Kandinsky’s maxim ‘Art does not reproduce the visible, it makes the visible’ implying that art merely distorts the truth so it is possible to see the full effect. For example Picasso painted a ‘Crying woman’ portraying an artistic image far from that of a realistic view. This lie (distortion from reality) simply shows the truth more accurately providing people with a vision for the truth. In order to evaluate this claim I must first analyse the content of the question. What is art? Does art have meaning? If so to what extent does it manipulate those it reaches? A definition from a dictionary describes art as ‘the making of objects, images, music, etc. that are beautiful or that express feelings ’ however there were also 16 other definitions!
Is this because our particular culture’s use of language is so large or is it that nobody can actually defint ‘art’because it is arguably a means to express knowledge rather than to gain it? Because it is a way of expression does the particular art of paintings for example have to express emotion or even values? Fundamentaly the creation of a painting is to gain understanding of a particular feeling or image from the view of the other suggesting that knowledge is being gained from the knower. Is the lie quite simply creative expression? Leo Tolstoy once penned a short story ‘The diary of a madman’ based upon his own personal experiences using fictional characters. Could this in itself relate to Picasso’ claim… Tolstoy arguably used his ‘lie’ in order to bring his reader closer to the truth. It could be suggested that this can relate to Picasso expressing himself through his paintings. In this essay I will evaluate ‘art’ in regard to paintings from both the perspective of the knower and the observer.
From the perspective of the creator art is a form of communication through the illustrations and images created. The arts embrace all of our ways of knowing; irresponsible of consequences to the observer. The knower embraces all aspects of feelings thoughts and sensual perception . Knowing from a direct approach and experience will be completely different to another’s. The knower can often be seen to have an aspect of wisdom based upon their raw experiences, which in regards to Picasso is of a great form in his paintings. The main issue with this transfer of knowledge from the knower to the observer is that the knowledge cannot be replicated in the same form just as the emotion cannot.
The experience provided from the painting cannot be passed on to another when the raw material has not been experienced first hand. The claim that art is a lie may be an implication that people are naï¿½ve to the fact that they can perceive the exact same thing as the knower… the observer believes the lie that they have been provided with something of personal relevance when in fact it’s meaning and sentimental value is inconsiderably different.
The memory upheld within a painting is fundamentally the truth for the artist and a lie for those observing. When it comes down to it everybody believes their knowledge to be of a vast standard however in reality there is such a fine line between knowledge, belief and opinion. A painting for example portrays all three of these: the knowledge of the knower on how to pick up a paint brush and create, the belief that they can create something worth creating and the opinion that they have solely created something of use to others as well as themselves. An artist’s instinct leads them to create a lie; a distorted version of their own personal truth, a decision disguised between the other hundreds of other decisions they make even consciously without even thinking. But how did they portray something so vivid to an observer but disguise it as a lie within itself?
If this is the case then it could be said that a professional artist has built a career on the naivety of others thriving off of the belief the observer has in the knower that they have been provided with the truth: however the above claim by Picasso could actually be seen as a confession to his observers. It finally came to light that people will never stop questioning their world regardless of excuses and obstacles which they may face. A logical way of filtering knowledge into two categories by individuals takes place through the ways of knowing. A Sunday newspaper once printed that a man responsible for the World War II bombings had been found on the news.
This was totally discarded by the public because their `reason’ told them it was ridiculas and impossible. This was followed by them analysing the `language` in the headline and concluding that they were simply appealing to people’s `emotions`. Arguably they also `perceived` the image to also be of fake origin. Bertrand Russell once categorised knowledge into two main categories ‘knowing that’ and ‘knowing how’: in regard to the claim how it is possible to distinguish what is a lie and what is the truth? From a painting the distinguishing features between the two are totally as one as the knower who created the image has painted a blank canvas in his own truth and lies.
In terms of rationalism we cannot trust what we have gained through our senses because they are deemed to be unreliable and the knowledge and understanding has not been reached through reasoning. Thus Art and paintings would not be deemed as a valid basis for knowledge based on the fact we have visualised the image; therefore a rationalist would not approach the claim by Picasso optimistically.
It was Socrates and Plato whom originally believed that it was our senses only that allow us to view the physical world, which to them was deemed less important than the emotional and internal aspects to life and understanding …Does this imply that a painting can never be viewed by anyone other than the artist because the visual concept of the piece cannot be truthfully seen by the observer? Empiricism however argues that people’s minds are a lot like blank slates (tabula rasa created by Aristotle) where a painting is formed. Could it be argued that paintings are simply materialised objects of people’s minds? Painting a materialistic lie based upon the truth of the mind?
Contrasting both rationalism and empiricism in relation to truth and lies through art is something which can be explored. Rationalism is based upon ideas beyond our consciousness developed in such a way that we are able to understand ourselves properly: once an individual has understood themselves they can then classify to what extent the painting has an effect on them. Our senses however are considered more from the empiricist view: we need to sensually develop ideas from the painting first before we build a story providing truth and lies.
Viewing the claim from either point of view first requires an explanation on what the truth actually is. The truth is arguably something which either can or cannot be justified however it has a great margin of leniency; because of this it is often simpler to define a lie. A lie for example could be a slight change on the occurrence of an event for example making it easier to define. The four ‘truth tests’ could be carried out on a painting in order for the observer to define what is truth and what is the lie. The correspondence theory (senses), the coherence theory (use information provided by others), the consensus theory (agreement of a group), or the pragmatic theory (truth can be changed based upon an individuals requirements). Focusing in on the pragmatic truth theory supported by William James it could be said that a paintings truth can be changed in order to suit the individual, both the knower and observer; the knower could create his truth however have it mutable to adapt it for an individuals benefit.
Based upon our four ways of knowing a painting can be seen in many different ways to provide knowledge. From a sense perception view, seeing it is a primary way of experiencing the painting; texture could also be deemed useful. Emotion can be very difficult to analyse from a painting because different people feel different things from the same stimulus: arguably because many peoples emotions can be exploited and what seems to be the truth is actually not. Reason can be seen to create a sense of logic about the painting; what is it? How do you know what it is? Finally Language is not used in a painting; does this actually mean that Picassos’ claim is irrelevant based upon the fact that we cannot come to a conclusion on knowledge without language being part of it?
Because art is solely based upon imitation it is arguable extremely difficult to analyse Picasso’s claim. We as individuals cannot define between what is truth and what is a lie: we can only judge the claim based on judgement and belief. It is also debatable as to what art is defined as, regardless of the effect that it has on an individual. An artist simply paints his story and emotions onto a canvas to be analysed by another. This story is provided alongside no language, reasoning or primary emotion… because of this is art knowledge? Can something be true or false, lie or the truth without being justified in the first palce?