Art is a cultural occupation and a necessity.
All societies and groups from the earliest times to today have valued art. The earliest artefacts found thus far date to more than 100,000 years ago. These include beads, figurines and other objects. Humans and our hominid ancestors produced artefacts not just for basic survival purposes but for other purposes, mostly lost to us now. What we do know is that humans and hominids did art. They made things that weren’t essential but seemed necessary in some sense.
Our hominid and ancient human ancestors could have been a lot like us in aspects of their sensibilities and, like us, just enjoyed singing, dancing, playing musical instruments, painting, sculpting, making adornments, designing and embellishing structures. Our distant ancestors and we all have relationships to the world around us, to one another, to groups and what existed as societies, tribes or clans, communities, body politic. Art, in all its forms, says something about our human condition, what we value, the society in which it belongs, our historical niche and beyond. Art is one record of human and hominid existence and their capabilities.
The only other animals who make art are led by humans so I’m not counting the elephant and cat art that people have made fun and money with. Non human creatures tend not to make art unless we call beehives art, ants’ nests art etc. Hominids were making stone tools over two million years ago. These are not art either but tools to sustain basic survival needs.
Art implies the existence of imagination. Someone imagined a bead that could adorn, a figurine that could celebrate or venerate or record something, cave paintings that represented animals, a hunt, a feast, meetings, a dance could tell a story, entrance, music engages the emotions, poems and plays use a story line to exert power, convey a world view, humour or tease us, shock us, books open us to new ideas, worlds. Art in its non written forms expresses what language and physical gestures cannot encompass. All art requires a mind that can conjure up something that wasn’t there before. Art is an imaginative communication and as such is a social practice.
Art communicates imagination, feelings, aspirations, spirit and soul. It can connect us or repel us from one another. It is as natural as cooking, growing food, commerce, building and making things. Art is a language of the emotions and imagination at its deepest. But can be used to convey power, influence, prosperity, to enshrine delusion, magical thinking, to shock as well as to heal and calm. Art entertains, captures beauty.
Some art stays around for a very long time: we can peer into the world of our hominid and human ancestors and wonder what they were thinking when they created images, beads, figurines, buildings. When we see paintings from the 20th century onwards we see that art styles proliferated as never before. Different sensibilities are engaged by looking at a pre Raphaelite painting in contrast to a Van Gogh or Kandinsky. At this time in history we are fortunate to have so many styles of art to appreciate or to make.
Despite the plethora of choices available to make or experience art not all art is welcomed openheartedly. There does appear to be an ‘academy’ style position in many places that venerates the shocking, the ugly, dubious skill (so long as it has a cover story) over the beautiful, skilled, representational or decorative. Sometimes the more messy and childish, but always LARGE, the greater the art critics’ kudos. Yet the beautiful, skilled, representational, decorative still hold people and tell us stories or make us feel expansive. Luckily art appreciation outside the ‘academies’ is democratic. Galleries, museums, cafes, shops, festivals open up to all forms of artistic endeavour. Different people like, are moved or informed by different types of art. That is a good thing as it allows room for all styles and all kinds of appreciation. Anyone can find something that, for them, is aesthetically pleasing, entertaining, interesting without an academic art education. Let’s open up to art in all its myriad forms and allow the people to choose what they like. May the galleries become more democratic to cater for all styles of taste. It is still an historical record of life lived in recent decades.
The art I most enjoy has some or all of the following: is moving, beautiful, political, generates happiness or thoughtfulness, shows skill.
I hope that my art practice will reflect all I’ve gained from my life experiences.