Form and Content
There is a wide range of visual arts. As the name implies, visual arts are forms of art that are in the main visual in nature. Examples may include, but not limited to the following: painting, sculpture, photography, printmaking, drawing, ceramics, design, crafts, and film-making. In this era of computer technology, the output of a photo-shop may even be considered as an example of visual art.
While visual art may take in different forms, it can also be both a reflection and a manifestation of the artist’s subjective perceptions of the objective truth or reality. Here, I am referring to the content of visual arts. Suffice it to say, the content of any visual art, or any art work for that matter, is an expression of the artist’s outlook about himself and that of society, and/or the existing relationship (or lack of it) between him/her and the environment.
One important component of the content of any artwork is the answer to this question — to whom does an artwork serves? For the artist who produced the artwork? For his or her own self-contentment and satisfaction? Should an artwork contribute to the betterment of society? Should it serve an existing order, or should it contribute to change and development?
Types of Visual Arts
In whatever form a particular visual art is, it could be classified under a specific type of visual art: representational, abstract, and non-objective. Representational art shows actual object and/or subject based from reality. This specific type of art has several sub-categories which include realism, impressionism, and stylization. When an audience see a painting, drawing, photography, sculpture, etc one can easily recognize the subjects and/or objects. This nature of representational art makes it widely-accepted to society in general, especially to the hoi polloi.
Abstract art is a type of visual art which also shows subjects and/or objects but presents these in ways that are different as seen in reality. There is an emphasis in lines, colors, and shapes that alters a particular subject or object. Cubism is an example of abstract art. Of course, Pablo Picasso is one of the most famous and brilliant cubist artists this world has ever produced. He was not only a painter, but also a sculptor, ceramist, stage designer, and a printmaker. Talk about being an all-around visual artist! Minimalism is another sub-category of visual arts. Minimalism as a type of visual arts only aims to show and describe what is essential. It eliminates the non-essential forms and contents. Minimalism is also called “minimal art” and/or “abc art”.
Another type of visual arts is called “non-objective” art. This type of art, many believe, got nothing from reality. In fact, many say that “non-objective art” is only for aesthetic purposes. The only reason to produce of this type of art is to take art form as visually stimulating as it could be.
Appreciating Visual Art: A Combination of Both Form and Content
All these and more represent different forms of visual arts and how these are presented to the audience. As stated, visual arts are presented in different forms. For example, a painting could be really well-presented in its form. A film could have very good cinematography, musical score, editing, the performances of actors are highly-appreciated, etc. Ceramics and sculptures could have polished edges. A photograph could be well-lighted and framed too well.
The content of visual arts could be plain narrative or descriptive of a subject. It could be considered propaganda of a particular outlook, events, etc. It could even be an illusion of what is aspired and/or attainable. It could be so abstract that only the artist knows the interpretation of his or her own work, or the audience may have a different explanation. It could either be for maintaining the present order, or changing what needs to be changed. Visual arts, in short, are basically about art for the self and for society shown in different forms.
Artists have different interpretations of how they see things – how they perceive society, the existing relationships, etc. These interpretations are determined by a particular artist’s outlook in life. In the end, these interpretations are seen in the different output — in canvasses, frames, carvings, films, performances, and a lot more. These forms can be presented in different main types of visual arts — representational, abstract, and/or non-objective.
In other words, an artist’s interpretation of his outlook and beliefs, about himself/herself, and of society and the existing relationships, are presented in the content of his or her art work/s. Ultimately, there is no such thing as art for art’s sake. Any art form and how it is presented is always an indication of an artist’s feelings and thoughts either about himself or herself, and that of society. A combination of both the form and content should be considered when one wants to appreciate any visual work. One can’t do without the other.
A particular visual art could be visually stimulating. The form of presentation in whatever type of visual art is used could be so aesthetically outstanding that the content is set aside. This should not be the case. The appreciation of visual arts is not just about the form or how a particular output is presented. The content is an integral aspect of any visual art form. Both the artists and the audience should give premium both to the form and content when it comes to the appreciation of visual arts. In other words, to fully appreciate a particular visual art, its totality should always be considered.
Appreciating Visual Art: To Whom Does It Serve?
This is a basic question when one wants to take into account the content of any art work. An appreciation of art should always consider the purpose embedded on the output. An artwork may be visually good to look at but could only be self-serving to the artist or to a particular group of individuals. It could be so refined and polished but only serves an existing order and defies change and development.
Ultimately, there is no such thing as art for aesthetics’ sake, or art for art’s sake. A particular art work should be beneficial to society in general. It should reflect the truth and the ways to make this world a better place to live in.