My idea of art

I am not an artist; I have not studied art history or art theory however I do consider myself an art lover. Perhaps because I am not an expert on the subject my idea of art might be naïve, it might be simplistic but it also might be less convoluted and come closer to the “heart” or “essence” of what art is. This brings me to my first premise; art should be accessible to everyone. I am not eluding here to the monetary value of art; I am not referring to the price of art works or art museum tickets. What I’m talking about is that art must be able to “touch” everyone. Again, I do not mean to say that in order for something to be considered a work of art everyone has to like it. What I mean is that a work of art must be able to convey something to anyone. It must be able to engage the observer regardless of the observer’s circumstances/previous engagement in art, etc. Art should be universal. Let me expand this idea further. What do I mean by “art should be universal”? All works of art have a context to them. Of course we cannot separate the artist’s circumstances and the historic context from the work of art. A work of art is never created in the void and it is influenced by innumerable factors, however good works of art are able to transcend their historic/cultural circumstances and evoke emotions from viewers of different cultures and time periods. Clearly, knowing the context and historical background in which a work of art was created might help us to understand and appreciate a given work of art better but a good work of art is always timeless and transcends cultural particularities. As humans we all share certain basic emotions, it is the aim of art to access those emotions. The ability to create and appreciate art is a unifying human characteristic. One does not need to be Mexican or know about Mexican folk art and culture to be moved by Frida Kahlo’s or Diego Rivera’s work. Impressionist works have value outside of the intellectual circles of 19th century Paris. One does not need to be Chinese to appreciate Ai Wei Wei’s work of art. In spite of the requirement for art to be universal it is my belief that art, both its creation and its appreciation, should also be intellectual in nature. Why do I write “in spite”? It might seem a contradiction to state that art must be able to be appreciated by anyone and yet it must also be intellectual in nature.  Most of us are not art scholars; many of the viewers might not have a high education or be accustomed to rigorous intellectual activity and yet we should be able to “understand” a good work of art. I want to argue that the intellectuality of an artwork originates from its purpose. By purpose I do not want to signify usefulness or practicality. In most instances art is not practical. In fact one thing that makes art beautiful is its impracticality. Art comes from a spiritual rather than a physical necessity and in the act of making and appreciating it we separate ourselves from other animals. What I mean by purpose is that a good work of art should have an intention. Valuating art on purely aesthetic basis is not enough. This is a key distinction between art and crafts. Crafts might be equally beautiful, very technically challenging and elaborate yet they lack the intellectual intention. Originality, which streams from an intellectual intent, is also a key element in art. A very good reproduction is less value because while it retains the aesthetic and technical aspects of the work it lacks in creative, original and intellectual endeavour. The creative process that goes into creating a piece of art is very much an intellectual process. Creativity and intelligence parallel; they require one another. The intellectual challenge of art is to find ways to distill intellectually and philosophically challenging questions about human existence and present then in a way that is accessible to any human being. This is why art “speaks” to us, regardless of our own language, through the universal language of humanity.