What is Art?

For the artist, art is a means of expressing emotions and feelings.  Of taking something off your chest or venting steam. Unburdening.  Or of sharing love for something or someone, or the admiration, the enchantment, caused by beauty. These feelings boil so intensely inside the artist that he needs to regurgitate, vomit, express them before he himself explodes or implodes.

We can do this individually, through a kiss, a hug, a punch, a grunt, an angry shout or a n enigmatic Mona Lisa smile.  But art does this collectively.  Art allows the artist to express himself to people he will never meet, but that will come into contact with his work.

But what about the spectator, the reader, the one who listens to a composition or stops to look at a painting in a museum or gallery?  What is art for him?  When I listen to music, watch a film or theater play, admire a painting or a photograph, or read a book, I am never sure about what went on in the artist´s head when she was creating that ouvre.  I can try to guess, but in the end the only one who knows is the creator.

But the ouvre will impact me, will cause feelings and emotions to bubble up inside of me.  They may not be the same ones the artist wanted to express. And most probably they will not be as intense as the feelings the artist had when creating.  But if the work of art is strong, it can generate a chain reaction in its public, causing an outburst of sentiment or emotion diluted in each one of us spectators (I am calling a spectator he/she who admires a work of art, be it a film, a book, a dance, a painting, a photograph, a sculpture, etc.). And sometimes this sentiment will reverberate throughout an entire society and can influence the thought and ethos of a generation. Or it can lead to other people expressing themselves as well, lead them to think about themes that previously did not concern them. And these reflections and provoked feelings can lead to action – collective or individual.  They can change a small or large part of the life of a person, and consequently of a family, a group, a community or even a nation.

Or a work of art can simply provide comfort to a spectator, make her feel that she is not alone in a crowd.  It can lead a spectator to a state of meditation where the past and the future disappear and he simply dives into the present, into the now.

But the artist does not know this when he is creating.  He may have the ambition that his work will change the world.  But deep down, what the artist wants is to express an intimate feeling.  If this will have consequences or not, it will depend on the spectators, who mix in their own loads of emotions and sentiments with what they receive from the work of art, and thus amplify it, dilute it or create something new.

That is the great thing about art: the artist aims at what he sees, and hits what he doesn’t see in each one of the spectators that is touched by his work.

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