The line between art and everyday

After a recent discussion with my sister about how perfumers are considering themselves artists now, it got me wondering: how far does art extend, and when should we separate art forms from everyday’s undertakings.

You’re probably thinking, ‘Well how do you actually define art?’, and the answer is: The expression or application of human creative skill and imagination.

The definition specifies that it must be human; so that quite rightly removes any ambiguity over technology’s role in art. I think this specification of human skill is what can lead to people dissociating certain mediums that rely heavily on technology from art. For example: dance music – I know plenty of people who don’t believe it should be classed as music let alone art; because of its dependence on computers.

Another obvious example is photography – if you think for a minute you realise that before, when the cameras were completely a tool, and not capable of anything else, Photography was an undisputed art form. As the cameras have progressively made it easier to take an image without the skill to operate the tool itself, it is becoming more uncertain. But this logic is reasonable; it would be like a guitar that didn’t need any dexterity to play – an instrument where all you have to do is say what notes you want played and it would play them exactly how you wanted. However it still requires skill to orchestrate these buttons, and creativity to compose something appealing.

Another topical discussion is whether drawings and paintings that are created using a touch tablet and stylus should be considered art – as again they are having some of the skill normally required taken away. Instead of mixing paints you can simply select which colour you want; instead of changing brush and learning a stroke style, you can just choose a different brush preset. However, you still couldn’t create anything interesting without already having the skill of knowing how to draw in order to get proportions correct, how to shade the subjects realistically, and most importantly what to draw in the first place. I think this is something we are going to have to accept in our upcoming years – as our technology seeks to make everything easier and more accessible, less tasks will become as respected, as more and more people are able to do them. I hope that this may lead to a general better understanding of art, and that art will become more about what a peice expresses and how it’s composed rather than the focus being on how difficult it is to create.

My dad’s hot topic is the Tate Modern; he fails to see why many of the pieces in there are considered art. On certain points I can actually agree with him, which is a change. He came across a piece that looked at first like an empty frame, but upon closer inspection there were two small dots on the paper inside. Now this is of very arguable creativity, and very little skill (that is of course unless the artist created it with only the use of his left foot). However the famous ‘Unmade bed’, which he also criticised, tells a story about the life of woman, and it’s only through close inspection and pondering that this is realised. Granted it’s not overly difficult to create a messy bed, I manage it daily, but at the same time it is a very creative idea.

I think the issue is knowing at what point the artist needs to realise that whilst he’s being incredibly creative by doing something that no-one has done before that this alone isn’t enough, that the piece still needs have a purpose, a message to put across, a story to tell.

The creativity always outweighs the skill on the art scale, so something can be extremely creative and not highly skilled, whereas if the opposite were true, that would allow areas like soldering up circuit boards and roofing to be classed as art. I believe it’s the same reason artists like Picasso and Monet are such big hits. Whilst both did very technically accurate and normal paintings, we don’t know them for that, we know Picasso for his wacky cubism, and Monet for his paintings involving thousands of dots. I believe this comes from the thinking of the viewer that they want to see something that they couldn’t do themselves, and so seeing something extremely obscure satisfies that within them.

I think a key message is to remember no matter what medium you are using, whether it be a computer instead of a piano, a digital camera instead of 35 mm film, a tablet instead of a paintbrush and canvas, the creativity and skill are still there. So, rather than defining a list of careers that I think could come under the art umbrella, I’ve tried to help you decide for yourself.

Jamie

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