If someone paints a painting in a forest…

Ars gratia artis

This concept expresses a philosophy that the intrinsic value of art, and the only “true” art, is divorced from any didactic, moral or utilitarian function.

Many artists feel that if no one acknowledges their art, then it has no meaning, worth, or value. Art, though a communicative medium, is not primarily a means of communication at least in the traditional sense. Art doesn’t require an audience to have value. It doesn’t even need to be high quality. Art’s primary purpose is personal. It’s meaning is individual. It is an expression/exploration of an idea, thought, feeling, or concept. Art is relative to the creator and the audience. Art made merely as a creative outlet is every bit as beneficial and useful as art made to decorate the Sistine Chapel. In fact, Oscar Wilde said that “All art is quite useless”. He didn’t mean that it has no value, but that if art is being twisted to serve a purpose, is it truly art? Propaganda is not art, nor is advertising under this definition. Now, he is also not advocating an ultimate all-encompassing definition of useless. He is primarily referring to art that has been commercialized, or ab-used to serve a purpose beyond the art. These things can have artistic qualities, but not necessarily be actual art.

Art must have thought behind the creation. It must be spawned from the creative spark within our being. It must flow from our soul, from the universe through the conduit of our bodies and minds. Art must be free to explore. Art must be the manifestation of the Universal. It must tie into something greater. This is why so-called “commercial art” is rarely art, though commerce and art are not exclusive. Jackson Pollack deconstructed ideas in his process of chaos, form, color, and meaninglessness. He was actively participating in understanding the universe in a new light in the creation of his splatters. Van Gogh, Monet, Leonardo da Vinci, Michelangelo: all created a perspective of the Universal and translated it to canvas, or stone, or plaster. Beethoven heard the symphonies of the universe, even when deaf, creating some of the most transcendental music in human history. Banksy comments upon human nature and society in his graphic arts. Chuck Close and John Cage take a closer look at the elements of their respective mediums, analyzing their subjects in the light of their own novel world views. Art must be intentional. Beauty need not be.

Artists must explore the Universe, in all of it’s facets as they seek ultimate TRUTH, or whatever shreds of Temporal Truth they can seize, and represent.

Painters must paint. It is what is within them. Writers must write. Film makers must make film. Sculptures must sculpt. Poets must wax poetic. The medium is not what matters. The critical view of reality and the attempt to discover it through creation is what matters. With this in mind, we see why an audience is non-essential and even tangential to the artistic process. However, we all hope that our art reaches other people, or displays what truths we have learned and discovered before them, so they might be enriched and lead greater, more full lives. We hope that our art challenges world views, or at least causes us to view the world with greater observative acuity. We hope that our art causes people to re-evaluate their axioms, and base assumptions as to the nature of reality, other people, nature, themselves, and their belief structures. Art is subversive. It is inherently unstable. It is dangerous. Free thought and action is required. It is quirky. It is weird. It views ordinary life through a new lens. It looks at the elements, and the big picture simultaneously yet independently and exclusively. It takes paradox in stride, bending our minds, and crushing our lazy banality.

However, in the end, art is for the artist. We make art, for art’s sake because we can’t do otherwise. We must connect to the Universal and allow it to pass through us into the specific. In this, art need not be beautiful, or True in and of itself. It must realize itself and grow. It must relate to the comprehensive whole, connecting our spirits with itself. That is where the Truth and Beauty lie. If it is True, it is inherently beautiful, no matter how horrible. If it is Beautiful, it is inherently True, no matter how false. That which is True, and Beautiful must be good.

Through all of this, Art Springs Aeternal. Art is what binds us to the universe and to each other. Without Art, creativity must die. Without Art, critical perspectives will be lost. Art must be created to enhance our lives and understandings beyond anything that Math and Science can do. Art must direct Sciences and Math. And Sciences and Math must direct art. They must be in balance: a system in tension.  Different realms of knowing collide, but each are essential to crafting a great understanding of the mosaic of the Universe, and Art will allow us to Transcend our bounds and limitations and connect to the fires behind the curtain.

Ars Gratia Artis!


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