Art By Definition

When I was just a young lad I was gifted a box of magic. It contained all sorts of cheap tricks to keep a youngster busy for a couple of hours. From loaded dice to a telescopic wand and a box with a trap drawer. It had a couple of kidney shaped cards that were of equal size yet when put side by side one looked bigger than the other. This made my head itchy and I asked a passing father how it worked. He said it was an optical illusion which led to the next question: ‘What’s an optical illusion” Many a question followed with no answer to satisfy my young mind but it was the first lesson I can remember about perception. How the perfectly balanced can seem unbalanced to the naked eye and how what appears to be perfectly balanced may not be.

For a technician, balance is key to any kind of function. Aesthetics on the other hand are generally considered to be of the domain of the artist. It’s a pretty cut and dried perception that separates what is practical from what is pretty and never the twain shall meet. For me on the other hand art is the understanding of both technicalities and perceptions. An individual who focuses purely on technique is no more or less of an artist than one who focuses purely on appearances.

The world is full of people who rely on their tools to achieve what they set out to do. Without their tools they are helpless. How many photo manipulators are able to perform without Photoshop? How much work done by a photo manipulator looks any different from the work done by another photo manipulator? You won’t find many because the tool is doing the work for someone who has little understanding of perception outside the standards set by the program they use and the people who use the program. It’s the military drilling of the image world and a principle that can be applied to music, film and more practical domains such as furniture design or house building. All technically balanced and artistically void.

On the flip side there are a bunch of people who go down the road of try and get lucky. Sit three bricks on a table, take a picture of it, give it a snazzy name and hope that someone calls it art. These are the chancers of the world who have given society modern art and Apple computers. Take something that is there already, call it yours and slap a large enough price tag on it for a passing idiot to think it’s special. It’s shrewd and makes buckets of cash if you get the timing right but there is no real rule or technique to it.

So what is the art of anything? Art is understanding what is and making it appear to be what you want it to be. The artist takes what is at hand and makes it in to something else to the point where all who perceive it see what the artist created and not what created it.

Art is the balance between perception and practice and the artist requires an understanding of both concrete and abstract to create something that defies and fools both science and the mind. 

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