What Art Expresses

The visual capabilities to express ideas running through our minds are the most phenomenal aspects of art. Language has limitations. Our words can only express certain meanings and some complex issues are hard to form into words. But, art doesn’t have those limitations. The mind is its only limitation. From abstract to concrete and everything in between, art allows us to literally blow a canvas up with images no one else could imagine until we present them.

Artists have been profoundly fond of capturing moments. Not everyone reacts to literature or history the same way. Artists often react to literature with a need to place on a canvas what they envisioned in a scene. William Blake’s watercolor “Satan Arousing the Rebel Angels” was painted in 1808 and was a snapshot from a scene out of Milton’s Paradise Lost, which was written 1667. Scenes such as these inspire some of the greatest works from authors, but also from the retelling of historical incidences. “The Last Day of Pompeii” painted by Karl Briullov in 1833 depicts the eruption of Mount Vesuvius in 1828. But, not all snapshots are scenes inspired by another work or historical event. Some artists such as Monet simply liked to capture scenes. A cathedral at different times of the day, a lady playing a piano and rain hitting the side of a mountain are just a sample of observations that have struck artists with the inspiration to capture the image on canvas.

Those are the more realistic aspects of art, art based on reality. But, abstracts have a wide range of purposes. Paintings such as a tiger ripping through the canvas have qualities of concrete and abstract mixed within them. The real tiger with real claws and brandishing huge teeth painted on the canvas as if ripping through it is an abstract compilation of things that exist. At the other extreme, painters have worked with colors, lines and shapes with only a relational theme in mind. Working through patterns and spatial relationships, an artist might include shading to give a certain impression of dimension while another artist might choose to keep the painting flat.

The Gerhard Richter 1990 abstract simply entitled “Abstract Painting (726)” gives the impression of a rusty cracked rock. But, also you see a smearing in the lower portion of the painting that produces a reflection effect. Determining what exactly the painting is comes down to the individual viewer, but also what the artist intended.

An artist such as Mike Wong Joon Fong might make a suggestion when he names his paintings. “Rush” is black and red paint on a white canvas. But, the paint’s horizontal placement gives the impression of something in a rush. The “something” is indiscernible, but I would venture to say what comes to my mind is the impression of a black horse with a red stream even though there is no definable horse. Yet, when you view his painting entitled “Playing,” I don’t see what Fong could be suggesting. It appears to me to be a collage of ink-blot tests. A psychologist would love the painting.

Taking from all these various forms of art, we can see that art has many purposes and it really only depends on the artist. Exploring our minds, exploring our worlds, we discover more about ourselves. When inspired, art helps us to express those things we learn and take delight in or that sadden us. Those things that shock us, that make us think, those things that move us in ways nothing else can are all the subjects of an artist’s art. Language might hold us back, but art helps us take quantum leaps into our understanding. Images words can’t express. Words only our mind understands, but we have yet to define. Art lets loose those thoughts and builds bridges our language cannot.

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