In the era of modernism, the search for originality caused artists to reevaluate art. Many began to question whether it was still possible to define art in terms of a craftsman who excelled at the techniques of his time, or if it could be defined more generally as an expression of one’s own unique vision. The concept of art is organic, and its meaning changes over the course of history.
A common understanding of art focuses on the appreciation of beauty. It may be a basic human instinct for harmony, balance and rhythm or the desire to experience something beyond utilitarianism. It is also a means of expressing one’s imagination in non-grammatical ways that are not tied to the formality of words, as with paintings, sculptures, architecture and music.
Some believe that certain forms of art are infused with spirituality, and may be used as a means to communicate with the divine. This is sometimes referred to as “mystical art.” Examples include religious architecture like the Parthenon, Hagia Sophia, St Peter’s Basilica and the Taj Mahal; or artistic forms of writing such as poetry and literature. These are often associated with specific religions or cultures.
It has been argued that the arts are important to our lives because they represent the cultural accomplishments that are made by mankind. These accomplishments are expressed through the arts, from the earliest cave paintings to our most modern creations. Art also acts as a barometer for the level of civilization that has been achieved, with certain styles and movements having a more aesthetic component and others having more of a symbolic or ritualistic function.
There is no consensus on what constitutes art. Some definitions of art, such as those provided by Plato and Aristotle, emphasize the importance of artistic skill. Other definitions, such as that of Kristeller, consider all creative expression to be art. Still, others, such as the primitive Christians, the strict Mohammedans and Buddhists, have gone so far as to repudiate all art.
For some, to be considered art, a work must provoke a response from the viewer. This can be a positive or negative reaction, but it must be different from the viewer’s normal response. For example, if a work of art makes the viewer feel fearful or anxious, this is not a positive reaction and does not qualify as art.
It is also argued that the process of creating art is itself a form of art. This includes the hours of staring at a blank canvas, page or screen, and the effort required to overcome creative block. This process of artistic struggle is seen as a valuable form of meditation and spirituality, and the results can be very satisfying. This may be why making art is so enjoyable for many people – it is a way to get lost in the moment and forget about the worries of everyday life. A recent study found that making art can even help to lower stress levels.