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Max Grogorenko

Long ago, when humans only started to become humans, art, being the most important display of creativity, determined survival of human race. Since then art is an important part of our evolution. As for process of contemplation and, what is more important, production of works of art, it delivers true pleasure to us.

What is art?

Art is a way that a man can comprehend outer an inner world expressed in art work that has value for both - a creator himself and other people. Art is a way to record and to pass this or that experience of the author to others. Besides, art carries out many social tasks connected with creation of cultural and social human identity.

What does a human need art for?

From the point of view of "consumer" of art, i.e. the one who sees, listens, reads other works, art enriches his own experience through experience of the author, both positive and negative. What is important here is presence of "common wave" with the author. Thanks to art, a man can harmonize his inner world if art itself is harmonic and can provide such harmony. Really strong and deep work of art allows a man to live through the experience with the same intensity if he would have lived through it in real life. Through art a man is able to live through catharsis. Art has the ability to provoke a process for inner changes inside human.

Common set of significant works of art joins people in common culture - Western European, Russian, Indian, etc. And man's attitude towards this or that trend in art, as a rule, is connected with his social and cultural position in society. In fact, it is a marker of this position. Besides, art helps a man to understand and take possession of a piece of the world through perception of art work and, as a more simple method, - through obtaining a work of art: by purchasing a painting, a man is sort of buying what is depicted on it and also those conditions and associations connected with it. In modern world this function is fulfilled mostly by advertising which sells dreams and desires to people in form of more or less accessible products. But it is still only art that can familiarize a man with true beauty and make him understand the nature of the world and humans.

From author's point of view art allows to distinctly express and record in the material his perception of himself, world around, of social relations and interrelations between a man and environment, etc. Besides, art allows to disclose yet formulated ideas in endless variety of tones and meanings. Art provides absolutely unique opportunity to express feelings, perception and meaning that can't be disclosed by simple formulae of human interaction. Thanks to art a man can record experience of his emotions in such a way that these emotions will be available to others. Art is a sort of transmitter of emotions both positive and negative.

I have already mentioned that art is one of the basic needs of a human; this is a method he uses to change the world and do soul-searching. In art this need is realized most deeply and differently. Of course, having experienced, having discovered and having recorded something in a work of art, a man sort of confers this part of the world and makes it available for conferring by others. Also art makes life more beautiful. To put it more accurately, it makes life more appropriate to aesthetical demands of a man or a group of people.

Art is the most sophisticated and complicated game which involves both author and viewer – all who contacts with a work of art – into a dialogue of interpretations and comprehension. We, people, like to play a lot even if we don’t notice it: the game is the main method to implement our artistic potential. At the same time art anticipates presence of inner silence which is necessary to revive a work of art in human’s consciousness. In the same way as a seed takes on life in soil and grows differently depending on what soil it was planted, a work of art is only an opportunity of understanding and it opens differently in each consciousness.

For everyone who contacts with art in the moment of creativity or in the moment of contemplation, this process brings joy. This phenomenon is not only culturally determined but also is a physiological need of human’s brain.

Both for author and spectator art is a method to broaden self-experience and understanding of the world. Art gives everyone a feeling of implication to other people and nature!

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Let’s talk about other aspects that are important both for a creator and spectators.

Art allows a man to confer the world – both outer and his own inner through depicting (copying) and understanding of some part of it. Generally it refers to visual arts. The mechanics is the following: you need to take something that is interesting to a man or something that he wants to possess, account, analyze, and depict, thus introducing it into his life. Here this means not only portrayal of some things but also conditions, spiritual values, and everything that can be symbolically depicted and clear to our consciousness and sub consciousness.

It is important to underline here that art may not be harmonic, beautiful and “positive”. Art can reflect any kind of experience and thanks to art both an author and “consumer” may experience positive and negative emotions. This can be a useful processing of experience inside onself (also like an art therapy with the aim of transferring a problem to external bearer, for example, paper, in order to get rid of it: the result of such art is subjected for elimination). A work of art based on negative experience may be dangerous both for author and spectator. In any case, heavy and negative art to be distinguished from clear epatage when an author chooses “gallows humour” as a theme only for the reason to attract attention. This is peculiar for modern art.

Art is a mirror which reflects unconsciousness of the author whether he wants it or not. This why art is a powerful tool of self-cognition but it requires both skills in artistic craftwork and skills in understanding of artistic text.

Role of inspiration

Can art based only on work of consciousness without participation of inspiration exist? This is a difficult question, and perhaps, it doesn’t have a decisive answer.

Inspiration is a clear understanding obtained through subconsciousness as a result of correctly formulated and “executed” task of what and how something should be done. Do you remember four phases of art according to Graham Wallace? These are formulation of a task, temporary distraction from it, enlightenment and verification (see Article). But an artist also needs to execute this understanding in his work.

Of course, no one can be on the pick of emotional experience all the time and at this remain psychologically healthy, as well as not a single man can be equally inspired by different themes and topics. Besides, usually strong emotional experience is followed by emotional burnout which requires some time for recovery. Thus, an artist, of course, can create only during periods of deep inspiration while on the pick of experience but the result will be rare and irregular. If an artist earns his living with his work – which is extremely important! – if he cares about his level of technical skills (which need to be constantly maintained), he will have to perform something all the time, take on different more or less interesting projects. Such labor can be based on bigger or lesser dozes of inspiration as well as go without it completely. If we deal with an experienced, skilled and responsible artist then results of his work performed with minimal inspiration and completely elaborated by his consciousness will also be very interesting, though, the results will be perceived as less “catching”.

Abstraction in work of art

The higher the degree of abstraction in work of art is the more opportunities for variety and depth of meanings, conceived both by consciousness and deeper subconsciousness, there are. Maximum abstract art can lead a direct dialogue with spectator’s unconsciousness, the one that can’t be explained in short. By abstract art I mean not so much non-figurative or non-narrative art as art that prefers not exact details but generalization, not simple descriptions but diversified, not single layer of meanings but variety of interlaced layers. Thus, an artist can remove excessive details that don’t help the true meaning and concentrate attention of spectators on the point, be it some sort of imaginary or idea, condition, mood being delivered with the help of generic forms.

A very important part in perception of the main meaning will be played by context. Context dictates perception of the main text! Biological mechanism of this phenomenon was studied by a group of scientists from University of California. Particularly, one of the research workers, professor Kandel writes: ‘’…artists possess a hidden understanding of the universal biological principle: resources of human attention are limited. In order to make congenital mechanisms of emotional release work they must estrange from unnecessarily realistic portrayal and put aside “superfluous or insignificant information”. (see Drew Walker. Edward Vul. Hierarchical Encoding Makes Individuals in a Group Seem More Attractive. // Psychological Science.http://pss.sagepub.com/content/early/2013/10/25/0956797613497969. Russian translation: quick reading: How does cheerleader effect work. // Theory and practice. http://theoryandpractice.ru/posts/8053)

A gap that appears between reality and imaginary in more or less abstract work of art allows to penetrate into the seed of the meaning. The seed that will blossom in minds of all spectators with impression and understanding. If there is no such gap then the work will simply represent a copy of reality more or less successful but, alas, it won’t become a piece of art.

Besides, the more references in a literary text (verbal, descriptive, musical, etc.) to other texts there are the richer associations it evokes in spectators’ minds, the deeper impression it will call. Such art requires a qualified spectator: at least intelligent enough to understand references to other texts, cultural texts, etc. (it is required to conceive the whole depth of meanings of the work of art) and at maximum ready to open himself to the art work, to understand it subconsciously, at intuitive level.

Art with a sufficient level of abstraction speaks in images that are clear to subconsciousness. These images can’t be translated into simple word formulae: such art can’t be retold at all. It can’t be translated into a descriptive language of another type of art – at best it will become another work of art on the same topic but conceived differently. That’s why it is impossible to paint music or describe a painting in words. It is very important that all of us due to various reasons are more sensitive to some imagery and less sensitive to other and the same works of art are conceived differently by different people. It is normal. But as for education level, extent of trained eye and ear – is what can be and should be developed since it opens the whole depth of the world of art to us which broadens opportunities of transformation of our lives by means of art.

At times artists introduce an element of reflection to their works of art, i.e. explanation of their works. Especially it is peculiar to modern art. The reasons are that artist tends to determine what he is engaged into and how. But sometimes – in modern art – it is done because of the fear to be misunderstood when artist uses non-universal symbols which are not clear to most spectators at conscious level and do not have meaning on deeper levels.

Thus a truly deep work of art has exactly such level of abstraction which allows to excurse from paltriness of instantaneous details and flickering particularities and to reveal more deep meanings and associations.

About contemplation and silence

It is very important for a creator to provide time for contemplation. In the process of contemplation and perception of the world without analyzing it his consciousness and subconsciousness are filled with material which after being elaborated according to questions of present interest will inject into images that the creator will use in his works. The more material he has the more images and potential interrelations between them the artist will have in his disposal. Besides, quiet contemplation without active work of consciousness will give the subconsciousness time and opportunity to work on previously stated problems and give out ready solution in the form of inspiration. As a rule consciousness works more effectively when we evenly activate different aspects of our consciousness and give them equal periods for rest.

Language of art

The language of art is very capacious as it anticipates several levels of perception. Let me illustrate it using an example of visual art. There are more or less universal symbols which we conceive more or less equally: flowers, the Sun, a laughing child express tranquility; downpour, wind, lightning express destruction. If an artist hangs a gun on the wall the gun is supposed to fire otherwise spectators will be cheated because having seen the gun they expect a shot. Or it will not fire if an artist intentionally creates a discord for bigger effect of his art work but it also works only in the case if an artist delivered the desired meaning to spectators by clear and familiar symbols and spectators wait for a shot.

We possess a skill to read off a mood of a man from his face both on conscious and unconscious levels. Someone succeeds better someone not but having seen an image of a man any spectator will read of his mood and condition and conceive the whole image or a photograph accordingly.

Yet we spoke only about the most simple things, the upper level of meanings but there is more important and deeper layer created by impression in visual art which imposes upon a man a combination of stains of light, shadow, color, their positioning on a surface in relation to each other. Being in the framework of a single culture people conceive symbols more or less the same; we learn this from the context of our life. Everything has meaning here. Color and its intensity: red and black, Carmen, flamenco, passion. Pastel pink and light blue – silence of an early morning, tenderness, lightness. The story about revel of feelings can be described with pastel color palette and the story about tenderness can’t be red and black. Predominance of dark or light tones in imagery is also very important for perception of an art work.

Human consciousness catches the feeling of movement on a static surface very accurately: big dark masses draw smaller; something bright and light sets back and strives up – to the skies. Dark and heavy comes forward and gravitates down. Dark mass with wide base looks stable and with narrow base looks unstable. A mass in the center of the shot is inert; a mass that is shifted towards the edge strives for movement. Lines lug off your look, they lead it towards light areas, up or down, beyond the edge of the shot or towards insuperable obstacle which is also created by lights and shadows on the photograph. There are also rhythms of forms which join distanced but similarly shaped objects that have common pattern. And so on. This what triggers spectators’ emotions! And, surprisingly, these emotions from different people living within one culture are usually alike. And here references to what they have already experienced and seen play an important part.

What is a professional creativity?

A man who made creativity his profession must be a master of those forms of art which he uses as tools; he must be able to express any idea by these tools and in accordance with deep knowledge of life, nature and art; he must be able to feel the life deeply and be able to transfer this feeling onto his art work. Perhaps the latter skill is the most important.

It is important to remember that no matter how deep a man feels, how rich his palette of emotions is, how deep inspirations he has, if he doesn’t have good command of forms of artistic expression, if he doesn’t have a clear idea of history of human culture, of what and how things were express before him, he will not be able to delegate his emotions to other people distinctly. At the bottom of any creativity lies education and constant mastering of technical skills.

At the same time concentration solely on the form of art work will kill its meanings, it will turn the work into delightfully beautiful but empty.

Creative profession is a responsible and difficult choice for a man. The foundation of his craft is his experience and elaboration of this experience into a work of art. This requires a very sensitive mentality and strong connection between consciousness and subconsciousness; where a common man can leave, retreat into oneself and avoid collision with traumatic reality, since experience of a strong emotion always injures to a greater or lesser degree, no matter what it was – positive or negative – a creative person can’t leave. This makes creative professions a difficult choice in life.

Of course, not all artists, poets or musicians express their deep feelings and emotions In their works. This certainly doesn't make them secondary creators on art market. Art market, especially nowadays, Is determined by tastes of those who pays for art and interests of those who sells it. The price of a work of art is valued not for its depth but a variety of completely different factors. And It is us who need to determine what is true and what is not focusing on our intuition, our feeling, our understanding of art.

An old proverb says: “You are what you eat”. It is also true in regards to what you see, hear, read, what you experience and do yourself. This is why it is nmportant to develop your knowledge, your intuition and sense of taste.

Why does a man need art?

So, why does a man need to understand art and study art?

In order to learn to understand deep and multisided art language.

In order to get a powerful tool for active perception of the world and yourself. In order to get a tool for transformation of the world you your own life; to enjoy the beauty, to enjoy the process of creation and perception of art which, as we remember, is determined not only culturally but also physiologically.

Long time ago, art being the most important display of creativity, determined survival of human race. Today it gives opportunity to everyone to become a master of our own fate and direct the process of our development.