Thoughts on Art
To speak of art is to speak of something both specific and abstract, a concept that has been attempted and failed to be defined many times before. Yet, amidst this elusiveness, one principle holds true: art does not primarily serve a utilitarian or functional role. Its very being is its purpose. Any art piece with a function or purpose is not art, but rather, design. Furthermore, all art intends to communicate something.
Language itself is limited in its ability to express certain things. As Wittgenstein once said, “The limits of my language means the limits of my world.” When we try to articulate our internal experiences, like emotions, we cannot be certain that we truly understand each other. When we say “I am sad,” what does that mean? We can describe external physical sensations that accompany our emotions, such as “I feel pressure in my chest. It feels dark inside me. I feel closed in. There is no hope.” But pressure, darkness, and confinement are all physical things, and we attempt to rephrase our internal sensations into something concrete and tangible.
Does “hope” feel like the warm sun shining on your face?
Art is the language of emotion. Through art, we expand our vocabulary and attempt to express something that comes from within us. Music is one such language, for it communicates emotion in ways that words cannot. But why does a certain melody sound sad while another sounds happy? If the explanation is that melodies with slow tempo and minor harmonies often sound sad, that does not reveal much. Why do slow melodies sound sad? And why do melodies with minor harmonies also sound sad? These answers only lead to more questions.
For example, “slow” can convey different emotions. It can mean quiet, calm, centred, relaxed, and peaceful, but it can also mean tedious, tired, exhausted, and hindered. Exploring the nuances of emotions and their expression through art helps us to expand our language and enables us to express our inner world. Expanding our language beyond words helps us to create a deeper understanding and connection with others.
Art, like dreams, speaks to the intangible aspects of our being, the things that cannot be fully expressed in words alone.