What Is The Role Of Art?

Apr 4, 2019 By Xiaoze Xie
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When we think of art, we imagine anything from painting and drawing to sculpture, photography, video, performance, animation, graphic design and much more.

Art can take any form to create an experience, to articulate an idea, to share a feeling or message, be it clear or ambiguous.

However, in contemporary art, the boundaries between traditional genres are often blurred. A contemporary artist could combine or repurpose existing objects without making everything themselves. For example, artist Felix Gonzalez-Torres piled a heap of candies in the corner of a gallery, as a way to contemplate love and loss.

Art could be a permanent object, or temporary installation, or a seemingly purposeless action or performance like pushing a block of ice in a neighborhood until it all melts down. It could be a sequence of radio broadcasts of certain messages or organizing a quilting workshop in the neighborhood. Art should be connected with a larger social and political context, the real world around us.

Why is Art Important?

I believe exposure to art, particularly in one’s early development, helps to develop various capacities, such as the ability to observe and analyze, to discover beauty in things that people may overlook, and to find creative, alternative solutions to problems.

The capacities for perception, aesthetics, and creativity are equally important in engineering, science, and other subjects.

In middle and high school, when I started taking geometry, with my skills in drawing I could easily visualize how forms relate to one another very precisely. In physics, I could imagine the flow of electricity, angles of various forces in mechanics and understand the structure of things in a very visual, intuitive, and analytical way.

Some say that language is the most common and useful way of thinking. For me, images, forms, and patterns are also very important to the perception, understanding, analysis, and representation of the world around us.

The Role of an Artist

In ancient times, artists used to be viewed more like craftsmen. They decorated temples or created objects like pottery. Nowadays an artist falls somewhere in between a craftsman and a thinker.

In art, the idea or subject matter is at least as important as the medium by which you express it. In other words, you need to be a thinker. Your work is always related to cultural background, it could also explore or engage very specific social and political issues.

An artist is a thinker, a craftsman, and a social or cultural critic.