For many years I have worked privately as a Fine Art Conservator ... I'm a picture restorer ..and plenty of times I've been asked "what is art, and what's it for?"
It's a fair question, and as I've studied fine art formally during a Foundation Course in Art and Design, a first degree in Fine Art (printmaking) and a Masters Degree in Fine Art Conservation, I guess I've thought about it quite deeply.
I think art (well that could be anything) I think Fine Art (painting, sculpture and photography ... oh and installations and conceptual art and land art ... ) ... and more widely, Creativity ... is communication. It's simple, that's what art (anything, making a model of Tracey's Island) is all about. We want to tell each other things in a way that doesn't include words, some people use dance (is it art? it wasn't on my Foundation Course) or jewellery (that was), or dresses (yes, frocks too), and we're all communicating something.
What it is we're saying is Another Question. Some people know what they want to say, and the people they're saying it to hear the message clearly and understand, other times it's more complicated. Sometimes we don't know what it is we're saying, only that we must do what we're doing (Close Encounters?) ... sometimes, it isn't clear what we're saying til we've made something and it speaks on its own, and it tells us about ourselves ... now that's really interesting. I paint the landscape in Shropshire, I'm aware that I'm saying that I think it's beautiful, that it's alive and has a character of its own, that it's character is dependent of our own human character, though we might manage the land and manipulate it for our own ends. Maybe I watched too many Eastern European Fairy Tales on TV when I was little. So what happens when you stand in front of a piece of art? It's the aesthetic response ... is it what the artist intended? Did the artist need to tell you in a short essay beside the artwork what it is they're trying to communicate and what it is you're meant to be feeling? Often the message is clear, as in narrative paintings of centuries ago, and sometimes it's simple ... "this is beautiful" ... "she is beautiful" ... "this happened to me" ... "war is hell" ... sometimes it's more complicated, and our response, like the original message, can't be put into words ... cubist paintings ... what do you think? Simply put, art is anything an artist makes. What an artist makes is art, and as we all have something different to say, this seems to account for all the different things, good, bad and indifferent, that comes under the heading of "art". So what do you have on your walls? Original works of art can be bought at very little cost, and what William Morris (Arts and Crafts Movement) said is a good guide "have nothing in your home that you do not know to be useful or believe to be beautiful" and beauty, as we know, is in the eye of the beholder.