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Art or Expression

PostPosted: March 10th, 2019, 4:18 pm
by Nick_A
Is it fair to say as many do that whatever we call art is art or must art have qualities which separate it from expression?. Briefly as I see it, a work of art like a great painting is the emotional equivalent of text on higher mathematics. Art makes emotional communication of a certain value possible much as a math text makes communication of intellectual ideas possible. From this perspective art cannot be casual expression anymore than a text with lovely numbers. Society has cheapened the concept of art and associated it with casual expression which IMO has had a damaging social effect. It deprives us of respect for a necessary form of communication This is a hard concept to make understandable in a paragraph so I’d like to post a link to excerpts from Leo Tolstoy’s book: “What is Art” It is mind stretch and I believe all of us with an interest in art should become aware of what Tolstoy writes. If art is more than just casual egoistic expression. Art takes place when there is direct emotional communication in the same way that intellectual comprehension is made possible.

…………………#7. Art begins when one person, with the object of joining another or others to himself in one and the same feeling, expresses that feeling by certain external indications. To take the simplest example: a boy, having experienced, let us say, fear on encountering a wolf, relates that encounter; and, in order to evoke in others the feeling he has experienced, describes himself, his condition before the encounter, the surroundings, the woods, his own lightheartedness, and then the wolf's appearance, its movements, the distance between himself and the wolf, etc. All this, if only the boy, when telling the story, again experiences the feelings he had lived through and infects the hearers and compels them to feel what the narrator had experienced is art. If even the boy had not seen a wolf but had frequently been afraid of one, and if, wishing to evoke in others the fear he had felt, he invented an encounter with a wolf and recounted it so as to make his hearers share the feelings he experienced when he feared the world, that also would be art. And just in the same way it is art if a man, having experienced either the fear of suffering or the attraction of enjoyment (whether in reality or in imagination) expresses these feelings on canvas or in marble so that others are infected by them. And it is also art if a man feels or imagines to himself feelings of delight, gladness, sorrow, despair, courage, or despondency and the transition from one to another of these feelings, and expresses these feelings by sounds so that the hearers are infected by them and experience them as they were experienced by the composer.
#8. The feelings with which the artist infects others may be most various - very strong or very weak, very important or very insignificant, very bad or very good: feelings of love for one's own country, self-devotion and submission to fate or to God expressed in a drama, raptures of lovers described in a novel, feelings of voluptuousness expressed in a picture, courage expressed in a triumphal march, merriment evoked by a dance, humor evoked by a funny story, the feeling of quietness transmitted by an evening landscape or by a lullaby, or the feeling of admiration evoked by a beautiful arabesque - it is all art.
#9. If only the spectators or auditors are infected by the feelings which the author has felt, it is art.
#10. To evoke in oneself a feeling one has once experienced, and having evoked it in oneself, then, by means of movements, lines, colors, sounds, or forms expressed in words, so to transmit that feeling that others may experience the same feeling - this is the activity of art.
#11. Art is a human activity consisting in this, that one man consciously, by means of certain external signs, hands on to others feelings he has lived through, and that other people are infected by these feelings and also experience them.
#12. Art is not, as the metaphysicians say, the manifestation of some mysterious idea of beauty or God; it is not, as the aesthetical physiologists say, a game in which man lets off his excess of stored-up energy; it is not the expression of man's emotions by external signs; it is not the production of pleasing objects; and, above all, it is not pleasure; but it is a means of union among men, joining them together in the same feelings, and indispensable for the life and progress toward well-being of individuals and of humanity.
#13. As, thanks to man's capacity to express thoughts by words, every man may know all that has been done for him in the realms of thought by all humanity before his day, and can in the present, thanks to this capacity to understand the thoughts of others, become a sharer in their activity and can himself hand on to his contemporaries and descendants the thoughts he has assimilated from others, as well as those which have arisen within himself; so, thanks to man's capacity to be infected with the feelings of others by means of art, all that is being lived through by his contemporaries is accessible to him, as well as the feelings experienced by men thousands of years ago, and he has also the possibility of transmitting his own feelings to others………………..

Do we underestimate what art is capable of by associating it with expression? Is there a work of art that you believe has touched you and humanity in the way Tolstoy described.

Re: Art or Expression

PostPosted: March 10th, 2019, 5:29 pm
by Serpent
Art is expression. It's one of the many, many forms of human expression - a particular kind of expression. It has a definite subject, objective and medium; the artist has a definite intention in producing it and a vision of the final product.

Some artists have more technical skill and experience than others. Some artists have an individual style, an original form of expression, a clearer vision and a defter hand at realizing their intent.

Some art is good. Most art is mediocre. Some art is bad. And you will never find complete consensus on which works belong in which category.

(While I consider Tolstoy a pre-eminent artist of his time, I happen to find his verbosity... challenging.)

Re: Art or Expression

PostPosted: March 10th, 2019, 7:17 pm
by Nick_A
Serpent, Isn't it the same with a phone call? I think we would agree that a phone call takes place when the caller communicates with the called through the medium of the phone. Why isn't it the same with art? Art occurs when the artist communicates a unique emotion with an observer through the medium of a work of art. When communication isn't taking place neither art or a phone call is but only exist as potentials.

You seem to equate art with expression which most do. Tolstoy suggests that art can only be defined as communication of an emotional quality which expression is only a part.

Re: Art or Expression

PostPosted: March 10th, 2019, 9:23 pm
by Serpent
Nick_A » March 10th, 2019, 6:17 pm wrote:Serpent, Isn't it the same with a phone call? I think we would agree that a phone call takes place when the caller communicates with the called through the medium of the phone. Why isn't it the same with art?

One major category essentially (expression of human brain-activity) - the difference in detail puts them in different sub-categories (practical; psychological)

Art occurs when the artist communicates a unique emotion with an observer through the medium of a work of art.

Art doesn't 'occur'; it's created on purpose. What the artist wants to communicate may be an emotion or emotional state, a concept, a fact of life, a specific situation, an event, a relationship, a place or an aspect of the medium and/or creation itself.

When communication isn't taking place neither art or a phone call is but only exist as potentials.

No, the phonecall doesn't apply, since it has different expressive purposes. When a phonecall doesn't connect with the intended recipient, it has failed. When a work of art is hidden in a basement vault for five hundred years, or stolen by someone who was never intended to see it, or exhibited in a public museum, instead of hanging in the privacy of the artist's lover's bedroom, or the studion burns while it's still on the easel - doesn't matter. It became a work of art when it was created and remains a work of art throughout its existence, however long that is, whether anyone sees it or not.
If an automated cold call was designed with all the skill and craft of an advertising guru, it's a work of art (good, mediocre or bad) even if I hang up in the half-second pause after saying hello, and even if everyone does.

You seem to equate art with expression which most do.

Incorrect. There is no equation: art is a sub-category of a wide range of human expression. I thought I made that clear.

Tolstoy suggests that art can only be defined as communication of an emotional quality which expression is only a part.

That's him. This isn't.

Re: Art or Expression

PostPosted: March 11th, 2019, 12:08 am
by BadgerJelly
Nick -

I’ve been very interested in this topic for a long time now. It is bery difficult to cut through the mess of the words. The term “art” has mulitiple applications. As a simple start how about differentiating between viewing some item artistically and intentionallu producing a piece of art? At least from there you can account for why people disagree about what art is or isn’t.

One example of this difference would be if you walked into a room and saw a cup on a table. If you were in a modern art gallery you would see the cup on the table differently than you would if it was in another setting - the setting in this case frames the artwork. In this way it is clear enough to see, by looking at the traditions and culture of the arts, that some items are much more readily recognised as art and that even the most mundane items can be viewed with an artistic eye regardless of their originally intented purpose.

Also, “beauty” is integral to art. That is not to say art cannot be ugly, only that both beauty ad lack of beauty are on the same pole not disassociated items.

Another point ... there are many to cover so I’ll stop after this one! Mathematics and art are very similar. At hte highest level of both areas the mathematician acts more like we’d generally assume an artist woudl act(creative and open), whilst the artist at their height becomes more precise and robotic, paying immense attention to every little detail, changing a single tone, a word, or the stroke of a brush (the precision of which we’d generally associate with mathematics than a “freedom” of emotional expression). This is something I’ve always found very interesting.

I lied! One more thing. So called “Conceptual Art”. I personally don’t class this as art because to me it is a middle-ground between analytic thought, intellectualism and personal expression. This kind of activity for me falls more into a no mans land bridging between two seemingly incompatible activities (emotional and intellectual thought).

Re: Art or Expression

PostPosted: March 13th, 2019, 9:46 pm
by Nick_A
BJ, i cannot seem to communicate the idea i learned from Tolsty that art is a direct emotional communication of a certain quality. All else is expression. Do you agree or do you define art differently? Here is a similar idea from a different source. Do you agree with Fadeyev's explanation"

.......................Now that we have a definition of value, we can give a definition for “art”: Art is transmission of human value. It is not necessary to go beyond this, but if we wanted a more specific definition we could say that: Art is a method of transmitting human value by means of images, sound and language (language being also accessible through touch).

Three points:

The word “value” here is used in the original context of my definition above – it is something one can feel rather than something that one only states on paper. Thus, it is imperative that the artist feels the object of their work, or else it is not a work of art but an illustration, or some other material output which can be created just as well by a robot or a force of nature.

Art is transmission of the artist’s perception of value, a transmission of his feelings to another person. If a work cannot transmit the intended feeling of value to at least one other person, then it cannot be identified as art. It will be expression without an audience, and so, just as above, it will be merely an illustration or some other object that generates no feeling from the observer, or generates a feeling not intended by the artist.

The value being transmitted must be human, i.e. an ethical value. As mentioned above, animals also have “values”, but they are very basic values that we call drives and instincts. For example, one can easily generate the feeling of surprise or shock in an individual by using some sudden loud noise or some other powerful audio or visual effect. That the artist felt the same emotion of shock as the observer does not make the work art because the feeling is animalistic rather than human.

As I see it art can only be the direct communication of an emotional value by means of a work of art capable of this transmission. If there is no communication then art is not taking place and a person is just expressing themselves. Does that make sense to you?

Re: Art or Expression

PostPosted: March 14th, 2019, 12:11 am
by BadgerJelly
No, it doesn’t make sense to me. If you could provide me with the relevant pages from Tolstoy’s “What is Art?” I’ll take a look.

Re: Art or Expression

PostPosted: March 14th, 2019, 12:20 am
by Serpent
Why don't you both dispense with Tolstoy, who has been dead for over a century and lived in a world completely different from yours - and say what you think, and figure out why?

Re: Art or Expression

PostPosted: March 14th, 2019, 12:51 am
by Nick_A
BadgerJelly » March 14th, 2019, 12:11 am wrote:No, it doesn’t make sense to me. If you could provide me with the relevant pages from Tolstoy’s “What is Art?” I’ll take a look.

Here are excerpts from chapters five and fifteen. As you can see it is what i've been saying.

Fadeyev provides an example of what he calls art and why it is so. Would you agree? ... 2375%7D%7D

Re: Art or Expression

PostPosted: March 14th, 2019, 3:53 am
by BadgerJelly
I’ll read the book in full over the next month or so if I can.

I’m not likely to agree or disagree with anything they say. I simply read people’s thoughts then express my view of the matter. Often I’m not happy with how they define “Art” in the first place. Are we talking about the process of art, the subject matter, or as a manner of viewing the world in general? It’s a nuanced subject matter.

In a roughshod manner I generally view Art as the opposite of Science. Meaning as a methodology they are doing something similar just at different ends of the spectrum. To add at the very extremes they “merge” imo. Art is most certainly embedded in emotion too whilst science “refuses” emotion even though no human (scientist) can do so entirely. Note: I don’t mean “objective” and “subjective” here. That is NOT the point by which I differentiate them.

I’ll post something later about Art Represented Through Time and Space if I haven’t done so already ... need to check!