The Question of Art | Teen Ink

The Question of Art

March 12, 2023
By Stargazer_Luooo BRONZE, Shenzhen, Other
Stargazer_Luooo BRONZE, Shenzhen, Other
3 articles 0 photos 0 comments

As I read The Moon and Sixpence by William Somerset Maugham and Robert Calder, I kept thinking about the true meaning of art. Although not a refined painter and couldn’t appreciate a symphony performance in a grand theatre, I still tried to explore art's evolution and its philosophy. In this article, I will talk about the value, style, fundamental goal, and current developing tendency of art. 

First, what is the price of art? In The Moon and Sixpence, Strickland abandons a life of ease and plenty, his wife and two children, and the constraints of duty and morality to follow the art in his heart. He snuffed out his past self for art's sake, opting for nirvana with a purer, more flawless soul. In the eyes of the world, he is a deviant renegade, a worthless scum. The ignorant people scoff at him, pointing out his ignorance and pretension. The impoverished material life leaves him without warm clothes and food, so he has to drink cheap wine and suffer torture. When he finally contracted leprosy, everyone regarded him as a plague and fled and cursed him. In awakening his ego, he loses his sense of simplicity and lightness of everyday life, lives entirely dependent on his soul, and focuses entirely on self-expression. He has separated himself spiritually from the world, living in the physical world, but his soul no longer inhabits it. However, the cost of art is not absolute and depends on the frame of reference of each person. To the observer, it is a painful, slow suicide, but for himself, he gives up some of the vulgar aspects of the world, chooses to be simple, and enjoys the life he likes. He feels no guilt about the denunciations of others, just thinking that they are loud and unreasonable; he shows no fear of death, for it was not the end of his art. Until the last moment of his life, he is still drawing murals on the dirty walls of his house. He was satisfied with his choice and never regretted it.

Secondly, how is art expressed? Strickland's way was painting, Mozart's way was music, Shelley's way was poetry, and Hugo's way was writing. Each person has a different view of art, and their understanding and interpretation vary greatly. However, in the vast range of artistic forms, people often ignore “life.” It is also a kind of art to find hidden details in life, cherish your and others' bodies, and live well. This art does not need superb painting skills, brilliant singing, or gorgeous poetic words. It only requires an artistic mind. It may be a flash of inspiration in daily life. It may be a little tune blurting out. It may be the shadow of the sunset glimpsed occasionally. All can become the revelation of living art. However, being able to live artistically is more complex than it seems. Countless people are bound to their jobs, commuting between their dwelling and the company which numbs their thinking. After undergoing the considerable blow and the enormous amount of pressure from both society and their family expectations, they choose to hide in the corner and fake to be successful. Countless people have been trained by their parents to only focus on study and test scores, depriving their kids of creative thinking. Do these people even know how to live? “You can exert all of your efforts to your vocation, but you should always maintain spiritually relaxed.” This quote was left to us by the wise Tao Yuanming, a renowned poet and recluse who lived in the Jin dynasty. Always leave yourself a piece of pure land for the soul, and never forget the dream of poetry and the excitement of a challenging and unpredictable future.

Third, what is the ultimate purpose of art? A grand masterpiece should not stop at the point of visual shock and aesthetic experience. More importantly, artistic works should imply philosophical thoughts and wisdom. In the book, Strickland's painting is not beautiful, but instead a kind of ugliness and horror. Nevertheless, discerning people are attracted to them because they perceive the ideas that flow from them. Strickland's mind is haunted by a profound and highly penetrative thought, forcing him to express them entirely in exchange for the liberation of his soul. However, a few small pieces of paper cannot bear the depth of thought. After the loss of ideological soil, only fragmentary symbols and obscure works remain. The violent conflict between the desire and passion for expression and the limited expression caused him pain that could not be eliminated and tormented his soul. We can follow these strange symbols and walk through the painter's thought of the process again to comprehend the profound existence of those essences. Here, the meaning of the painting is not only a visual sensory experience but also a kind of bridge, establishing the spiritual connection between the viewer and the author and arousing the resonance of the soul. Sometimes it is an epiphany, sometimes a searing realization -- but either way, it is a wonderfully emotional experience.

Finally, where is our art headed? With the arrival of the Internet era, massive amounts of information are gushing and overflowing, brutally eroding the territory of art. Even with government funding, traditional Chinese art forms are dying out and becoming less and less important in people's spiritual world. People are willing to spend all day watching videos and playing video games, but they are reluctant to spend time visiting nearby museums and galleries. The pace of life is increasingly faster, washing away people's leisure so that people's thoughts are rigid, gradually drowning in the floods of information. This advanced social and technological development would bring material stability, thus enriching spiritual culture. However, it is perplexing that the reality is precisely the contrary. Some “specialists” utilize this chance to attract ordinary people and bring themselves renown. If someone questions their "masterpiece," they will argue that citizens and ordinary people cannot understand the essence of art. Art has become a shelter for these hypocritical people and a veil for their disgusting behavior. Today, we must recognize whether a person is devoted to art with his whole heart or pretends to be knowledgeable and exploits the resources to increase personal interest.

Above all, amid the background of rapid social change and technological advancement, it’s becoming increasingly important to discover the essence of art, including its price, purpose, expression, and the future of our art. Moreover, art is not just for connoisseurs or adept artists, but for the entire human species. Thus, our responsibility is to excavate the value of art and enable art to develop gradually in this chaotic world.

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