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What is Art and the Purpose of Making It?

An artist explains his thoughts on the function art serves in society.

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Thinking about painting

Think about what you want from art, then aim to put that in your own paintings.

Photo by Peter Beavis / Getty Images

Art causes people to look a little closer. To look closer at the social issues, at other people and their emotions, at the environment that surround them, and the everyday objects and life forms around them. It helps them see what is there but not easily perceived. The artist brings out that which cannot be seen or felt easily.

When society sees and feels clearly on these things, it provides opportunities for change in thought or appreciation of the message behind the art. It can cause people to re-examine their thinking on the subject that’s put before them.

Is Art Just a Form of Self-Expression or is it a Statement?

Art is usually about self-expression because the artist feels strongly enough about what they are doing to try and put it into a form that they, and others, can come to terms with. This product of their self-expression can help others because there will always be people who feel the same way but they cannot express it themselves. These people will identify with the artist and draw encouragement, purpose, and excitement about the thing expressed.

One of the functions of the artist is to make a statement of some kind. It may be a simple statement, the beauty of the landscape for example, but it is a statement. Somehow the artist is trying to communicate an idea, an emotion, or a purpose in their work.

I know there has been that idea around that new art can be created about old art. One would think that there’s enough subject material or ideas in this world to make a statement about, without the need to re-hash that which has already been communicated in other art pieces. I did a painting a couple of years ago that used a statue in a park as a subject. The soldier statue was the true work of art and I just brought it to everybody’s attention again by painting it. I guess in a way I was making a statement about an existing piece of art. Some painters will do paintings of historical buildings or other architecture pieces that stand out as unique and artistic in design. In this way I suppose the artist is making a statement about art itself.

Art as Decoration or Ornamentation

Unfortunately most people still think of art as decoration. The problem with thinking that way about a piece of art is that people get tired of the decoration and want to change the décor after a few years. Good art does not go out of style. I like to think of art as a separate entity, it may not match the room. There are lots of cheap prints out there that can be used as decoration and, in a way, it's art and yes it's decoration. The idea that art is decoration undervalues a work.

Art's Contribution to Society

The combined words "arts and culture" have been around for a long time. In many ways what sits in national museums should reflect a society. But from what I understand and have seen in the big galleries it doesn’t seem to reflect the average person on the street. Some of the art in the museums can actually add to the impoverishment. But, if art builds up the human spirit rather then breaking it down, then it can build up a culture.

We make art because there is something inside the creative person that needs to get out. The poet, musician, actor, and visual artist all have a desire to express what they feel and to create something of great value. It’s a type of therapy or a form of meditation. Many do art for the pure joy of it.

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