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Art, Its Definition, Perception and Functions Essay

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Updated: Sep 18th, 2020

Art plays an integral role in our world because it has a substantial impact on every aspect of the human existence. People who have ever been involved in art have a deep inner world. Research often focuses on effects of art on individuals. Thus, doctors have long proven a positive impact of classical music on people; millions of drawings were studied to understand people and their psychology, and more. Art educates, enlightens, and enriches a person. It does not attempt to induce a person to take a particular action. Instead, art establishes the system of human values and attitudes that lead to a certain behavior. While listening to wonderful music or peering at a beautiful painting or another work of art, a person extends the boundaries of unambiguous rationality. Therefore, the power of art lies in appealing to the human conscience and awakening the inner beauty of person to manifest all their best qualities. This essay will discuss the contemporary definition of art, its purpose, and forms, and identify its various functions.

Definition of Art

Giving one unified definition of art is hard. According to Davies, art is designed to bring aesthetic experience; however, he states that “something could be art even though it is poor in aesthetic value and in other respects” (37). While there are functional and procedural definitions of art, essentially for each person art has its own meaning. Today, there are many movements and types of art: music, dancing, painting, sculpture, movies, etc.

I particularly like the multi-functional definition provided by Lois Fichner-Rathus: Art is a “practical skill or its application,” “work of creative imagination,” “skill or knowledge to influence,” and “method of doing a thing” (3). In my opinion, art is a subjective and a creative form of self-expression. I believe that creativity is the key factor in determining art because otherwise it will not stand out from thousands of other artworks. It can be expressed in any form besides traditional representation of art. For example, for someone cooking, dancing or teaching can be art, because it frees their imagination and person can show his inner self. Art excites the soul and raises strong feelings of happiness, admiration and more. I believe that true art is the most beautiful creation of the humanity because it inspires, makes us enjoy life, and love the surrounding world. It can carry a person away from everyday troubles into the infinite world of dreams and fantasies. Art also has the power to influence people by reflecting on current trends and raise political issues, changes in cultural and social values.

Understanding Art

Art criticism is a practice of professional critics evaluating and posting their opinions on different forms of art based on specific criteria. The artwork’s purpose can vary from the intentions of its creator. Sometimes, an art piece can have an explicit, self-evident meaning or a statement but sometimes, for instance, in the abstract art, the purpose of the piece could remain a mystery. Form implies the arrangement of all visual elements and provides substance to an idea (Fichner-Rathus 7). A skilled manipulation of light, color, and lines greatly contribute to the visualization of emotions, atmosphere depicted in the artwork. When looking at an artwork, both paying close attention to purpose and analyzing form is important because together they intertwine to create an intended impression.

I think that visual experience of art is just not enough to fully appreciate its significance. For instance, the famous photograph of Kevin Carter of a girl and a vulture in Sudan would not be so outstanding if it was taken in America, and not in Sudan. The power of photography to transmit a powerful message within one shot is undoubtful. However, knowing its context is crucial to recognize its importance. In order to understand an art work, one should have historical knowledge of when it was created, what influenced its content and what is the message behind it. Although, some pieces of art do not have a real purpose and do not require high knowledge of symbolism or history to enjoy bright colors, unusual shapes, and scenery.

Functions of Art

All forms of art impact our society in different ways. I think three most important functions of art is communicating thought, ideas, and emotions; serve as a means of political protest or social injustice and last but not least- education.

Art is a powerful tool for communication. People used art as a means of communication before the emergence of actual words. From the very childhood, we consume art: we watch movies, listen to music, and go to museums and more. Art has the ability to communicate complex ideas without words, create our perceptions of world, morality, justice, and patriotism. For instance, some might understand the concept of love from music and paintings. Even blind, deaf or disabled people can use art to communicate with the surrounding world. With simple manipulation of visual elements, art can transmit emotions to viewers: make them happy or sad, motivate and inspire or show empathy.

Artists always found ways to influence politics. For instance, with the means of protest art, social activists are able to protect human rights and raise the awareness of many other issues. As reported by Lewela and Sipalla, “Protest art may not necessarily spur revolutions, but as a change agent its immense value lies in speaking truth to power. It is also educational, cathartic and empowering in situations of injustice”. It can be expressed in the form of street art, performance, graffiti, and distribution of flyers or banners conveying a particular message. Art is also used by politicians to spread political ideologies to the general population. For instance, since ancient times art pieces celebrated and glorified political leaders.

Artistic expression is also effectively used in education. Art is a big a part of our history: from the prehistoric era, Renaissance and up to day serve as a primary source of information about people’s lifestyle, social, cultural heritage and political values and more. Further, using art has been proved to be useful in child education because art appreciation encourages them to think and express their ideas. For instance, drawing develops motor skills, talking about art impacts language, creating art pushes their creativity and raises cultural awareness. Adults also gain an enormous amount of knowledge from artworks regarding cultural and spiritual enrichment.

In conclusion, I think that art is individual and can be expressed in traditional and untraditional means. Art does not have race or nationality; art is not biased, art unites people. Art is eternal; it brings beauty and peace to the world. Art also plays an educational, communicative role in the formation of man; it contributes to cultural enrichment and is powerful to bring political or social change in the community.

Works Cited

Davies, Stephen. The Philosophy of Art. John Wiley & Sons, 2016.

Fichner-Rathus, Lois. Understanding Art. Cengage Learning, 2017.

Lewela, Karest, and Sepalla Humphrey. Pambazuka, 2014, Web.

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