Saturday, 3 October 2009

Re-presenting – Measuring: Beauty

My fascination over ‘What is Art’ 

I cannot help but tie my opinions and ideas about art with beauty. As I believe art must be visual, I will rely on the visual, and the suggestions made by what I see in order to make judgements. We are all aestheticists, however our ideas of beauty are incredibly varied. Beauty like art is subjective. Moreover, art is probably subjective due to the fact that so much of people’s opinions of it is based upon their ideas of what is attractive.


There are certain works of art that when I view I hear clashing cymbals and cries of discord. As a good friend and fellow art student of mine and I were discussing: from interviews we can gather that Damien Hirst perceives his art as being beautiful. Many however would probably disagree on the account of The Physical Impossibility of Death in the Mind of Someone Living AKA the shark. When you consider that a creator generally will only make what he sees as beautiful, or worthy, then it seems logical.


There are of course exceptions, like works where emotionality is key – a painting on the theme of war, for example many of Otto Dix’s distorted scenes, are intentionally aggressive, discordant, jarring and dark. I find the style of his Portrait of the Journalist Sylvia von Harden uncomfortable and displeasing. This is probably more contentious work than one unquestionably praised sculpture –Mary Magdalene in poplar wood by Donatello, of which I do not like, though I know there is nothing ‘wrong’ with it.


Let’s consider beauty in craftsmanship. Vital to my positive reaction to art, is the ease at identifying the artist’s skill and ability. This is as I actively seek ‘quality’ in artwork. While I recognise the artistry in spontaneous works, I much prefer the charm found in well-planned and crafted compositions. All artists can draw and it would be unjust to suggest that those who choose not to work within the confines of correct perspective, authentic colour choices and detailed brush-strokes; do not have the capability to do so.


Art does not have to look good to be art. This has been a changing dimension in the history of art however. For the majority of work from the Renaissance through to the long 18th Century, the 19th century and predominantly, into the 20th century - art’s main purpose has been to please the eye, to exhibit and sell and entertain the higher classes. In pre-modern times - in the Middle Ages, it could be argued - but definitely in the cases of the ancient Egyptian civilisation and before, art didn’t need to be beautiful because it was not commercial because it served purpose.                                                                                                                        


So how can we measure what art is in relation to the above? From this we probably can’t conclude much about what art is especially with the metamorphosing standards on beauty, but we can establish more about how we view art. This may be a sidetrack, but beauty is an important consideration because it is so intrinsically tied to our responses to art, which cannot be dismissed. After all, much of our judgement on objects about whether or not they constitute as art, is instinctive. 

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