Is Art Beautiful?

Use this forum to have philosophical discussions about aesthetics and art. What is art? What is beauty? What makes art good? You can also use this forum to discuss philosophy in the arts, namely to discuss the philosophical points in any particular movie, TV show, book or story.
Burning ghost
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Re: Is Art Beautiful?

Post by Burning ghost » June 28th, 2018, 4:00 am

Jan -

How about we start afresh?

Let us address the OP. The question being “Does art have to be beautiful?”

From the get go I see a problem with the question. Before we can begin to answer it makes sense to outline, as best we can, what is meant by “beauty”. I am not willing to go into definitions of “Art” here (I have taken on the issue of “conceptual art” in another thread dedicated to that aspect of the art world.)

I think we bith agree that art doesn’t have to be “beautiful,” but what do we mean by this? How can we approach this question? What evidence is appropriate? What examples can we give?

We do have multiple studies that show what people find to be “beautiful” to have a very strong correlation to symmetry (this is undeniable), yet at the same time a certain degree of asymmetry, offsetting the perfect geometrical balance (visually or “otherwise” - musically etc.) to produce a subjectively more attractive “harmony.”

So in general “beauty” has a lot to do with concepts like “harmony”, “balance”, “purity”, and “melody.” We understand all music, dance, sculpture, painting and prose in these terms. Obviously there is a counter position, aa antonym to the concept of “beauty” and we coommunicate this idea in opposition to the above mentioned terms with “disharmony”, “discord”, “imbalance”, “impure”, and “cacophany” (which stems from Greek “kakos” in opposition to “kalos”, which sequentially are roughly translated as “bad” and “good”, although “kalos” has a more subtle meaning and translations into English often take on the form “love”.)

People may be driven forward by the ideas taken from Taoism or other sources based more in mysticism (and with good reason.) Within beauty there is ugliness, becasue understanding one requires knowledge of the other (and more direct experience too.) One may even take on thr black and white view in order to “order” the terms in use. So we’re left with the more entropic view of things being in somewhere on the spectrum of order and disorder, and what is called “order” has more in common with beauty than with ugliness, yet contrary to this what is utterly ordered is genric, obiquitious and essentially stale and dead (refer to Oscar Wilde’s point here that I mentioned previously.)

The most curious thing about beauty is we silly humans have the bias of logical assumption (I say “logical” ironically here because we often confuse base intuition with logic.) To explain further, I simply mean one would expect “perfection” to be captured in a rendering that is of perfect symmetry, but the reality of the situation has shown us that something is deemed more “beautiful” when it has some small “imperfection” ... I think this is likely something to do with neurological processing and how we are constantly looking to refine our weltanschauung (“world view”) and in doing so enjoy learning about new things and new angles, so “beauty” is something of how we cope and present how we learn, what we learn, and what we potentially may be able to learn - beauty, in this sense represents how we “enrich” our life experience and refine our understanding.

What may have caught attention hre is the term “refine,” which we can conveniently cut up and look at more closely in order to explore further. The route word “fine” has different meanings, one being used in phraseology like “fine-grained” and the other being the more colloquial “it’s a fine day”. The prefix “re” boils down to “again” so when we’re “refining” we’re making good again and/or looking at said item with greater precision or from different/new perspectives.

To come back to the question in the OP after looking into the meaning of “beauty” beyond it’s generic day-to-day usage. I think it is fair to say that art appropriates itself toward this schemata of “beauty” I’ve lain out. As an example to move toward some clarity of distinction we don’t generally refer to violence as “beautiful” yet if you happened to have watched any fight scene (I am thinking specifically about 100 here and the rendering of the comic book into a movie) many would agree that even though something chilling is being displayed with gore and blood the cinematography and choreography of that particular scene are “beautifully” rendered. What is it that makes this scene so instilled in my mind? There are a number of things, the least not being the interplay between the horrific and ugly facts of mortality and humanities evils juxaposition willing and heroic sacrifice toward some greater good - all framed in blood, sweat and tears and the tragic death of the “nobel warrior.” This is something that may be lost on a more youthful audience they just think it is “cool” never really digging deep to see what the scene means in the greater context of the historical narrative of humanity.

I think there is too much to say here in reference to Arostotle’s “Poetics” which I’ve taken a very close look at. One term that pagied me is “catharsis” and what Aristotle ment by this. It is something many scholars have argued over for some time. Obviously we use the term in a specific way today, but like many inherited concepts they often flip-flop semantically over time (eg. “bad” now often used to mean “good,” in phrases like “It’s badass!”)

Again to the OP in light of the above paragraph. Does art have to be beautiful? No. Does art have to be either beautiful or ugly or somewhre between? Of course. What is more, if some idea of absolutist “beauty” or “ugliness” is held up as a valid pole then that pole is a falsehood. If a work of art creates no controvesy and moves no one emotoinally I strongly argue that it is not admired by anyone other than the artist who claims it as their art (which is valid only for them at that particular time.)

Most of the argumentation is about competence. We can all sing along to our favourite song, but not everyone would be willing to call what we’re doing as “singing” (if you heard my attempts you’d not call me a “singer” :wink: ) Underlying the concept of beauty there are certainly some measureable patterns, yet given the variety of different human experiences and potentials we’re not in a position to distinguish between all works of art as being “more” or “less” beautiful, meaningful and/or masterpieces.

When you said previously that some people view a piece of art as “great” but not “emotional” I can only assume you meant a particular contextual use of either “great” or “emotional”. Generally myself and, I strongly believe (?), most people refer to something as “great” because they’ve been effected by it emotionally, becasue it strikes a chord in them, becasue they feel a degree of harmonious communion with the said piece. They don’t call something “great” if they feel nothing, although they may recognise the technical abilty in the production of the piece yet don’t find that it touches them (which I am assuming you meant?)

An example of this would be Mona Lisa, which I personally didn’t much like, yet I certainly appreciate the emotion conveyed, the quality of the rendition, and I am by no means going to say Leonardo wasn’t an artistic genius, but Monet’s Water Lillies entranced me, as do Degas’s paintings of ballerinas.

To the question embedded within the question ... What is Art? We could talk and talk and talk about that for a very, VERY long time indeed! It is such a widely used term that it makes subtle semnatic shifts from sentence to sentence. Again, looking back into the etymology does help a little and when we go right back to ancient Greece we see how the terms “artistry”, “science”, and “technique” become somewhat intertwined. We’re left with the difficult task of reintegrating them AND further splitting them into finer and finer threads in order to keep ourselves open to greater learning.
AKA badgerjelly

Jan Sand
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Re: Is Art Beautiful?

Post by Jan Sand » June 28th, 2018, 5:41 am

A lot of effort there and I appreciate its intensity, but it's fundamentally about defining words. Beauty is actually greatly similar to the word funny. As someone of a somewhat lengthy age I found the Marx Brothers funny as were Laurel and Hardy. Chaplin was somewhat of a different style and was not bad and Eddie Cantor was passable. Jack Benny was not bad but Fred Allen had a wider range and was somewhat more sophisticated. But the strange thing about humor is that it is funny when it happens to someone else but tragic if it happens to you. Right now, if Trump was elected the president of Russia the Americans would laugh themselves silly over his comic appearance and what he is doing to the country but since he is massively and openly destroying all those ideals that the USA (as per Lady Liberty) welcomes all the miserables of the rest of the world and is full of kindly cops and is the land of opportunity and free speech. Trump is merely doing openly what all the presidents beyond FDR did without announcing it and that is reprehensible and it certainly isn't funny. Thus with beauty, Rodin was wonderfully appreciative of old people as their fraying physiology slumped into wrinkles and frail postures. A shapely behind and delightful breasts seems to have held little attraction. Size can be a factor. If the Grand Canyon were shrunk to the size of a ditch in a country road nobody would look twice at it unless it was to fill it in. Everybody's own kids are beautiful but other kids can be a damned nuisance. That some things have general appeal doesn't mean that appeal is universal and that goes for art as well as many other things.

Burning ghost
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Re: Is Art Beautiful?

Post by Burning ghost » June 28th, 2018, 6:02 am

Science is universal. The data is in. Some things are universally appealling (eg. music.) You could be pendantic and say not for deaf people, but nevertheless “harmony” and “symmetry” remain inextractable from aesthetic subjectivity - and I mean to have my cake and eat it here in the sense that to purposefullly veer away from “harmony” and “symmetry” allows for an exploration beyond the conventional appeal, but to stray too far from these is simply deluded and perverse (and those people exist for better and for worse; Dali springs to mind for some reason :D)
AKA badgerjelly

Jan Sand
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Re: Is Art Beautiful?

Post by Jan Sand » June 28th, 2018, 6:48 am


Burning ghost
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Re: Is Art Beautiful?

Post by Burning ghost » June 28th, 2018, 11:17 am

I am guessing we agree then. The question is where our opinions differ and our use of language.

Was I correct in my assessment of your use of “emotion” and “great” or not? I simple yes would be nice, but a “not really” would be better, and a “not in the slightest” would open you up to explain why and what you actually meant (which could be even better still!)
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Jan Sand
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Re: Is Art Beautiful?

Post by Jan Sand » June 28th, 2018, 11:45 am

I'm not sure what you want me to agree to. There seem to be objective standards devoid of emotion that some equal to beauty and my understanding is that some people agree with those standards and some do not. Emotion may have some relevance to that but I am no authority on that. I suspect that even raw perception may be valid in some cases and some impressions of beauty may derive from personal associations . I doubt it can be scientifically measured like weight or color frequency or other clean metrics. Some people like some stuff and others have no reaction.

Burning ghost
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Re: Is Art Beautiful?

Post by Burning ghost » June 28th, 2018, 12:03 pm

This:
When you said previously that some people view a piece of art as “great” but not “emotional” I can only assume you meant a particular contextual use of either “great” or “emotional”. Generally myself and, I strongly believe (?), most people refer to something as “great” because they’ve been effected by it emotionally, becasue it strikes a chord in them, becasue they feel a degree of harmonious communion with the said piece. They don’t call something “great” if they feel nothing, although they may recognise the technical abilty in the production of the piece yet don’t find that it touches them (which I am assuming you meant?)
So, when you were say people call a piece of art “great” but don’t feel emotional about I was assuming you were referring to the appreciation of technical ability rather than the subjective aesthetic judgement of the piece?

Was I correct or did you mean something different? If so how?

There are scientific measurements of psychological reactions and neurological reactions to various stimuli. It is by no means an accurate measurement, but neither is it redundant. Again, you can select literally any tandom group of people and present them with faces and ask which ones they find most “beautiful”, factoring out personal taste (preference to eye/hair colour and skintone, the same result will be shown over and over and over again. The most “beautiful” faces skew toward the most symmetrical faces. So emphasise this point ask someone to listen to Mozart or random noises amd they’ll choose Mozart over the sound of traffic or static (but, obviously, some artistic prusuits play around with purposefully playing things “out of tune/key” and jazz is one such experimental force in this area.)
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Jan Sand
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Re: Is Art Beautiful?

Post by Jan Sand » June 28th, 2018, 12:29 pm

Your casual insertion of "factoring out personal taste" as if it had no relevance is a prime point of difference. Emotional or not you cannot toss aside individual preference in judging beauty. Beauty is not inherent in an object, it is a relationship of an object or sound pattern or idea etc. to an individual person. That many individuals agree on the beauty of something does not make it universal or a permanent property of something judged.People who mature in sophistication can re-evaluate something differently over time or even circumstance.

Burning ghost
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Re: Is Art Beautiful?

Post by Burning ghost » June 28th, 2018, 12:40 pm

It wasn’t “casual” merely causal. Meaning if, within different preference groups (eg people who prefer blonde hair and blue eyes) they still pick the more symmetrical faces as the most pleasing to look at. That is what I meant by “factoring out,” which means over larger data sets of more and more people the pattern is clear enough. Symmetry, although not perfect symmetry, is concidered the most appealing/pleasant/beautiful. There will always be outliers in these studies due to personal experiences and/or any number if other extraordinary factors.

I didn’t say beauty was in an object? I didn’t “toss” anything aside, but you’ve tossed aside my question again. As a reminder:

Do you care to answer my question? Was my assessement correct? If not then why not and what can you do to rectify it?
AKA badgerjelly

Jan Sand
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Re: Is Art Beautiful?

Post by Jan Sand » June 28th, 2018, 12:59 pm

As I said, I am not sure what I should deny or affirm. Symmetricity is not the end all of beauty. Any kid's kaleidoscope will take a jumble of colored objects and that will appeal to kids as beauty but as you mature that becomes trivial. A survey will give you a democratic view of what is popular but says very little about any inherent property of anything observed. To say something is 45% beautiful makes no sense to me.

Probably emotion is a factor but emotions are not the same for all people.

Burning ghost
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Re: Is Art Beautiful?

Post by Burning ghost » June 28th, 2018, 1:19 pm

Of course it is nonsense to suggest something is 45% beautiful. It isn’t nonsense to say that this or that percentage of people agree that person a is more attractive than person b, yet we don’t say anything like such and such a person is 50% attractive and in no way shape or form have I suggested anything of the sort?

Let me try again then. How about this question (note: I am not making any assertion merely asking you a question). Does appreciation of technical ability of an art form make a better judge of artistic quality and does technical appreciation reveal “beauty” that may be hidden from others or, on the other hand, does technical appreciation allow the viewer to see through a “depthless beauty” (a superficial appeal toward beauty)?
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Jan Sand
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Re: Is Art Beautiful?

Post by Jan Sand » June 28th, 2018, 1:54 pm

I can only speak from personal experience and judgment. Whether depthless or deep beauty is superior is beyond my ability to judge since measuring tape is something I cannot use in this type of ascertainment. Art appeals to me when it reveals something I had not experienced before. When it explores and reveals aspects of accomplishment and perception that's novel. A piece can be a wonderful effort at craftsmanship and symmetrical as all hell but be a perfect bore. Well made stuff have an admiral quality but may be perfectly trite and of small interest. But rough craftsmanship in a new area can be fascinating and revelatory and highly worthwhile as art.

Burning ghost
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Re: Is Art Beautiful?

Post by Burning ghost » June 28th, 2018, 2:23 pm

Does cumulative experiences in some given area have a better chance of leading to a more reasonable judgement of said experience/s than a judgement made by someone with minimal experience in said field? If so, or not so, what can you conclude from your above response? Does your exploration of the art world destroy your ability to assess art or improve it?

As an optional extra:

Is novelty for the sake of novelty really novelty? If we are trying to create something novel, or to find something novel, are we more likely to stumble on something unique or less likely? To put another way, does the pursuit of understanding help us to understand? If so or not so, how so?

I ask because “difference” and “novelty” are interesting concepts to me.
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Jan Sand
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Re: Is Art Beautiful?

Post by Jan Sand » June 28th, 2018, 3:04 pm

Let me put it this way. Some of my work can be seen at https://siivola.org/jan/ . I am a graduate of Pratt Institute and School of Visual Arts in Manhattan. Both my parents were professional artists. I spent many years visiting the many museums in New York City and one of my sculptures was exhibited at the New York World's Fair in 1939 when I was 13 years old. So I have a reasonable background in art. Art and technology are deeply entwined as Leonardo DaVinci clearly demonstrated. i was trained in radar technology in the US Army Air Force in radar technology in WWII so I am roughly experienced in electronics. One must not confuse the outrageous prices now paid for some art with its value as art. I expect beautiful robots, not necessarily humanoid, to become art objects and some work in that area is already quite evident. My experience and training hs been quite valuable to me in working in the field. I do not consider myself as, in any way, outstanding but my experience helps. At 92 I still do some work and find it enjoyable The field is still changing insofar as technique and experimentation is involved and even with all that I am frequently puzzled as to quality. Novelty alone is not enough but, as in science, it can be very rewarding.

Gertie
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Re: Is Art Beautiful?

Post by Gertie » July 23rd, 2018, 12:53 pm

TigerNinja wrote:
February 28th, 2018, 5:43 pm
Art is often conceived of as being beautiful. A mesh of vibrant, tones and colours splashed onto a canvas in such a way that it becomes appealing to our senses. They always have a form of beauty, be it the ideological concept they are trying to give you, or the social commentary as in Grayson Perry's pieces, or simply the symbolism behind them. But despite saying that, does art necessarily have to be beautiful? Tell me your opinions below!
My view is the unique value of art is that it communicates something, resonates, in a way nothing else does. That certainly doesn't have to be conventionally 'beautiful'. Music, a poem, a painting, can hit you in the gut the way nothing else quite can, it's a shared moment of shared humanity, which can't be captured in a logical summary.

That's where art holds a unique place in our lives, imo, but not everything that we call art has to hit those dizzying heights. And what profoundly resonates with something in me, might be meaningless, ugly tat to you. But that's OK.

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