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Different ideologies and definitions exist about what art is. Tolstoy (14) claims that art is a mode of communication whereby the artist wishes to share his innermost feelings and ideas with the world. The author went on further to assert that art is universal and thus is meant to people from all walks of life and not just a specific social group. In regards to this statement, Tolstoy goes on to argue that any form of art that targets a particular target is inarticulate and makes no sense (23). Any type of art that can be labelled as good must be able to represent or evoke a feeling or idea that the artiste had in mind at the specific time when coming up with the art ascertaining that it should have substance and structure (Tolstoy, 56). There are many reasons as to why someone or an artist might do or perform art. In most cases, it might have to do with the fact they are entertaining people in which case it can be said that they are doing or performing art as a form or way of getting an income. However, what is unknown to many is that most of the artists that exist at this particular time and age do art to express themselves. This group of artistes expresses their feelings and desires in the only way that they see fit (Arnheim, 34). From that statement, one can easily depict that most of the art that is done as a way of expression is on most occasions not done for entertainment. The numerous form of art includes; dancing, painting/portraiture, singing, sports, writing, teaching and other types. This article will now discuss the issue of whether artists do art only to entertain their audiences and followers or it might by far much broader and more significant than that. This will be achieved through analysing the relationship that exists between popular forms and contemporary art.
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Is art entertainment or more than that?
As earlier mentioned in this paper, some artistes do or perform their art to express ideas or feelings that they have towards things or socio injustices. Before that is discussed, it is also imperative to note that over the years there have been different ideologies on what qualifies to be regarded as art and what does not. Tolstoy was quite clear in his book whereby he asserted that technique could not be taught or trained from one person to another (70). The author claimed that artists were born with their gifts and it could not be passed from one person to another by the mere act of tutoring. This statement also meant that a person who acquired or became an artist of a particular form of art is not a real artist (Tolstoy, 71). Artistes were born with whichever talent that they possess. The passion that they had in them is what gives them the ability to quickly communicate or express themselves through their works adequately and sincerely. Art should only be enhanced or guided at times but enforcing it on someone is a sin. Children or people that have indications of possessing a particular form of art can be supervised on how to make them understand the art better or further know how to express it accordingly.
In contrast to this, other scholars do not entirely agree with Tolstoy ideologies. Ali Akbar Khansir argues that people who are good at doing certain things can teach and impact other people to know something that they did not realise at first. In this case, Khansir was writing on the teaching of the English language (839). Khansir asserts that teaching a foreign language to people who do not know it to the point that they understand and comprehend it well, is not an easy task to do or undertake. The tutor has to ensure that he or she is aware of what the students need to do to thoroughly learn a language that is foreign and at last be able to speak it. Khansir, therefore, claims that teaching a language, English, in this case, is an art (Khansir 839). English is not a straightforward language and well thought off strategies and process must be integrated into the learning to ensure the students or learners fully grasp what is being thought of them. By arguing from this angle, Khansir states that teaching of the English language is an art and the teacher that teaches it is an artist. Khansir paints the picture that to teach grammar; one needs to fully understand the students’ tribulations in both inside and outside the classroom. The teacher is also required to become a good friend of the learners to create a rapport or a good relationship that will see them working to achieve the desired goal (Khansir, 840) together. Apart from the fact that Khansir theory is somehow different from Tolstoy in regards to teaching and learning of arts, one is able to depict that both do agree on the fact that art can on other occasions be done not as a form of entertainment but as way of there being an understanding, connection between the artiste and the audience/learners.
However, in the medical field, there is proof of there being support of the statement that art is indeed a form or way in which a person, the artiste, expresses him or herself (Giovanni, 196). Doctors and medical practitioners in the psychotherapy field have found that patients that have a hard time verbally expressing themselves regarding their feelings or what the need or want can do so by them being provided with ways in which they can do so through the different forms of art that are available. In contrast to Tolstoy ideology on art, Giovanni asserts that with art therapy, one does not need to be an artist or have the specific ability of talent that is related to the art that they choose for their treatment. This means that anyone can rip the benefits of art therapy (197). From conducted research and tests, art therapy is said to be able to assist one in the reducing of stress, developing and managing of their feelings and behaviours, improving their awareness and self-esteem and, resolving of issues that might have been troubling them. The article by Giovanni illustrates the importance of there being an extra way or solution in treating a patient perceives or thinks that their life no longer has quality and thus feels useless. This is the point in which art therapy becomes a saving factor as the specialists will work with the patient to ensure that a healing process commences through any art of their choice and it will play a significant role in providing the patient does recovers (Giovanni, 199).
There has never been a specific answer or definition when it comes to explaining what contemporary art means. On the other hand, most specialists have agreed to the fact that any form of art that has been performed or done in our lifetime is to be considered as contemporary art. Others have regarded modern art to be art that was carried out in a period of twenty to thirty years back (Slifkin, 111). A critical aspect of contemporary artists is that their art focuses more on the changing dynamics of today’s world. Contemporary artists are therefore known to express their feelings and ideas regarding things that are happening in the present world through their arts. When it comes to modern art, most of the focus is given to portraiture as they are regarded to have an everlasting effect since they are stored and can be displayed from time to time at exhibitions (Slifkin, 113).
An excellent example of a contemporary artiste is Kehinde Wiley. Wiley is a painter who has been known to always be against Western art that depicts the black man as an inferior being. This has led to him coming up or doing paintings and illustrations of work that glorify the black man (Cutler, 220). Cutler describes on how successful Wiley has been in highlighting on the prejudice and downgrading that the Black man has been subjected to in the real world and the art world together. This can easily be depicted from one of his works as shown in the image below:
Image 1.0 Kehinde Wiley (American, born 1977). Napoleon Leading the Army over the Alps, 2005, oil on canvas (Wiley).
Kehinde Wiley oil canvas was done in the year 2005. Most importantly, Wiley painting is founded on the portrait of the famous old artiste Jacques-Louis David of the year 1801 that illustrates Napoleon Bonaparte on the back of a horse with its original name, “Napoleon Crossing the Alps.” Wiley painting is what he came to name as, “Napoleon Leading the Army Over the Alps.” Unlike the original painting that had Napoleon in it, Wiley’s instead had a Black man on the back of the horse, and he is clad in combat gear and Timberland boots. Wiley was expressing his feelings that a Black man can also be at the position of power (Wiley).
Popular Forms of Entertainment
Entertainment is a way in which people seek a way that they can be able to feel better. There are many different sources of entertainment, and they include reading, music, movies, computers, traveling and many more.
Relationship between Contemporary Art and Popular Forms of Entertainment
In regards to the thesis that was given at the beginning of this paper with regards to whether art is entertainment, one is can easily depict the tie that exists between contemporary art and the popular forms of entertainment that are present in today’s world. What one can draw from the two is that the way in which they are displayed, relayed and have almost the same effect on their audiences. In as much as contemporary artists do their art to communicate and express their feelings, at the end of the day it is imperative to note that their art is displayed to entertain other people and sold to the highest bidder or buyer? This is the same thing with forms of entertainment as it the people that participate in them are doing so to entertain their audiences.
The particular group of people that seem to be interested in art at present can also be said to be entertained by it. In the same way that one might attend a football match to get contemplated, is the same way that an art lover also looks for entertainment whenever he or she attends an art gala or exhibition (McKee, 765). This discussed point of view is what this paper ascertains to be the existing relationship between contemporary art and popular form of entertainment. Another important aspect is that entertainers get paid for their efforts which are also the same thing with present artists as they sell their pieces in a bid to earn money. Contemporary art has been commercialised, and people are being taught on how to draw, paint with the motive that they become famous and make the considerable amount of money same as entertainers do.
From all the information that has been discussed above, it is essential to state that to some extent; art is indeed a form of entertainment. Specialists have argued on the lasting effect that both art and entertainment forms leave on their audiences, but the two are still somehow tied together. It is also imperative to note that people who go to look for entertainment are just looking for a way to unwind or “loosen up” after a long day at work whereas those that choose to go for art are actually looking for something that will touch their souls and give them a feeling of peace for a long, long time unlike the temporary bliss one gets from the standard forms of entertainment. In most occasions, the entertainers themselves are artists who were born with the abilities that they possess. Depending on how one chooses to look at it, art comes from the heart and can never be duplicated.
- Arnheim, Rudolf. Art and Visual Perception: A Psychology of the Creative Eye, California: University of California Press
- Cutler, Jodie. B. “A New Republic: Kehinde Wiley,” Nka, 2016 (38-39): 220–223, 2016.
- Giovanni, Mirabella. “Is Art Therapy a Reliable Tool for Rehabilitating People Suffering from Brain/Mental Diseases?” The Journal of Alternative and Complementary Medicine, 21(4): 196-199, 2015.
- Khansir, Ali Akbar. “Teaching English is Art and English Teacher is Artist,” International J. Soc. Sci. & Education, Vol.4 Issue 4, pp. 838-843 2014.
- McKee, Allan. “The power of art, the power of entertainment,” Sage Journals, Volume 35: Issue 6: pp. 759-770, 2013.
- Slifkin, Robert. “Is Contemporary Art History?” Oxford Art Journal, Volume 35, Issue 1, 1, Pages 111–114, 2012.
- Tolstoy, Leo. What Is Art? London: Penguin Books Publishers, 1995.
- Wiley, Kehinde. “Napoleon Leading the Army Over the Alps,” Brooklyn Museum, retrieved 9th January, 2018 from https://www.brooklynmuseum.org/opencollection/objects/169803