Is art mere faithful representation, an aesthetically pleasing image, a concept, a symbol or something that lifts us out of our ordinary, everyday, problem solving, beta wave consciousness, into our higher mind where we can access the deeper, broader awareness of the metaphysical realm?
Go into any homeware store and you will find factory reproduced canvas’s with tasteful, contemporary, geometric designs painted or printed on them. But are these pictures, however well composed in terms of colour and design, really art?
When I look at Van Gogh’s Iris’s I don’t just see a beautifully composed design that will add colour to my walls, impress my friends, or compliment my furnishings I see the visual metaphor for how it feels to be alone in a crowd. The white Iris, just off centre, not jostling, nor particularly well lit, obscure and unremarkable, yet extraordinary for its difference from the wild colour surrounding it.
It could be argued that Andy Warhol created vacuous, throwaway, superficial designs rather than art but that would be to forget that the concept behind his mundane images of celebrities such as Marilyn Monroe or everyday commodities such as Campbells soup tins was to present the question of what really constituted art to his audience. With this the work itself, rendered in canvas and ink became more than its medium, it questioned concepts such as value, meaning, consumerism, scarcity and demand. Could there be a more relevant question for art to ask in the modern age?
Great art is able to fuse both meaning and beauty. It is able to reveal the hardest truths, ask the deepest, most taboo questions, elevate our humanity and bestow dignity upon the most mundane human tasks. Great art expresses both the core experiences of our shared humanity and our most sublime aspirations. Most radically, it perhaps even infers that paradoxically, our deepest truth may also be our most transcendent.