The Function of Art

On the function and purpose of art.

The function of art in my thinking is to act as a mirror. It reflects our inner dreams, vision, and purpose. It is the outward appearance of an inward expression.

Ever since the first cave paintings of the prelinguistic era, human beings have come up with ways of transferring and translating their emotions, desires, and spiritual connection with nature itself to each other.

Whatever form or activity it takes, art permeates throughout history’s weave with considerable momentum in revealing something about the context, the culture, the individual and the collective.

The Form

Clive Bell, an English aesthetician who studied beauty, invented the term “significant appearance” to describe how different something is from others. Bell says that art is made up of significant form, which is what makes it different from other objects in the world.

Significant form refers to those qualities in a work of art that evoke an emotional response from the viewer simply by virtue of their arrangement and composition.

For example, Bell believed that certain arrangements of line, color, and shape in a painting could create a sense of beauty or excitement that was not present in the individual elements on their own.

This is because these qualities work together to produce something new and powerful–something that transcends physical reality. It’s one way to capture our understanding of what makes art distinctive and valuable to us as human beings.

Another way to understand art as form is through the formalist perspective, which emphasizes the importance of the aesthetic qualities of a work of art.

According to this view, art is primarily concerned with formal elements such as line, color, shape, texture and composition. These elements are arranged by the artist in a deliberate and thoughtful way to create an artwork that evokes an emotional or intellectual response.

From this perspective, what makes a work of art valuable and interesting is not necessarily its subject matter or representational content but rather the way in which it presents formal elements.

Formalists argue that these qualities are universal across cultures and periods in history - they transcend specific contexts or meanings. In some cases, this emphasis on form can lead to a rejection of any kind of external reference or meaning beyond the artwork itself - for example in abstract or non-objective art.

However, other artists may use form as one aspect within their larger exploration of themes or ideas. It is the inevitable mark of an artist to show people something they had forgotten in the midst of their busyness. Art has the power to stop us in our tracks, even affecting us so strongly as to make one blackout just by viewing a painting.

The Spirit

There is something deeply spiritual in all great art. Alex Grey called it an art spirit, which takes over the artist momentarily and induces an experience of inspiration. For Grey, art is a means of accessing or expressing spiritual realities that are otherwise difficult or impossible to put into words.

He believes that by creating beautiful and thought-provoking artwork, he can help viewers connect with their own spiritual nature and the divine mysteries of life.

Grey often places great emphasis on the use of sacred geometry in his work–such as the flower of life pattern–which he views as a fundamental aspect of the natural world and representative of universal order. He also explores themes such as life cycles, death, rebirth, transcendence and interconnectedness.

One example of Grey’s artwork where these elements are evident is his painting “Net Of Being”. In this piece we see human figures interlinked with one another within a larger web-like structure which represents our interconnectedness.

At deeper levels there lies information about scientific advancements like quantum physics theories but also reveals intellectuality in Vedic science meanings behind symbolism. He described the process of creating art where one first tackles a problem of the subject. And this might take some time in some cases.

Next comes saturation, or the period of information gathering and research about the given subject. And then something more peculiar called incubation, which means letting one’s subconscious come up with a suitable response to the subject.

Then, the next step, although not necessarily sequential, is an inspiration in which you develop your own unique solution to the problem.

What follows is the outward expression of translating the solution to a form of some kind. And lastly, integration of sharing and receiving feedback. Although, not everybody in the artist community will agree with this.

But I think that feedback is often necessary, but other times is not. It all depends on what was its purpose or intent. If it’s the end goal to get followers or likes, then you’re doing it wrong.

Art should be firstly created for the enjoyment of one’s self and then others. Although, there is an argument that one can make art as a service for others. I’m sort of halfway to the situation on this.

The Vision

One also has to have a vision in their work, to not merely become a “technician” of art who relies solely on their technique in producing the most fantastic details ever. Although I suppose that’s a skill to be admired just like any other. But to my mind, it lacks something.

And so the mystical vision is the highest form of vision, to my thinking. And many artists who have “come back” from it, say, through psychedelics, have remembered what it was like and translated their vision into this outward work of art. But this requires great skill.

First, you need a technique with which to bring about your art to life. You can’t just slap a bunch of ink on a piece of paper and expect the vision to coalesce like magic unless you know what you’re doing. And many skilful artists find that once you have the balance of vision and technique you can do anything, even slap that ink.

So one should hone their craft and skill so they don’t become rusty. If you’re a writer, write every day. If you’re a painter or an illustrator, do that every day if you can. Always be ready to put down your thoughts. So that is why I keep a diary these days.

The next thing one needs is loads of patience. If you don’t have the patience to sit down for more than 5 minutes, your work is left to be desired. And I know this from experience, struggling with it. But I am also passionate towards my creative venues. And this is another thing one needs, the enthusiasm to create.

Art in relation to the artist’s vision is a perspective that emphasizes the role of the individual artist as a unique creative force. This view suggests that art is not simply a matter of technique or skill, but rather an expression of the artist’s personality, beliefs, and experiences.

From this perspective, art reflects the individual vision or viewpoint of the artist. The artwork represents a personal interpretation and an attempt to communicate their ideas and feelings through visual means.

In this sense, each work of art becomes a window into its creator’s psyche–revealing insights into their thoughts, emotions and worldview. The artist’s vision can be informed by many different factors including cultural background, personal history and psychology.

For instance there are some artists who draw on memories from childhood experiences as inspiration for their works while others may create pieces that reflect current issues facing society.

This view highlights that artists bring their own distinct set of talents and perspectives to bear on their work which influences how they approach subject matter within it.

They have unique visions which sets them apart from others thus leading to much diversity within artistic practice whether it be pop art or abstract expressionism.

Understanding art in relation to the artist’s vision allows us not only to appreciate an artwork on its own terms but also appreciate what makes each piece truly original–reflecting both universal themes alongside subjective personal experience underpinning it.

The Genuine

But so many fields of creativity, as I sometimes call them, tend to shake the genuineness out of artists. Instead, they become cogs in the machine, working or forcing themselves against the clock. And so their mark is bereft of vision often because you are doing as they order you.

But I’ve also heard an argument from someone who said that having a deadline doesn’t need to diminish the talent. On the contrary, it can feed it. And that is true; I have sometimes done more interesting artwork when limited by time than on other occasions where there was plenty.

But time in itself doesn’t or shouldn’t even matter. What I mean by patience is the mode of creativity and not the actual chronology of it.

There was a Zen master who created a famous and “timeless” tree with ink, and he only used 20 minutes for it! So the mode of creativity is one where you are in the moment and not worrying about something other than the activity.

And there’s also a thing whereby you limit yourself to only a few colours so that you focus more on the actual values or detail. So it can work both ways in cultivating art.

Art that is genuine is considered to be authentic and sincere. It reflects the artist’s true feelings, beliefs, and intentions without being forced or contrived. Genuine art feels natural, unforced, and spontaneous–it comes from a place of honesty and originality.

When an artist creates genuinely, they tap into something deep within themselves that inspires their creative output. This can take many forms–music, painting or dance for instance–but at the core lies an essential truth that’s conveyed through this means of expression.

One way to tell if art is genuine versus forced or contrived is by looking at how it makes you feel as a viewer. A work of art that’s truly genuine will resonate with you on a deep level–it will touch your heart or soul in some way and leave you feeling moved or inspired.

An artist who creates in a forced manner might try to conform to certain expectations from their audience which restricts authenticity in their work due to fears surrounding reception/economic viability etc..

On the contrary, when creating genuinely, artists tend not too worry about public reception but focus on conveying what they feel needs expressing authentically as this gives more fulfillment from the creative process.

But this insistence that we ought to force ourselves to work when we don’t want to can be detrimental depending on the field of art. It might work more for writing than for painting, at least in my experience. But I don’t enjoy painting if I’m doing it because I have to.

So I would much preferably take sufficient time to think through and ruminate on my subjects because I know that will pay off in the long run. And one also mustn’t neglect their working environment. If one’s studio or place of creativity is in shambles or uncomfortable, it affects their work.

The Surprise

Art in relation to surprises is a perspective that emphasizes the importance of unexpected elements within an artwork. Surprises can come in many different forms–from unexpected visual motifs, to surprising use of colours or techniques.

No great artist wants to create something that people have already experienced. Although, I suppose the movie industry, in particular, is guilty of this.

Surprises inject a sense of unpredictability into an artwork which keeps viewers engaged and interested. This often leads to a more exciting and dynamic creative experience, as the audience constantly discovers new facets of the piece.

One example where artistic surprise is present can be seen in Vincent Van Gogh’s “Starry Night” painting where his representation of sky with such vivid strokes giving sense of motion was something never seen before during period he painted it in thus making it stand out and gaining significance through time due to its originality.

Another relevant application is when we look at contemporary installation art, which often incorporates interactive or immersive elements that challenge expectations about what art should be and how we interact with it.

For instance visitors might walk through dark rooms filled with lights only showing visibility at certain points pre-planned by artist thus creating realizations for viewers around their own perception.

So, one should always aim for the unexpected because it delights, or equally, dis-draughts us if done right. So every great artist operates in the domain of surprises. It’s the twist that makes things interesting.

But a lot of people settle for the already known. That’s why binge-watching your favourite tv shows is so popular. It gives a feeling of familiarity and security.

But fuck that, I say. Let’s go where no person has gone before! So yes, familiarity has its place, but to experience truly impactful art, you have to be ready for a shock.

The Culture

But throughout history, art has been the recipient of suspicion and denial. Some people have been and are against genuine expression. And this culminated in nazi Germany, where they had an entire gallery dedicated to banned artworks.

And people are still doing the same sort of thing. They want to limit human expression in all ways they can. And that is called fascism, pure and simple. And may I be so bold as to recommend a video? It is called “Who’s Afraid of Modern Art: Vandalism, Video Games, and Fascism.” It is on YouTube.

I think it does a bang-up job of portraying this particular form of limitation, where people are afraid of the fundamental creative expression of the human being. Why? Because it threatens the accepted norms of culture and society and challenges authority. Not always, but a lot of the time.

And this has a parallel to the psychedelic movement, which comes up soon. Both share in common the catalyst for radical change in consciousness. And that is partly the reason why psychedelic substances have been heavily regulated and denied from public usage.

Psychedelic experiences are often described as inducing altered states of consciousness, producing visual effects, and expanding the mind’s perception. Many artists have used these experiences as a source of inspiration for their work, particularly during the 1960s when psychedelic drugs were commonly used.

Artists such as Alex Grey and Pablo Amaringo have created artwork that reflects their own personal visions experienced whilst under influence.

From this perspective art inspired by these substances often features vivid colours, abstract forms, swirling patterns and repetitive motifs which reflect the intensity and complexity of the psychedelic experience.

For many artists taking psychedelics has been seen as a way to shift away from conventional perceptions leading towards more imaginative ways of thinking thus potential for transforming art into more spiritual or transcendent forms.

The Unique

Now, there arises in all things creative the problem of originality. How can one be sure that what they create is not already out there somewhere?

It is pre-eminently an issue in the music field because of the chromatic scale, which limits the number of notes one has access to. And so good music is bound to be repetitive in the long run. Same with writing. Today we have artificial intelligence to help us if the text plagiarises an existing work. But words are limited too, and the expressions we use are limited.

So the same phrases are bound to pop up sooner or later. The saying “if a million monkeys wrote for a million years, eventually they would get the Encyclopedia Britannica down” is quite true.

But actually, there is no such thing as true originality, as I once argued in an article. That is to say, a fully independent source for art. Because we are influenced by speech and text all the time. And they always come from somebody else. We are standing on the shoulders of giants.

David Bowie even said he only listens to music he can steal from. And so we “steal” things even without our conscious awareness. In another article, I once remarked that if you traced back everything we think, it would come from our parents, friends, acquaintances and the people we met.

So originality is the degree to which we can mask out or hide the origins of our inspiration. And some people may not agree with me. But I don’t care. Look at any innovation in recent times. It rests inevitably on principles discovered by someone other than the inventor. And you can’t escape that.

When you create something “new”, you are shuffling, both consciously and subconsciously what you know, and by knowing, I mean what you have come into contact with in the past. So all you are doing is rearranging information that’s in the background of your mind.

It isn’t to say that genuine inspiration cannot produce borderline marvels. It is only saying that maybe, just maybe, we shouldn’t be so hard on ourselves for taking influence from others. If a work is copied from somewhere else, then that is negative. But in so far as telling the same concept in your own words, anything goes, I say.

Furthermore, it has always been true that artists copy others, whether it is their style, moods, or otherwise. It may be bad for the personal mark or the “uniqueness quality” in their work, but that didn’t stop Da Vinci from tracing on paper. It didn’t prevent many others from relying on principles or methods that are known to achieve their vision.

And it is above all true in mystical matters. It all originates from one source. And the reason people accuse others of making the same kind of points others have done, it is that we are hung up on originality.

Of course, you develop your own thing, eventually. Even if it carries with it all kinds of influences, you make it your own by the sheer particularity of your organism. Everyone has to be standing out, particular, specific, and unique. Everyone has special patterns in which they dance in different rhythms.

Art is simply a “frozen” conveyance of one’s inner landscape. But what that inner landscape is, is the whole of existence. And that is the greatest truth expressed in anything creative.