Posted: August 29th, 2013
The Creative Act
When an artist is creating a piece of art, he or she usually has a clear idea of what they intend to create or represent. In some cases, artists get a clearer idea of their art, as they continue with their creation. In some cases, the spectator may have a different approach to the work from what the artist intended. One of the most debated arguments in art is whether the artist’s intention is important when trying to understand a form of art. Some people are of the view that the spectator should appreciate a piece of art, without outside influence. On the other hand, there are those who support the idea that knowing what an artist intended to create will help in understanding a piece of art in a better way. Duchamp observes that there is a difference between intention and realization. In other words, what the artist intended when he began the process of creating the art, is not what is fully realized when the spectator begins to view and critic the art. In some cases, the artist’s intention and the spectator’s realization can be mutual. The spectator can view, interpret and understand the meaning of a piece of art in the way the artist intended.
Artists create their art with a purpose. They intend to communicate an idea or a message through their work. Artists may see it as a sign of disrespect and lack of appreciation, when the viewers do not take the time to figure out their intention when viewing their art. The meaning of art can change over time. For instance, artists and critics have had different interpretations of one of the most famous paintings in the world, “The Mona Lisa” by Leonardo da Vinci. It becomes difficult for the spectators to know the artist’s intention after some time. Some people do not understand how they are expected to know the artists’ intention. This is especially the case with the visual arts. Some art forms such as literature and different kinds of music express the artists’ intention through words. The case is however different with instrumental music, and with visual art forms such as paintings and sculptures. Although knowing the artist’s intention is crucial in creating meaning, it is not always possible to do so. Some of the famous works of art today were created by people who have already died. They did not leave messages describing their intentions or purpose for creating the art.
Some people use the artist’s historical background to determine the artists’ intention. If an artist was known for having a certain predisposition, a spectator will use this knowledge to interpret his art. The artist is the first spectator of his work. After he has completed his work, the artist may realize that what he has created has not come out, as he would have wanted it to. He may also realize that the work portrays more than one meaning to him. It is possible for the artist to change his mind during the creation of his art. As Picasso pointed out, artists do not usually know and settle on what they are going to paint since they usually change their minds as time goes on. He made this statement as he was working on his painting the “Guernica: Testimony of War (PBS).” This can happen for several reasons. For instance, the artist may start creating his work when he is happy. Something sad may happen to him along the way, and he will reflect this in his art. Artists have different ways of letting their intentions known without using words. This is especially in visible arts such as paintings, and in music. An artist will create a painting by using techniques such as shade and color to highlight different emotions. The colors may fade or become stronger as a person approaches a certain theme, to reflect the changes in emotion. Similarly, a musician will increase the tempo of the music to highlight a change in emotion, and this will direct the listener.
Spectators may want to know the artist’s intention when they have failed to find any meaning in a piece of art. In some cases, some art forms are not understandable, and they do not make any sense to the spectator. Some consider this as a crude art form, since it fails to communicate any message to the spectator. However, as Duchamp points out, crude art is still art. A piece of art may be considered valueless by one observer, but another person will have a different opinion. This has happened over the years. Some of the artists, whose paintings or works of literature were not accepted during their time, are considered priceless today.
Spectators who view a piece of art without knowing the artist’s intention will have a new meaning and understanding of the art, different from that of another person. He or she will gain new knowledge, by viewing the art independently. On the other hand, spectators who have prior knowledge of the artist’s intention will compromise their understanding. They will find it hard to separate their interpretation and meaning of the art with the artist’s intention. Spectators give new and different meaning to art. In some cases, this meaning can be contrary to what the artist intended. In other cases, the artist may not even be aware of the meaning accorded his or her work. An artist may subconsciously create another meaning to his work while he is expressing his ideas and emotions. The artist may not realize this, until someone else points it out to him. The artist may create art with a rational intention, while the spectator may view it emotionally. The art may appeal more to the spectators’ senses, and he or she will view it differently from what the artist intended. This does not mean that the spectator is wrong by failing to capture the artist’s intention. It does not also mean that the artist failed in conveying his message. The reality is that art usually has more than one meaning.
The spectators understanding of art is often based on their knowledge and experiences. Spectators interpret art based on what makes sense to them. Spectators who view art without knowing the intention of the artists are more objective in their interpretation. As stated, artists usually have a purpose for creating art. They may create art with the intention of provoking the viewer to think about its meaning (Stecker 147). In this case, the spectator is free to choose between different interpretations. Art depends on the perspective of the spectator. What is beautiful to one person may be boring to another person. Spectators are also influenced by their culture. People from different cultural backgrounds will interpret art differently. It is possible for people from one culture to concentrate on one element in a piece of art. They will also have different themes for the same piece of art. For instance, a person who comes from a conservative culture may not appreciate nude pictures. He may consider them obscene, and he may even be offended. On the other hand, someone who comes from a more liberal may have a different interpretation of the same piece of work. He or she may consider it an appreciation of human beauty and an expression of freedom. Spectators may be prejudiced when they view a piece of art. A person’s beliefs and stereotypes will determine how he or she will interpret a piece of art. Someone who has been under subjugation will have a different meaning of an art form from someone who is liberal. Women will tend to interpret art differently than men. Most women tend to use their emotions when giving meaning to art, while most men will look at art rationally. The two of them will have a different meaning of the same piece of art. Experiences usually shape a viewer’s perception, and one cannot separate his experiences from perceptions when understanding art (Warburton 515)
Some people understand and interpret the meaning of art using other factors. Some of them use the biography of the artist. They note the artists’ history such as where she was born, and they take this as the main inspiration of her work. They also use other factors such as historical political events that happened when the artist was creating his work, and they interpret his work based on the events. For instance, when people view “The Raft of the Medusa” by Theodore Gericault, they prefer knowing the story behind the painting so that they can understand what is happening. Art created during the war will be different from the art created during another period such as a country’s independence (Fenner 90). Some people believe that the intentions of the artists are not important, since once they create a piece of art and display it to the public, the art ceases to be their individual property. The meaning of the art becomes the right of anyone who views it. According to them, the spectator is more valuable than the artist is. They echo Duchamp, who believed that the spectators determine the weight of the work, and they therefore determine the value of the artist. Without the spectator, the artist would not find any need for creating his or her work. Artists need to examine their main intention of creating their work. They need to determine whether their intention is for the pleasure of the spectator or for their own admiration. If they intend for the spectator to find pleasure in their work, then they should realize that spectators would understand their work differently. In such situations, they cannot impose their intentions on the spectators. However, if the main intention for the artist is to be recognized because of his creativity, then the artist is well placed to state his intentions. This is the only way he can determine whether he has succeeded in conveying his message.
Art can have different meanings to different people. The argument concerning the artists’ intentions arises when people believe that a piece of art is supposed to have one meaning. There are obvious advantages of using the artists’ intention when trying to interpret the meaning of art. Knowing what the artist intended to communicate will lead to a better understanding and appreciation of the art. It is also necessary to know the artist intentions when one does not understand a piece of art. This however limits the spectator’s judgment and objectivity, as he or she is compelled to interpret the art according to the artist’s intentions. Artists should understand that spectators do not hold one view when interpreting art. They may accept the artist’s interpretation based on his intention, but they will also form their own judgment concerning the work. Spectators are influenced by factors such as mood and emotion, culture, knowledge and experience, when they are interpreting art. They may accept the artists’ interpretation of the art, but they will also form their own opinion. Duchamp was right when he said that spectators give value to the artist.
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