ART: Part II
By Noel Huntley
We have stated that the essence of art cannot be quantitative, that is, made up of parts but must have true unity, undivided wholeness in order to manifest harmony, completion and beauty. Clearly art must be pleasing and will be if it exhibits these attributes. Let us, however, leave a discussion of the source of these attributes until later.
Does art have to contain perfection? There should be perfection in the sense of completionnothing need be added or subtracted. But there would be varied levels of complexity of this perfection. An abstract work containing a few coloured geometric shapes could have its own simple perfection. A more complex work would make it more difficult to achieve perfection, to interrelate all parts so that there is no sense of absence or excess.
An abstract work can vary from having a pictorial content, which may be purely decorative, such as a design (a pattern: the simplest form of art---it does not invoke any thinking and therefore create any confusion but it has the danger of becoming shallow), to one possessing informational content, which determines the subject of the pictorial content. If it is figurative, a figure may distract the inexperienced spectators from the art within the pictorial content by causing them to think about the figure, which is attention on information; it is not part of the aesthetics of the art. True art is an instantaneous languagenot a product of the thinking process. And it is not meant to be interpreted. It is what it is. Beauty is a language in itself. It is not a mystery that it may never be explainedit wasn't intended to be. The problem is that the human is not in communication with his or her feelings (in particular, aesthetics). These have been discouraged and suppressed so often. We all think much more like a computer or machine.
We have defined art/aesthetics in a fairly specific way, requiring harmony, beauty, completion or perfection, and integrity. What we see today though is far more complex. We might consider works which, say, look aesthetically quite ugly, such as technological, mechanised or industrial ones. That is, there is a message only (since we are giving an example of pictorial ugliness) but not a message that could be replaced by wordsthat is, it may contain a holistic feeling about the subject and depict things in a different way. It may have an emotional content. If enough people receive this communication and this was the artist's intent, then it could be considered art but maybe not art containing pictorial/visual merit. Its informational content, so close to being purely intellectual and non-art, did, say, trigger a gestalt within consciousness, which was singularpossessing integrity. But we are now moving into a different form of art from visualjust as is poetry. Good poetry can be art but it uses an ordinary language, the same language which is used in, say, technical reports. The choice of words and phrases can stimulate consciousness into a more right-brain direct experience in which feelings are invoked that may communicate a different experience: emotional and holistic, causing the individual to look rather than thinkeven if only looking at mental images (in the case of poetry). Thus the imaginary example above may border on art without visual aesthetics but it will be dominated by informational content and will not attain a high level of art itself. We shall explain later what justification we have for implying one form of art is 'better', or more important, than another.
We are now considering a gradient of art works from 1) pure art, to pure art plus other forms of art, to 2) both these (in (1)) plus other forms of communication. There can be different degrees of these modes, with art ('pure art' in (1)), merging into non-art ('other forms of communication' in (2)). Let us explore further what is happening with other forms of communication and introduce this confusing phenomenon by considering a simple example.
Consider a clay model that is, say, quickly created, of a mountain. It may be claimed to be art, particularly since it communicates its meaning to people, which was the full intent of the artist. But this may be strictly another form of communication if it merely reminds one of a mountain. If the artist intended to tell people this is a mountain, it could have been done with words. Thus it is only another form of communication. If, however, it was skillfully done and, say, it captures a certain majesty of the mountain, and it communicates that specific mountain and gives a feeling about it, then it does more than words, and we can call it art. But does it evoke aesthetic emotions, or lower emotions that simply remind one of pleasant aspects about mountains? Thus this example could be a form of art involving feelings on lower levels not possessing or requiring aesthetic visual content. But the latter, if present, would raise it into pure art/aesthetics with increased integrity and beauty.
What we are trying to communicate here is that if the lower emotions are evoked, this occurs from the informational art content, not aesthetics. The mountain triggered memories of, say, pleasant walks on mountains. There is a spacetime 'gap' between the art work and the activation of the emotion, bridged by this informational content. Thus we could class this as informational art, that is, not containing all the attributes required for good art. Whereas pure art is the result of a direct connection between the art work and the viewer's aesthetic sensibility (higher emotions)the work spontaneously invoked an aesthetic frequency pattern (soul level). (The soul level is simply a higher aspect---next fractal level---of consciousness).
We are now moving into a different art form that is based on information, meaning it is triggered by recognisable elements in the art work which then transmits emotions according to what this activates in the mind. It is not direct resonance with energy patterns on the canvass. The concept of 'mountain' or, say, something 'industrial' is detached information. This is now in the category, as mentioned above, of a different art form based on informational content. For example, in poetry the visual tool of the language (the words) does not contain harmony, beauty, etc. but the words transmit information in such a manner that the left-brain language system is transformed into right-brain conceptsinvoking feelings, through resonance with nature or higher states of consciousness (spiritual). We are not, however, saying that poetry is no better than the mountain example but poetry is very limited by language.
We have a gradient, or scale, of feelings from low-frequency mis-emotion through positive emotions to intuition and aesthetics. As we come down this scale of aesthetics to emotions/misemotions, the communication goes from the natural language of art, such as colour, composition, geometry, which may resonate with unconscious aesthetic structures, gradually to information entering into the painting, such as (paying attention to) the subject, which is inherently detached from art and merely providing subject content and a framework. The latter is in category two (art merging into information) which can invoke unconscious expression but the visual art might contain ugliness (and its value is lessened as an art form---art merging into information).
There are different degrees of the ratio art/non-art in most works. The two overlap with complete art at one end of the scale and non-art at the other. As we move along this gradient art to non-art, art loses its precedence and non-art begins to utilise art for its own expression. In this broad category of non-art or other forms of communication, art is being used to convey other forms, that is, a meaning (non-art form) is being communicated and the art form is being used to do thisthus bringing down feelings from the aesthetic sense of true art to lower emotions. In terms of physics, this scale has increasing frequencies and integration (going 'up'). Coming 'down' into lower feelings of emotions the frequencies are lower and there is greater fragmentation of energies.
Having discussed visual art as manifesting in pictorial and informational modes we may arrive at the necessity of forming three categories for the 'art' experience. The first is pure art, which we describe as aesthetics, and in which all techniques or material modes in the communication are subservient to, and are utilised for, the expression of art. The second, a large group, comprises the majority of modern art works, in which other forms of communication are, on a gradient, making art subservient, and utilise art for their expression. The third group is a smaller one and is a mode of communication not aspiring to any true aesthetic qualities, such as most Concept art, Constructivism, and Installation.
Thus there is a range here from pure art to informational art in which art is gradually being dominated by other forms of communication as we go from works demonstrating pure art gradually to other forms of communication (not art). As stated, these other forms are utilising art. When art contains some recognisable information (the subject, such as a landscape), the genuine artist may have to distort realism to convey aestheticsthis is fine, it occurs in Impressionism. The information musn't dominate, push aside the art. Ideally the 'information' must communicate feelings, impresssions which unite with the pictorial art. This becomes much more difficult to achieve as we go from, say, landscapes (making the realism artistic) to (more separated) messages, which are usually intellectual (and this has been our main objection to the validity of informational art).
In the second category (of the three categories above) we are suggesting that many of the effects which the artist is endeavouring to create are expressions which are not dominated by aesthetics. There may be strong feelings about the subject of the art work but this emotion, although represented with talent by the artist may be generating merely lower emotions, misemotions, uglinessexpressions of past trauma of the artist or obsessions.
Nevertheless this mode of art communication, that is, good art but with informational content, say, communicating a condition of the times, is considered important within the art world today, with potential benefits to, or influences on, society in general. All we are saying is that it will not attain the highest level of which art is capable. One must beware of the fact that the attention of the artist may be on tension, chaotic energies, trauma, frustration, and there may be nothing more than the expression of aberration that is being manifested using his or her artistic skills. This wouldn't include such art as, for example, Mondrian's works with their simple, direct, tasteful aesthetics or Leger's beautifully painted mechanical designs.
Francis Bacon was an excellent artist but his strong themes of apparent suffering and distortions of form will not communicate art or aesthetics to the viewer and will tend to deflect the viewer's attention from any artistic renderings that he was fully capable of achievinghis painting skills and sense of colouring were first rate. However, though many of his distorted self-portraits (and others) might be considered more interesting than if they were realistic and they do tend to communicate abstract emotion which directly correlates with the pictorial content, not as informationa requirement of good art.
As we move into category two we get a picture of somethingnot just a picture. This is what we are calling informational art. It has a subject or subject material, no matter how weak; but the informational aspect is being viewed as art. For example, clearly realism has a subject (or subjects) but these subjects depict the known environment and only the pictorial treatment, colour, composition, etc. can provide the aesthetic components. The informational content in realism such as a sad or gay person is not art. As we move into distortions of realism, ranging from Impressionism to greater abstractions, liberties are thus taken by the artist, opening the possibilities for creativity, for creating effects which trigger feelings from hidden resonances within the unconscious. These can range from negative emotions (negative experiences) to positive aesthetics, and the true art value is compromised.
Why can we state that artworks depicting lower emotions are not art but when expressing positive emotions at the aesthetic level are art? Firstly, we strictly are referring to that part in the work (it may not be all of it) that deals with what we call the lower emotions, which is not art. The rest of the work visually might qualify as art and evoke higher emotion. The work, in part, may still express higher aesthetic concepts and be highly qualitative pictorially (visually). Or, of course, the totality or the work might fail to qualify as art.
An objection may be raised against this viewpoint that in referring to much of the better works of category two, why can't we call them good art, or even great art, in which we admit the artist may be successfully communicating a mood or capturing a theme? The reason is that even assuming the observers have the capacity for artistic appreciation and the artist is getting through to them, the emotional level invoked, such as disgust, sadness, tension without release, and other, say, more abstract states on a similar level, is not of the same order as aesthetic feelingsthe communication might, however, be successful, meaning the artist has succeeded in what was intended. The key is the emotional level and this is where physics comes to the rescue as we have previously implied.
Communication of fine art involves a higher frequency than, say, verbal language. The greater the integrity of the art work the higher the frequencythis would be the upper band of emotion and feelings which we are calling aesthetics. Misemotion, agitation, fear, etc. would be in the lower band. There is a special relationship, probably universal, between integration and differentiation. The greater the wholeness (integration) the greater the differentiation, refinement, and the higher is the frequency; that is, the finer are the elements which make up the whole. (There isn't the space to explain the physics of this except that the larger whole oscillationgreater 'area' of interaction of the positive and negative energythe greater is the pressure in the wave and therefore rate of oscillation, that is, frequency.)
What can we say about aesthetics? Just as languages have words or unit meanings that can be combined to form a variety of larger whole meanings (a phrase or sentence), aesthetics will comprise quantum states of feeling tones of particular frequency patterns which can be combined to form further aesthetics meanings. A state of joy can be a causative, energy-frequency pattern in its own rightnot just an effect of something from some external experience. We may search forever for the meaning of beauty but never find it from intellect since it is a language in itself and requires no further breakdownit will have a frequency pattern. Our unconscious senses this but leaves our conscious mind with a mystery, like waking up after an abstract dream that was fully understood in the dream state but now incomprehensible and forgotten in the waking state of linear thought. Great paintings come into being from the unconscious, as stated by many great artists.
These intuitive/feeling/aesthetic states evoke emotions, in fact use emotions but not the lower-frequency negative emotions of, for example, sadness and grief, etc. A painting may contain sadness realistically illustrated, but if it is good art an artistic spectator will not tune into the sadness vibration but the higher-aesthetic feelings. However, another less appreciative person will resonate with the sadness. The latter is not what the painting is about if it has meritone is expected to override the realistic subject-material influence, involving lower emotions; just merely observe it.
To what extent can informational art be art? This is our second very broad category. Let us consider an analogy in music, which is less complex, and more clear cut. Consider Grieg's piano work To Spring. The composition conveys the impression of weather sound-effects: the breaking of a storm, thunder, showers and sunshine, ending with the final pitter-patter of rain drops. Although the impression is excellent, one needn't pay any attention to the impressionistic aspects, or even be aware of them, to appreciate the music. The music is not at all dependent on recognising what it represents. Thus the aesthetics is not sacrificed for the weather impression. The finer waveform (higher frequencies and greater integrity) of the aesthetic concept of the music is complete in itself but it carries the harmonics of the cruder waveform of the impressionistic material. The two, aesthetics and impression, must unify as one wholewhich they do.
Now, to represent weather by musical sound requires great skill. In art, however, it is easier to represent an idea (informational art), and subsequently neglect the art content of a work. The nature of art obviously has pictorial format. It is visual and an idea more easily avails itself to representational information. Thus mediocre artists can express ideas in this visual mode (and become known). But mediocre musicians can't express many impressionistic effects very successfully and it is not particularly popular anyway. In Impressionist art, aesthetics and information (the recognisable impressions) merge because the subject itself is totally conducive to artistic rendering. The nature of the information is based on visual idea (such as an old chair) as opposed to thought idea (illustrating an activity).
Distortions may be used to communicate an idea; this should help the viewer to avoid focussing too much on realism, but unfortunately may cause no appreciation. Unfortunately ugliness can distract just as much as pleasant realism. (To be fair to the artist we must point out that some viewers will see ugliness in a distorted face or in an illustration of death, but which may not be aesthetically ugly due to the artist's successful rendering.) Application of the distortion helps to release the attention from a conventional view of a subject, allowing the innate artistic imagination to fill in the 'gap'. The modern mind is massively structuralised and these structures need to be broken down or overridden.
Much of modern art, which 'tells' us what to think, depicts the world that we live in. Ideas of the times lend themselves to visual, figurative and informational representation for the simple fact that such ideas are usually visual. However, ideas (of the times) as expressed as sound (for example, music) are not easily expressed. One of the drives behind modern art is to break away from the formal and limited modes of conventional communication, and consequently correspondingly breakdown the extreme formatting of consciousness that takes place in a society such as ours. A person sensitive to this 'narrow-mindedness' of societal programming will rebel against these stifling templates (programming) imposed on our thinking and expression, and the artist may express this rebellion.
In the third group, we mentioned the examples of Concept and Constructivist art. We are veering clearly away from pure art or aesthetics (which is art for the sake of art and should be) and encountering motivations of a different kind. The Conceptual art of Duchamp's 'ready mades' such as the urinal, sent to the annual exhibition in New York; the crater made with emplosives by Weiner (a one-man show in California); the complicated contraption by Tinguely, including a old piano, equipment and fire chemicals, and which was electrically powered, witnesssed by an invited crowd to shake and burn itself to destruction; and a final example in the medium of sound (or silence) in which performers for a piece of music called 4' 33" which lasted 4 minutes and 33 seconds but in which the players merely indicated the beginning and the endthere was no music, no soundare all expressions which force us to consider something other than art.
How important is the presence of a subject in modern art? Let's consider Severini's The Boulevard. If we envisage it without the subject it still registers as an excellent work. But humans seem to prefer a subject. Yet this poses greater difficulties for the artist. These two factors, preferring a subject plus greater ingenuity required of the artist, seem to enhance the communication and interest. Severini utilises his own cubist style but extremely tastefully and aesthetically. The subject content is evident from the title, The Boulevard, and is just recognisable as a boulevard with shoppers amongst the complex but harmoniously and colourfully chosen, interwoven geometric shapes. Thus we can conclude that a subject, even in extreme abstract art, gives enhancement to the work. It gives a more interesting experience and acts as a focus for the viewer to integrate the picture more three dimensionally instead of two (a flat surface). In addition, the artist has also intended this.
Let us comment on technique. It is a measure of how well one is able to represent an ideait is the skill aspect, and does not give quality in itself. The aesthetic ability of the artist organises the graphical elements to produce a single or unified qualitative feeling. Obviously this should be pleasurable otherwise it cannot be art, by its own definition. What if the technique is so good that the person could copy a great painting, including the quality and aesthetics; or similarly a musician could copy the 'interpretation', musical ability, of a great musician.
In the case of the musician there is no way even the ultimate level of skill could copy the refinements that a good musician puts into the performance of a piece of music. The reason is that the refinements are dictated by the whole perception, which is a property of the artistic and musical ability and manifests from the 'unconscious' (higher soul fractal-level of consciousness). Obviously a record can copy it, or a photograph can copy a great painting. However, art is not quite so clear cut. The person copying can continuously make the comparison and make adjustments, whereas the musician has only one whole chance at a time. Thus the art copyist could get much closer to the required accuracy for expressing the quality and unity by copying. The main point is that the technique did not create anything.
Let us look at the extent to which the artist is dependent on the viewer's perception and appreciation of art. The over left-brain development through our educational system is the first problem. The left-brain analytical mind will not recognise artistic qualities; it will only perceive the parts, and furthermore such a perception will immediately trigger associations of anything pictorial in the artwork. In general, upbringing and education removes that freshness of vision of the child; the ability to actually see what is in front of it. This is the direct resonance with the object of perceptionunity consciousness, not duality or polarity, which is perceiving the environment as totally objective and separate.
The next problem is that the spectator may receive emotional associations, such as a painting reminding them of some pleasant past incident, or even unpleasant. This experience of the past will often determine the viewer's opinion of the art. Clearly this has nothing to do with art.
When the spectator views a painting, if there is recognition of something familiar, we are calling this 'something' informational. The problem is, as already indicated, when there is recognition, the viewer tends to project the familiar forms of the realism into complete realism. Even if it is a realistic work the attention shouldn't be on 'how skillful a representation is the object?' These are habitual programmed effects which the viewer must overcome. A good artist when viewing an art work is especially able to break down programming and perceive something as it is, instead of dwelling on unrelated associations in the mind, as generally occurs with the layman. The viewer may also of course only observe the lower emotional content of the work, assuming it is there; or ideally the viewer may experience the aesthetics of the artif it is present.
Now even though the artist can use his or her right brain to cut through the thinking process of unrelated data associations (which a child does naturally since the mind is uncluttered), artists have strong feelings which will not always be in the higher band of emotion, that is, aesthetics (containing only harmony and beauty). Great artists appear to have been preprogrammed (before their life?) with great drive to paint and continue to paint, no matter what. Taking into account that no one has a life (or past lives) free from suffering, conflict or trauma, the artist is inevitably going to find out he or she can use visual skills to express these energieswith benefit to themselves. Hence the fact that we do have visual art being used therapeutically for non-artists. These disharmonious experiences may be expressed very successfully but it may have nothing to do with high art and aesthetics. Many modern artists, including Picasso, are doing this but since they are very capable artists they will generally execute the negative, emotional expression skillfully, and if achieved integrallyretaining one wholeit could be merited as art of category two.
Thus the artist, when expressing these deep feelings relating to problems, will (unwittingly) understand their work much better than the viewer. The artist has the background, unconscious context of what is being expressed, but the viewer only has what is on the canvass and what may be triggered off in his or her own case, or unconscious, and the appreciation may not occur. This would also apply to more positive expressions.
Picasso might feel that a normal, realistic portraitlike a frozen frameis totally inadequate to express the three-dimensional head and personality. Thus he may superimpose two faces, which in his unconscious he may be accommodatingit may work for him. But to anyone else the distortion cannot be reconciled to make sense. Note that Leonardo da Vinci probably succeeded in doing this to some degree with the Mona Lisa by utilising a very slight displacement of two superimposed viewpoints (see article on Mona Lisa).
The number-one English artist Francis Bacon was an interesting and intelligent character. His gruesome paintings were not seen as such by himself. It was his way of re-inventing reality, of breaking through conventional representation with the intention of simplifying and intensifying this reality. He discredited pictorial art and pure abstract as decorative, except where in a few cases in his opinion something more was being said. He was fascinated by flesh and meat (as in butcher's meat); also open mouthsgums, teeth, etc. (thus his figures weren't really screaming).
As mentioned earlier, this would be an example of unconscious expression of negative elements and was probably well done, but merely giving another form of art of limited value (no beauty, harmony, etc.) or even not going beyond the classification of other forms of communication, but which are skilfully executed. Nevertheless, it may be a little clearer now how the problem with perception, deteriorating into 'thinking' rather than 'looking' could give rise to our current informational art as opposed to pure aesthetics, and not realising this.
We will conclude in Part III with a summary of the complexities of the art media and an evaluation of the possible sources of the art drive, whether it is aesthetics, or lower emotions expressing negativity and distortions.
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