beautiful.” Beauty can certainly be a useful way to judge what you consider art. But does all the art are really beautiful? What about Picasso’s ‘Weeping Women’ or some graffiti images which draw attention to corruption and hopelessness. Maybe we need more concrete criteria to define art.

 landscape paintings

Elements of Art

The elements of art are more formal way to analyze the artistic components like color, shape, line, texture and space, and also analyze whether each element works together to enhance the subject of an artwork. These artistic components let us decide whether an artist who had aimed for realistic colors was successful or a mistake in shading had led him to paint something undefinable and unrealistic. This leads us to another important question that we need to ask about art: What was the intent of the artist.

Successful Emotional Expression and Function of Art

Henri Matisse said, “I do not literally paint that table, but the emotion it produces upon me.” Matisse’s painting like ‘Blue Tablecloth’ and ‘Bowls of Apple on a Table’ clearly communicate these emotional visions. Successful emotional expression is yet another way to judge good art. If Matisse’s intent had been to paint table or apples exactly as they appear in life, one may have a harder time calling his paintings art.

Yet another thing to consider is the function of artwork. Is artwork still artwork if it has a practical or spiritual function? Can an everyday product be considered as an artwork if it is simply restored and hung up on art? Is an object considered art if it is given some sort of spiritual significance or whether the idea behind the object is most important? In conceptual art, the idea is just as important if not more so than the final product.

This is perfectly illustrated by the artwork ‘One and Three Chairs’ by Joseph Kosuth which is composed of an actual chair, a scaled photograph of the chair and the printed word chair. It is also perfectly illustrated by Rene Magritte’s ‘This is not a pipe’, which is a painting of a pipe captioned with the words in French, ‘This is not a pipe.’ Unlike famous landscape art, this kind of conceptual art invites the viewer to examine the artistic qualities of everyday objects.

What is Art for You?

In art, should form follow function or should function follow form? What makes landscape paintings or abstract paintings beautiful to you? There is no one single definition of art that encompasses what all people consider to be art. But by trying to understand the intent of the artist that led them to define their work as an art as well as your own interpretation of it, each of us can come to a deeper understanding of what art means to us. So, don’t take others’ opinions as absolute. What matters the most is: what is an art to you.