Art is a term that describes a diverse range of human activities and the products of those activities, but is most often understood to refer to painting, film, photography, sculpture, and other visual media. Music, theatre, dance, literature, and interactive media are included in a broader definition of art or the arts. Many definitions* of art have been proposed by philosophers and others who have characterized art in terms of mimesis, expression, communication of emotion, or other values. The nature of art, and related concepts such as creativity and interpretation, are explored in a branch of philosophy known as aesthetics.
The “Civilization/Art” segment of our website offers photo galleries dealing primarily with Visual Arts and New Media Art.
The Visiual Arts
The visual arts are art forms that create works which are primarily visual in nature, such as ceramics, drawing, painting, sculpture, printmaking, design, crafts, and often modern visual arts (photography, video, and filmmaking) and architecture. These definitions should not be taken too strictly as many artistic disciplines (performing arts, conceptual art, textile arts) involve aspects of the visual arts as well as arts of other types. Also included within the visual arts are the applied arts such as industrial design, graphic design, fashion design, interior design and decorative art.
As indicated above, the current usage of the term “visual arts” includes fine art as well as the applied, decorative arts and crafts, but this was not always the case.Before the Arts and Crafts Movement in Britain and elsewhere at the turn of the 20th century, the term artist was often restricted to a person working in the fine arts (such as painting, sculpture, or printmaking) and not the handicraft, craft, or applied art media. The distinction was emphasized by artists of the Arts and Crafts Movement who valued vernacular art forms as much as high forms. Art schools made a distinction between the fine arts and the crafts maintaining that a craftsperson could not be considered a practitioner of art.
The increasing tendency to privilege painting, and to a lesser degree sculpture, above other arts has been a feature of Western art as well as East Asian art. In both regions painting has been seen as relying to the highest degree on the imagination of the artist, and the furthest removed from manual labour – in Chinese painting the most highly valued styles were those of “scholar-painting”, at least in theory practiced by gentleman amateurs. The Western hierarchy of genres reflected similar attitudes.
New Media Art
New media art is a genre that encompasses artworks created with new media technologies, including digital art, computer graphics, computer animation, virtual art, Internet art, interactive art, computer robotics, and art as biotechnology. The term differentiates itself by its resulting cultural objects and social events, which can be seen in opposition to those deriving from old visual arts (i.e. traditional painting, sculpture, etc.). This concern with medium is a key feature of much contemporary art and indeed many art schools and major Universities now offer majors in “New Genres” or “New Media” and a growing number of graduate programs have emerged internationally. New Media Art often involves interaction between artist and observer or between observers and the artwork, which responds to them.
* Britannica Online defines art as “the use of skill and imagination in the creation of aesthetic objects, environments, or experiences that can be shared with others.”
By this definition of the word, artistic works have existed for almost as long as humankind: from early pre-historic art to contemporary art; however, some theories restrict the concept to modern Western societies. The first and broadest sense of art is the one that has remained closest to the older Latin meaning, which roughly translates to “skill” or “craft.” A few examples where this meaning proves very broad include artifact, artificial, artifice, medical arts, and military arts. However, there are many other colloquial uses of the word, all with some relation to its etymology.
The second and more recent sense of the word art is as an abbreviation for creative art or fine art and emerged in the early 17th century. Fine art means that a skill is being used to express the artist’s creativity, or to engage the audience’s aesthetic sensibilities, or to draw the audience towards consideration of the finer things.
The word art can describe several things: a study of creative skill, a process of using the creative skill, a product of the creative skill, or the audience’s experience with the creative skill. The creative arts (art as discipline) are a collection of disciplines that produce artworks (art as objects) that are compelled by a personal drive (art as activity) and convey a message, mood, or symbolism for the viewer to interpret (art as experience). Art is something that stimulates an individual’s thoughts, emotions, beliefs, or ideas through the senses. Artworks can be explicitly made for this purpose or interpreted on the basis of images or objects. Although the application of scientific knowledge to derive a new scientific theory involves skill and results in the “creation” of something new, this represents science only and is not categorized as art.