Art is everywhere. Without even being fully aware of it, it encompasses almost every aspect of our lives. The books we read, the clothes we wear, the food we eat, and much more. They are all art.
The definition of art has been subjective ever since humanity created the concept, and it always will be. That is why I am using this general definition, which I believe is widely accepted: as long as something is created by a human being with aesthetics, communication, and meaning in mind, they are, in some sense, considered as art.
This overarching quality of art, unfortunately, makes it easier to be overlooked and unappreciated. That is the typical way of how things work throughout the world, I fear. The more prevalent something is, the less society values it because they know they can take it for granted.
Even so, when people do appreciate a particular piece of art or a whole genre of art they like, it leaves a lasting remark deep within themselves. Without realizing it, that favorite thing will linger deep within their subconscious thoughts and be a part of their bias for, maybe, most of their lives. It can be a simple thing such as a favorite song, movie, or a book (or even entire genres); or something more complex like a favorite painting or sculpture (or also entire categories). But once we reach that point of appreciating and focusing on that art, many wonderful things happen.
Art brings to light our deepest emotions.
The emotions felt when absorbing art is subjective. Different persons will have different takes on the same piece of art. But, no matter what their opinions may be, the important thing is they were moved by it. Remember when you cried or felt something inexplicably profound in a piece of art? Like movies, documentaries, plays, or books? Then, after taking it all in, you feel like you have a different, profound view on things? Or, quite possibly, that particular piece made you more aware of the terrible things happening in this world, and it inspired you to do good? All of these feelings are enriching to the human spirit, and it is wonderful when something like that happens to us.
Another great example is when you are visiting the museum. Imagine this scenario. You have seen almost every piece of art there is to see but none of them piqued your interest. Then, you finally saw that painting or sculpture you don’t know you have been looking for, and it moved you emotionally and intellectually. I am not referring to the simple, brief moment of admiration that immediately leaves as quickly as it came. No, I am referring to the great awe that you felt and will be feeling even when you leave the museum. Quite possibly, it may have even ignited a light within you that illuminated your path in life. That, my dear reader, is the beauty of art. You are not just looking at a mere piece, you are also absorbing all the thoughts and aspirations of the author. Maybe that’s why it moved you because all the silent but intelligible dreams of the author have been passed on to you.
But not every kind of art receives that kind of positive response from everyone, because art is subjective. You may have encountered an exquisite piece, seen a historical building, or have watched a movie that is aesthetically pleasing and emotionally moving to many people; and yet in your case, you cannot grasp its meaning, nor can you focus on it for even a short while. That’s fine. You don’t have to conform to the general taste of others. At the same time, you may be passionately fond of a piece of art that doesn’t touch the heart of the great majority. That’s fine as well. Know and appreciate what truly inspires you. This subjectivity goes both ways.
There are a plethora of things to be felt when absorbing any kind of art, but no matter how it personally affected you, what is most important is that you are responding to the central thought of that piece. As long as that happens, the purpose of both the art and artist is fulfilled.
Art reflects the culture and history of its creator’s time.
If there is even a sliver of curiosity within you about the history and cultures of the world, then the most rewarding way to learn it is through art; and some of the best ways to learn are through paintings, sculptures, and literature.
The Egyptian Hieroglyphs, for example, is one of the most iconic forms of art. This “holy writing,” as the Greeks called it, has given a profound insight into the mysterious world of Ancient Egypt. Through this ancient writing, the culturally rich society of Ancient Egypt became known to us modern people, with the ever famous Pyramids and the art of mummification at the forefront of our knowledge. It is interesting to think that all of our knowledge of Ancient Egypt that we have right now was brought to light through the many artisanal creations of the artists and writers of that past civilization.
Other than the noble art of writing, there are plenty of forms of art that can show glimpses of the cultures of past ages. Sculptures are one of the more visually striking ones, albeit not as informative and detailed as a piece of literature. However, what it lacks in substance, it makes up in evocativeness, depending on how the artist intended it to be and how the spectator views it.
Two of the most famous sculptures in the world, Michelangelo’s Pietà and David, are great examples of culturally evocative pieces of art. They were created during the Renaissance, a time when most of the most famous works of art were inspired by Christianity. Leonardo da Vinci’s Last Supper and Raphael’s Saint Michael Overwhelming the Demon come to mind.
The sculpture, David, is a magnificent piece that represents the Biblical David who slew the giant Goliath with nothing but a slingshot and his courage. On this exquisite work of art, the same courage is exuding from the expertly chiseled anatomy of the sculpture. It is a sign of courage that many of us can relate to if we are familiar with the story. Other than that, the slingshot he carries on his left hand and the stark nakedness suggests an unyielding spirit of the human being, inspiring awe and pride from anyone who looks at it.
Pietà, on the other hand, evokes an altogether different feeling. A complete opposite from the strength and courage of the sculpture David. One such meaning of Pietà is pity, and it is aptly named so. The piece depicts a scene from the Bible where Jesus Christ is brought down from the cross, into the arms of his mother, Mary. Looking at the sculpture elicits great feelings of pity and sadness for those people who understand the gravity of this scene.
Just from viewing the two sculptures, we can somehow surmise the historical atmosphere of the time it was created, the Renaissance. From a normal person’s point of view, one that has no affinity to art history nor art itself, religion was pertinent in the daily lives of the artists and the people, despite the increasing secularism. It can also be further surmised that since Italy played a major role in the Renaissance, the Catholic Church also had a huge role in commissioning the artists since the seat of Catholicism was in Italy. It is truly amazing how pieces of artwork can encapsulate the cultures of its country.
So, if ever you possessed some speck of curiosity about a certain place, seek out the famous sculptures that place is known for. I am certain that a profound insight into the rich history and culture of the places you plan to go will be waiting for you. A few iconic ones that I would want to see include the bust of Nefertiti and the Sphinx of Ancient Egypt, the Terracotta Warriors of China, and the Statue of Liberty of New York. Now, if you would prefer visiting somewhere lowkey or even local, then by all means. As long as that curiosity is eager, you’re good to go. You might learn something new about yourself as well along the way.
With all that being said, there is no art form more passionate to the artists and their spectators, no art form more reflective of the historical culture of its time, than the art of painting. Well, unless filmmaking came along but that is a different conversation for another time.
Paintings are the most celebrated form of art for a long time. The epitome of an aesthetic and intellectual endeavor of humanity. It has been used to convey any expression or message an artist can think of. Each painting is different. Some depict religious scenes that serve as an art of reverence; while some were created for a political purpose such as propaganda for or against a government or its leader. There are many wholesome creations as well, like the breathtaking sceneries of mother nature from the sky, the land, and the sea mostly brought to light by the Impressionists. Moreover, there are paintings of civilizations that show the beauty and ugliness of the urban world, like town squares, cafes, or city streets. Then, there are those paintings that were created just for art’s sake, at least, according to the scholars; and those kinds of paintings are, for me, the best work of their respective artists.
Looking at some of the most iconic paintings of all time, I cannot help but feel profound respect and awe for the artists who created them. Just thinking about the history of the paintings themselves, on how much they have gone through, on how many people the artworks reached and inspired; it is an enigmatic feeling.
Take one of the most famous artworks in the world, Las Meninas for instance. Widely considered to be a masterpiece of Diego Velázquez. It is a beautifully composed painting that shows a glimpse into the personal lives of the Spanish Monarchy during the country’s Golden Age of art.
Countless interpretations have been made on the purpose and nature of the piece ever since it was created. However, no matter what subjective meaning has been given to the artwork, we cannot deny the amazing talent that has been put into making it. The artist has provided us a personal scene back in history and has given us an idea of what royal culture during his time was. An intricate art such as that deserves every praise it gets; for Las Meninas not just appeals to our aesthetic sense, but also to our intellectual curiosity.
Pierre-Auguste Renoir, one of the pioneers of the impressionism art movement, is well known due to his artwork that astoundingly captures the culture and history of Paris during his time, the Bal du moulin de la Galette.
The piece depicts a lively scene accentuated by vivid colors. Even though many of the subjects wore black, the painting still looks bright, as if the sun was beaming down on the people. Just looking at the artwork, a sense of merriment can be felt. Many are dancing, and some are having conversations and laughing. It just exudes an atmosphere of joy, where everything is alright and there are no problems to beset you.
The jovial ambience of the painting gives us an idea of the societal atmosphere of its setting during that time, which was Paris. During the period it was created, the city of light was undergoing through a period called “La Belle Époque,” meaning the beautiful era. It was a time when the Parisian culture was progressing into the mecca of art and style that we know today; and many iconic structures like the Eiffel Tower and Palais Garnier were created.
The beautiful era of Paris might have influenced Renoir in his impressionist artworks, or it might have not. However, one thing is for certain, another painting has given us an insight into the culture and history of its creator’s time.
Art evokes in us a sense of wonder.
The sense of wonder we feel when we are spectating any kind of art might most likely be the only thing that stays with us; and not the substance of the art, nor the purpose or message of the artist through that art. Because let’s face it, most of the things we consume, we do so for our entertainment – and there are plenty of creators who feed off of that mindset. We have been trained to consume media that way ever since we were mere children. Rarely do we come across such a thought-provoking piece that made us ponder about anything, be it the world we live in or the innermost depths of our mind. Granted, there are many talented artists out there creating brilliant things in their respective fields. But, when their talented works of art meshed in with all kinds of content readily available for us every day, they are difficult to find.
This sense of wonder is not completely terrible, however, because it can lead to something else. Art can indeed leave a lasting impression with nothing else except a sense of marvel. But, that is not so bad because that wondrous feeling can become a starting point for anyone to appreciate art. I can personally attest because it happened to me. Throughout my college years, the intricate world of film, the exquisite art of painting, and the intellectually titillating classics of literature were brought to me unexpectedly. I acquired a new perspective and a better appreciation of the world, and I am a better person because of it.
This sense of wonder, when it has gone beyond our superficial lens, can lead to many wonderful things. One, it sparks our curiosity and, with a little bit of effort from our part, satiates it; and two, it enriches our very being. For every little piece of art we consciously appreciate, we become more aware of who we are; because, those feelings that surge within us, those immediate pulses of wonder, that is the manifestation of our true passions.
So, next time, when you are beholding, watching, or listening to a piece of art that enkindles a sense of wonder within you, try to look beyond the superficial and the beauty. Then, ask yourself what is it about that art that exhilarates you. You might be surprised at the answers you find within.
If you feel uninspired by anything, just know that wherever you are in life, I am sure there is a certain piece or genre of art just waiting for you to be discovered. It might just give you the answers you are looking for. All it takes is for you to act.
Isn’t it an exhilarating thought? I think it is.