Beauty in art- an over used term that we still have to talk about.
Some say this is the entire point of art. This is why we photograph. Others say it is an archaic notion that cannot be applied to the 21st century when art seems to have spilled out of its defined borders into the surrounding areas called the web, the streets and even the odd spaces like lockers.
What was it?
Beauty was something that was attainable through certain attributes. It needed symmetry, harmony and balance. All of these things are structural and mathematical, which in turn is logical.
While those linear design elements contributed to the beauty, it was not beauty in the individual sense, but in a universal whole. This aesthetic type of beauty can lead us on an ascent in our knowledge. We must first experience the beauty and then it will resonate with us.
There is still a lot of truth in the fundamental design components that describe beauty in the medieval times as said above. However, this responsibility that was placed on beauty also lead to a definition of an ideal form. Idealizing people, nature and objects is something that our modern culture is very proficient at.
I believe that the basis for this idealist thinking started with Plato and has since manifested into our everyday lives. Women are a great example of this phenomenon in our culture. The “ideal” woman would be tall, thin yet curvaceous in all the right areas. This image of a beautiful woman is portrayed in fashion and the media on a daily basis. We, the society, has created our own ideal for women to adhere too.
On the other end of that example stands the question of what is our reality and what is our illusion. While we portray the perfect ideal beautiful woman on the cover of Vogue, we know in our minds that she is a mere fragment of who she is in reality. We have projected a falsity for society to attempt to become.
True Beauty is not real but instead ideal
It is not real, yet it is ideal. This then asks the question, is it so beautiful because it has the underlying principle of being unattainable?
Well, harkening back to Plato, it is hardly even possible for anyone to know true beauty, only a portion of it, because to know it would mean you would have known Goodness, which is never in our grasp.
Plato also says that beauty, and its elements are eternal. This places beauty in the realm of a god. Beauty also leaves the physical realm in its conjunction with love. The connection of the two is so close they cannot have on with out the other.
What is it now?
While beauty interacts with society on an idealized and even impossible level as I explained above. With the individual it is often a matter of taste or infatuations.
Thus beauty is unique to the form in which it inhabits. Taking that into consideration, I have laid out what I think attracts me in the sense of beauty and aesthetics. I have chosen Sally Mann, Kara Walker and Khaled Hafez.
I would encourage you to do the same. Find 3 artists that you feel drawn to and then consider what makes their work beautiful for you.
Sally Mann has captured emotionally stirring sets of photographs in her career. The ones of her children command attention. Her skills of capturing a crisp and quality image combined with the aesthetics of composition placements are inspiring and beautiful. Her use of forms, the children, is innovating and striking. Her figures always seems to be on the edge of something we are not familiar with yet we fear.
Kara Walker has installations of silhouettes. What I find beautiful about her pieces is the subtle layering of content within the overall images. Her whimsical joyous figures dance across the wall in a very pleasing arrangement and give a sense of care free enjoyment, then when examining each scene closer it reveals a more distasteful and unfortunate side of society past and present. I find beauty in her ability to create an experience that confronts society.
Khaled Hafez is an Egyptian painter. Drawing from his roots and history he creates a mix of modern textures and colors with figures from the past. His juxtaposition of past and present is the most innovative and beautiful part of his painting. His perspective on our ideas of power and consumption in some later works again reflects on society.
For me beauty in art is as much about the aesthetics of form, texture and shape as it is about the ideas within the pieces. It is about me connecting and communicating in a visual matter. What is your reason for loving an artists work? Is it their compositional construction, subject matter, conceptual portrayal of society or the color palette? Beauty is not something to be defined by pure physical aesthetics alone, it is as personal as the whole area of art is. It is unique to every person, and that person has an innate part of them that tells what is and is not beautiful.
How can that be so easily defined?