Sunday, November 20, 2005

Interview with Myself

Willem: "So here we are in Edinburgh College of Art and Design."
Willem: "Yes, this is the place where I do my studies for the next few years..."

Willem: "Art and Design, what is the difference ?"
Willem: "Art is something tangible and new created by human skills, the purpose of which is to communicate ideas and feelings using visual means."

Willem: "Right, so how do we recognize this something as a piece of art ?"
Willem: "A work of art has the capacity to stand alone, conveying its message to the observer through the visual experience without a need for interpretation or reference to subject matter."

Willem: "That is not to say that all art is great, right ?"
Willem: "Great art is of 'a reality transcending nature' ", as Thomas Hoving so rightly wrote in his book after he saw for the first time an astonishing thirteenth-century painting.

Willem: "But, design is also about human skill, creativity, a tangible product, and the communication of ideas ?"
Willem: "Unlike art, design also implies utility. It involves an object for use. Designed objects communicate their use."

Willem: "Are you an Artist or a Designer ?"
Willem: "To make a work of art or design one needs an artist or designer. To come up with ideas and how a work of art or design is going to communicate these ideas needs another human skill; imagination."

Willem: "So you are at first an 'imaginator' ?"
Willem: "That's right."

Willem: "Thank you."
Willem: "Thank you too."


After listening to this interview will Willem have been right? Are works of art that easily identifiable? Let's investigate his presumptions...

TEST I: A piece of art is something tangible and new.

What about something intangible, like a thought. Like 'Michelangelo - The Artist' versus 'Michelangelo - The Thinker'. Would that falsify Willem's definition of Art?

According to Ayn Rand, Philosopher in The Romantic Manifesto:

The reason is not that art is opposed to thought, but that art is thought. The artist is a thinker who does his thinking in the form of art (i.e., by creating a concrete art-work in a particular art-form such as music, sculpture, or dance). Art cannot be reduced to philosophy, for it is an independent intellectual and creative realm.

Each art work is an expression of the subject in the context of the values, culture, and events of its specific era.

Therefore, art is tangible and new.

TEST II: A piece of art is something created by human skills.

In early Western art, nature was often little more than a backdrop for depictions of Greco-Roman myths and Christian figures and narratives. Nature per se is generally said to have become a prominant theme in Western art only in the late eighteenth and early nineteenth centuries. In contrast, nature has always had a special significance for the Japanese, especially in the arts, for it was within nature that the Japanese defined their place, their raison d'être in the world.

In an attempt to understand how the Japanese have traditionally looked upon nature, I would like to refer to the wellknown speech delivered by author Yasunari Kawabata [1899-1972] when he accepted the Nobel Prize for Literature in 1968. Entitled "Japan the Beautiful and Myself," the oration focused on a discussion of the phrase

Setsugekka is linguistically composed of three elements: snow [setsu] , the moon [getsu] , and flowers [ka], three elements that appear repeatedly in Japanese painting and fine arts.

Snow [setsu]: expressing the winter season; serves as a symbol of the world of winter, darkness, and death and as a foreshadowing of life to come.

Moon [getsu]: providing a year-round constant in the night sky; although the moon is but a single entity, it reveals itself again and again, in perfect form, everywhere. As a reflection it can appear in a solitary drop of water in the palm of one's hand or in a droplet of dew on a blade of grass. Yet, despite this seeming power to divide and multiply, the moon itself is constant, something that never leaves us. And because it always remains in the sky, though ever waxing and waning, the moon represents the fundamental truths of the universe that are known and shared by all living beings

Flowers [ka]: symbolizing the myriad plants and trees in endless transition amidst the cycle of the four season; in flowers they perceive the universal laws of nature, the unending cycle of life: birth, death, rebirth.

Still the work of art itself is made by man, not nature.

TEST III: A piece of art has as its purpose to communicate ideas and feelings.

Probably the oldest purpose of art is as a vehicle for religious ritual.
Art may also serve as a commemoration of an important event.
Art has often served as propaganda or social commentary.

Art may be simply a means of recording of visual data-- telling the "truth" about what we see.

Art is also a powerful means of storytelling.

Art can also convey intense emotion.

In any case, one of the primary functions of art is to interpret the subject matter at hand.

Subject matter does not change all that much over time. Although new subject matter has evolved, the human condition, nature, and events still continue to capture the attention of artists. The media used have changed relatively little; though new materials have appeared in this century, the conventional media continue to be used. Nor can we say that the quality or artistic merit of art works has increased or lessened with time. However, throughout the course of history as society has changed, so also has the interpretation of specific subject matter.

Some famous phrases by the Spanish painter, Pablo Picasso, may shed light on the true purpose of (a piece of) art:
"The purpose of art is washing the dust of daily life off our souls."

"Art is the elimination of the unnecessary"

"Art is a lie that makes us realize truth."

TEST IV: A piece of art uses visual means.

The Five Senses

The reason behind this statement about art is that 80% of what a human being perceives comes from his or her foremost sense: Vision or Sight.

The other four senses (Touch, Hearing/Sound, Taste, and Smell) account for only 20% of what we sense.

This is what they look like under a microscope, funny receptors!

And this is where they live in our brain...

Senses in our brain

In fact, if you touch something with your fingers, the following spots in your brain are triggered..

Hand and Brain

You wouldn't want to loose sight in one or two eyes, because your vision and perception of the world would be severely limited.

And you would not be able to enjoy Art so much!


Alright, so can we do The Quiz on Art or Design?

Object A: Art or Design?

Takashi Murakami - Jellyfish Eyes

Object B: Art or Design?

Gerrit Rietveld - Chair

Object C: Art or Design?

Amanda Dumas - Chicken Purse

Well, sleep well Willem ... and just Imagine you will be a great artist or designer.

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Doerak said...

I sent my comment but it did not reach you. So I try again to send a comment on behalf of the most original interview.
Whatever it may be in the future, art and or design: with all those marvellous ideas you just will be an successful artist/designer or perhaps filmproducer! Goos luck.
Emma Staf

Doerak said...

Goos luck must be good but you did understand!

WvanHeemstra said...

Thank you very much! It's the people I hang out with that inspire me. Willem

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