What is the Meaning of ART?
In ancient cultures this question did not need to be asked. Because everyone knew the meaning of art. It was no mystery. It would have been the same as asking 'what is the meaning of eating, or breathing. Art has been continuously produced for thousands of years among every culture on earth. Paintings, drawings, engravings, sculpture, dance, music, poetry, architecture.... But in our modern western world we do not know the meaning of art.
Obviously art must have a pretty important function to have survived all this time. Yet in modern times, we don't hear much about the function or meaning of art. It seems that Arts only function is little more than that of a commodity, something to be bought and sold, seemingly with very little relationship between quality and cost. The great art commentators talk about texture, colour, shapes and all matter of abstract intellectual mumbo jumbo; on an on they go completely alienating the viewers, who start to wonder if they are stupid for not 'understanding' what its all about. In our modern era, art galleries have become places for the Elite, who supposedly understand what its all about, with many people afraid to walk in the door at the fear of looking ignorant. But the truth is very few people in the Western world understand what art means, least of all the commentators.
My own understanding of the function of art echos that of indigenous cultures, which contrasts that of established views. This view sees art and creativity simply as 'Healing'. Art speaks directly to the soul, not the brain. There is nothing to 'understand'. It does not have to be an intellectual concept. It does not need to be analysed. In fact one doesn't even need to read the title card in order to benefit from looking at art. This is optional. All one needs to do is listen. Allow the art, (whether it's ones own art or someone elses), bring its message directly to your heart and soul. Just open yourself up and allow yourself to be receptive. Looking at a painting should be like listening to music with ones eyes closed. But instead of closing the eyes, its the thinking analyzing brain that needs to be closed down, in order for the deeper parts of ones being to 'see' and 'feel' the deeper message in the art . Art has always been a vital part of ancient healing and spiritual traditions, and is still part of contemporary indigenous healing ceremonies. Take for example Australian Aboriginal healing ceremonies which include dance, music, and painting. And then there is the sacred Mandala in many ancient traditions; the Tibetan Sand mandala, the Navajo sand paintings. The list goes on.
So why does the Western Art establishment not recognise art as sacred? There are probably many answers to this, however one obvious reason is that Western culture in general does not recognise spirituality, sacredness or healing as important issues. In fact they are considered outdated and trivial. However it does make an exception to this rule, and that is when the artist is indigenous as in the case of Australian Aboriginal art, which enjoys great popularity, with its spiritual essence greatly valued and even promoted by the white gallery owner. However when a white skinned artist walks into the gallery with a painting of equal spiritual content she does not receive the same welcome, and is quickly shown the door. It is explained to her that the gallery does not deal in 'New Age' or 'Religious' art.
.....but that's another story.