Oil Painting Blog

Blog about oil paintings by Robert Dawson

What art isn't?

Below is something I wrote very late a few nights ago and then revised tonight. I'm not sure if it's any good. But I can't say I disagree with it. I don't know.


I appreciate art because it defies definition. I don't know what art is in the general sense. It's art. Art defines itself. By not defining itself.

Art defines itself by defying itself. Art doesn't like to be defined and, therefore, confined. Art would be a form of rebellion if it could tolerate being confined to a single form.

Back to nature. Categories abound. Logic and structure abounds. Sense just makes sense.

Conformity. Stability. Comfort. Sleep. 8-5. (Nobody ever did 9-5.)

Order. We need order to make sense of things. Because of how our brains work, we can't help it. Thinking is ordering. It helps us survive. We make sense of things automagically.

But art embraces order as well as disorder. In his book, The Art Spirit, which I’ve been reading for ages now and need to finish, Robert Henri equates art with an appreciation of order. It is, but it also isn't. Art has moods.

If I recall, Heidegger applauded art's ability, and made it a necessary quality of valued art, to escape rationalization or, in other words, to blur and, more likely with modern art, blow up preconceptions. Art helps us think differently about the same things.

You might ask, "What use is art?" The most common answer: It helps us appreciate life. Second: It reminds us of beauty.

But art is also a form of philosophy, visual in my case, in that it provides us with stimuli that provoke us to ponder ourselves and the world around us. Moreover, it asks us to reconsider our place and, even more, if having a place makes sense.

Put a brick on a pedestal. Strip this ultimate symbol of utility and function of its common purpose (assuming the pedestal itself isn't made of brick). You might be tempted in a creative exercise to carve a tiny door and two windows into it.

This time, do nothing. Look at it, differently. Strip away not only its preconceived, practical, pedestrian purpose, but also, if you can, its very definition. It isn’t a brick. Voilà! It isn’t even a rectangle if you can help it. It just is.

That's art.

Sort of. It's also pretty.