Let me try from the first to indicate the point I’m aiming at. The point is this, Art lacks a sufficient definition. The terms, “Art” and “Artist” are relatively new and defining them is of constant contention. Honestly what is Art? And if we were to find a definition that holds, how should one judge it? I know you’re probably thinking well art is just art; this is not an answer. The questions above are quite essential. For the majority listing various forms of art is a satisfactory answer. Poetry, music, painting, dancing, calligraphy, martial art, et cetra. Yes these are all forms of art but they do not yield as answers. It is true, the question is of a philosophical nature but why label it in that way? It is quite a salient one. I see you reaching for that Oxford dictionary and some of you reaching for the computer keyboard to find that answer, they both are feeble attempts. The answer lies within.
What is that piece by Beethoven that we label as “beautiful”, what is that sculptor by Michangelo that we describe as “handsome”? All of these we happen to call art. It is very true that the words “Art” and “Artist” are relatively new, they are labels that we have assigned as we do with the majority of things, are they not? As late as 1912 it was assumed in the West that all art aims a beauty and that anything not beautiful was not art. Once again we have used adjectives, labels to describe the pleasures that arise from our sensations. This is very common and conventional in the West. What happens when we experience, when we observe an art without judging it, without labelling it according to our emotions? Just observe it how it is without opinion.
Art, true art is the expression of the self. The self being the emotions and feelings of the expressor, be them anger, happiness, determination, sadness or what not. The meaning of the self as the philosophers know can be expanded in meaning in the study of metaphysics, but here is not the place for that at this time. I do believe on the most fundamental level, art has no audience. The true artist if expressing their self in an honest way has no ego or self-conscious. Bruce Lee wrote “Art reaches its greatest peak when devoid of self-consciousness” Although if the artist’s expression does happen to communicate with us then it is a bonus, if it stirs up something within then it is beautiful. It is then we call the expressor an “Artist” and their expression “Art”.
How does one judge art? To judge art is wholly your own opinion, there is no truth in opinion. Truth is fact. The truth in art lies in the artist. Did they produce their expression, their art in an ego-less ate of mind? This can only be done when the ego and the desires to impress or to make an impression have dissolved. Therefore the adjectives of good, bad, high and low that are used to describe art should be rendered as useless. Plato said that that art is an imitation; maybe he is correct to a certain extent when we look around today and see so much self-image actualization. Only when there is self-actualization can art be expressed in it’s purest form. I’m sure you’ll agree after some thinking that to honestly express yourself without your ego standing over you with a club is very hard indeed. In the East it is suggested that this itself is an art which has been named paradoxically as an “Artless Art”. I do firmly believe that it is in this state of being that is outlined above is when art reaches it greatest peak. The Chinese say that the highest skill is performed on an almost unconscious level; that I couldn’t agree with any less.
I suggest that whoever ranks art or places themselves in certain groups according to their judgement and “taste” of art must take a different stance when they observe art. Try and see and observe it without judgement and devoid of the filter of your conditioning. That is without you’re perceived notions of beauty or ugliness (words which I feel to be written in inverted commas) and the other adjectives that you, that we all use to label our emotions. I think that the sagacious words from Bruce Lee are most suitable to portray art, “Art is never decoration, embellishment, instead it is work of enlightenment. Art in other words is a technique for acquiring a personal liberation”.