Art

Anil Mitra, © March 2010, © Latest Revision December 24, 2011

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A Recent Idea  1

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ART

A Recent Idea

Art is the expression and communication of what is essential in human and universal meaning and significance

…of what has deepest meaning and significance

…expression of one human, group, or culture to the same or others

Miscellaneous Ideas

From Method > Implications for the tradition > Art and religion

Even if art has a method (or methods,) it would be ambitious for me to intend to write something instructive on it. However, my intent is to see if reflection on the topic may teach me something about the idea of method (and perhaps on art.) I suggested earlier that to know what some activity is entails knowing something of its method (if there is any.) Therefore, before thinking of method in relation to art and whether there are methods in art, I shall, of course ambitiously, reflect on the nature of art

What is art? What does ‘art’ mean to me? What does it do for me?

I look at a picture of a cave drawing and think that it is or might be art because it is in a book, a museum, or a website on art… but I look again, on another day and again in another year, perhaps by chance but the appeal of the drawing has grown upon me. Here, I think, are some of my roots in being and in depicting my world. The drawing is simple and yet it ‘takes me to another time’ and I like that experience. I do not know that I am seeing their world in the cave artist’s way but I am seeing some world in my way; and I like what I see. Those were human beings, I am human, I sense a connection (other species, apparently, do not leave behind such artifacts so for them I may feel a different kind of connection, for example the thought of their physical skill)

There is a painting on a wall in a friend’s house—it is of a tall building, yellow-brown, with colonnade façade, in the distance, by itself, surrounded by a golden desert, all under a pastel sky. Like, the cave drawing, the painting transports me; the recollection of it transports—I see an outpost of civilization. That picture combines two favorite elements, and implicitly more. Civilization (that’s interpretation,) a building in partial ruin but still magnificent, and nature. Neither civilization, nor nature, nor decay, nor human creation is ascendant. Things in balance. A creation of man and the creation of nature which includes man. I am in the picture, too because it says something of the way I see civilization: not as above nature, but as an island but not a mere island and that is caught by the picture with its suggestion of haze and mist and distance. Of course what I see is at least in part what I read into the painting

Wikipedia says, ‘Art is the process or product of deliberately arranging elements in a way that appeals to the senses or emotions.’ This is boring, simplistic, simplistically modern and inward looking. Does art have to be deliberate? Does it appeal only to the senses and emotions? Why does it not appeal also to the intellect, to a feeling of place, to a sense of meaning in the world? Today, as in this narrative, we emphasize the holism of emotion and cognition (which is not to say that they are identical.) Tolstoy is a little better; he says that art must create an emotional link between artist and audience, one that infects the viewer. Again, though, the unnecessary singling out of emotion (which, where it tends to be suppressed, is singled out and paraded as if to say, We are not emotionally deficient.) And does the link have to be between artist and viewer; what of links between the viewer and him or her self, between viewer and world or past of future; what of showing the viewer the world as it is or as it could be; what of showing the viewer another world… The artist, though the creator, could be supremely irrelevant… and perhaps conduit or channel rather than primarily creator

When the impressionists claimed to show what they see, art historian Ernest Gombrich responded that there is no such thing as seeing as altogether separate from what you know… as far as I can tell he was not against impressionism but only against impressionism as a theory or notion of what all art should be (like)

I could add that perhaps there is no seeing apart from what you know, from what you want to see… But, even though there is that subjective side to the experience of art, there is a definite response which is at the intersection of the viewer and the art. The response changes or augments or subtracts from my view of and experience in the world… and it therefore affects the way I live (even if only incrementally)

Approach

There is art; some of the motive to viewing has to do with status of various kinds and to pretension; I think, though, that it is not all pretense. Paul Feyerabend said of method in science something equivalent to ‘whatever works.’ Regarding art itself and perhaps regarding its ‘method’ we may also say ‘whatever works.’ Method is variable—from algorithm to suggestion; in art it is perhaps even beyond suggestion; the method is no method; it is whatever works, whatever survives; it is, as suggested earlier, in the doing (and the capability)