How do you analyse whether a painting is doing justice with the ‘real meaning of art’? Artists express their imagination, emotions, and thoughts through the talent of colours, dance, music, sculptures, etc. We, as observers, are caged by our emotions that are evoked by beautiful paintings and other forms of art.
However, IMHO, art has been transformed way too many times and for good. Evolution is an epitome of adaptability and progress. However, with the emergence of contemporary and modern art forms, a lot of art experts have started to question the purpose of art and how it is perceived today.
The Maturation of Art
Art started thousands of years ago when the Stone Age civilisation’s man learned to draw images on the cave walls. These images were the very first of artworks humans ever produced. So, what made those people draw these images? I meant, what was the thinking?
Art has always been associated with the expression of human feelings and emotions. Artists are known to craft enchanting figures, depictions, and designs in the most ecstatic manner to satiate their passion and to convey an ardent or poignant emotion in observers’ hearts.
After the Stone Age, artists slowly learned to draw beautiful paintings on leaves, stones, etc. If you want to look at how exquisite and dazzling a painting would look on leaves, look at Pattachitra paintings. This traditional Indian art is still practiced and displays the elegance and aesthetic blended in one form perfectly.
Traditional forms of art were quite lavish with respect to the selection of subject themes. Gods and Goddess were glorified and portraits of elite personalities became common themes. Representation of war scenes, courtrooms proceedings, religious epics, etc became the favourite subject matter to create beautiful paintings.
During the traditional art period, only the people with power and influence used to summon the artists to make something. The independent works of artists were of no use and had no audience if the riches weren’t interested. Worse, the common public had a very little or no exposure to art.
This didn’t change for centuries and only the special and affluent sections of society continued enjoying the fragrance of art.
It wasn’t until 1410 when Jon van Eyck invented oil paints, the world of art again took a big leap forward. Never before colours that weren’t sourced from natural ingredients were used to make paintings. It was like artists were given a magic wand. With oil paints, the brightness, the briskness, and the vigour of the paintings became altogether different.
During the next 100 years or so, artists came up with some exclusive and high-spirited portraits, live scenes depictions, and enthralling representations. In the 15th century, the era of landscape begun where the concept plein air became popular. Artists started bringing the serenity and the liveliness of outdoor sceneries onto the canvas.
This entire era, till the commencement of the Industrial Revolution, was dedicated to the figurative art, where artists used to make breath-taking imitations in form of beautiful paintings that were inspired from real-life subjects. Art was considered as the talent to bring down the reflection of known elements onto the canvas. Even the artefact makers and sculpture artists also took the same themes.
The evolution of art was yet to take the biggest turnaround that completely changed how art was perceived for more than 80% of the time period it existed.
In the 18th century, the Industrial Revolution started in Europe and America. The urbanisation of these two continents started and the middle class was born. Now, how does it actually affected art?
With the emergence and rise of the middle class, the perception of how and why art is also started to take a new shape. Artists and art lovers both started to refrain and protest that why art is accessible to common people. This also started a wave of transformation that flew in the form of modernism.
The entire idea behind the rise of modernism was to reject the conventional and academic style of art that pushed artists to imitate real-life elements and that too with limited techniques. For the first time, artists started redefining what art truly is. Art was not something that could be caged but it sets you free and lets you bring your imagination on to the canvas in form of beautiful paintings.
With this idea in mind, artists started experimenting with innovative tactics to craft artworks. During the modernism, other art movements hit the art community. These were impressionism, fauvism, cubism, abstractionism, etc. The gist of all these movements was seen into abstraction that took the meaning of art to another level where artists created impeccable designs and patterns that could not be related to the real-life objects.
The emphasis in abstraction was on bringing out such absurd and non-relatable images that compel the observers to extract meaning from the paintings. Abstract artists centred their attention on the utilisation of various dimensional elements like circles, dots, lines, etc to make sense in their paintings. Artists like Jackson Pollock and Pablo Picasso were the eminent abstract artists of such times. Talking about the famous painters of India, S.H.Raza and V.S.Gaitonde were amongst the difference makers in abstraction.
Moving on, abstraction set the rules of art straight and changed the meaning of the word ‘beautiful’ completely. As per modernism, anything that just looks aesthetically appealing is not necessarily beautiful. To have beauty in an artwork, other aspects count like creativity, the emotions that are evoked out of observer’s heart while seeing the painting, the technique that is used, and of course the end result.
Modernism cemented the base for the succeeding form of art, we all know as contemporary. While modernism was all about experimenting to bring out an enthralling end result, the contemporary movement didn’t care about the end result at all.
Art was meant to be a physical end product that artists come out with using his/her wits, talent, imagination, and skills. Not anymore.
Contemporary art movement took the meaning of art a step further. Everyone is an artist in contemporary movement.
A jug kept on a table, a pair of spectacles in an empty room, an empty canvas with a dot in the middle, black cloth with white lines, etc, everything comes under the umbrella of contemporary art.
‘It’s the idea that counts when it comes to art’ is all contemporary movement was directed towards, not the end result. The end result can be anything, but the imagination, the thought that made the artist to create such work is precious. Even the term ‘beautiful’ was made subjective.
A contemporary painting that may look scary to you might look lively and serene to others. It all depends on what sort of experience one has in life. The sort of experiences you had in your life makes your brain to relate with the paintings. So, multiple interpretations of a single artwork are possible. Even abstraction touched this thought but not entirely.
Contemporary art that is typically referred to as the art pieces made after the 1970s is actually the latest evolution or matured version of art. We, as humans, have been succumbed to the changing conscious, mental, and physical comprehensions that we are slowly discovering with time. This has brought us another step closer to understanding the real meaning of what art is.
I won’t say that we have deciphered the true meaning of art but yes, we have never been so close to it either. The next time you have a look at beautiful paintings online or in a gallery, remember the long road that art has travelled to become what it is today. So, yes, art is definitely on the right course and maybe in a span of 100 years or so, we will dig out the much intense and pertinent meaning of art. Thanks!