Essay What Is Art

This is the first in a series of personal blogs written by members of The Girl Gang, a community of bloggers who open a weekly Twitter chat at #thegirlgang. They will explore what art means to them, and what key paintings have inspired them. This first post is written by the founder of The Girl Gang, Jemma Morgan. Enjoy!

To me, art is as natural as breathing. It’s a huge part of my life; whether consuming it in galleries, on websites, discussing with others, experiencing through the power of social media, or creating it for myself. It’s part of the very nature of my whole being, as a person. From the moment I started drawing as a child, it helped me express how I was feeling, or ideas I couldn’t quite articulate.

I understand that not everyone feels this way, that they don’t consider themselves creative people. However, art is a fundamental part of life, and one of the most important representations of human beings throughout the ages. It’s part of our everyday life whether we realise it or not; through advertising, TV, film, photography, product branding, and so much more. It moves us, calls us to action, makes us question, doubt and feel things we wouldn’t have otherwise. It connects us across the world, and is a language everyone can speak. Art is a powerful connection of ideas and purposeful creation.

So it’s hard for me to accept sometimes, when people say they aren’t interested in anything remotely artistic. Of course you are!

Art can speak to us, and resonate deep with our own experiences. Whatever it is you’re feeling, someone will have created a piece of work based on this. Art is humanity’s way of showing, you are not alone.

I can remember the very moment I first saw an image of Edvard Munch’s The Scream. I immediately felt a deep, visceral connection; and it has remained a piece that gives me those same feelings over time. I can’t tell you exactly why it does, it simply does. I’ve named one of the most famous works of art as my favourite, and as much as I wish I could claim something more obscure to be my most treasured; I’m not at all surprised. The Scream is an image everyone knows, whether through the original artwork or the millions of references to it through pop culture. This is a perfect example of how one piece of work can become an idea that translates across the world, throughout ages, races, sexes, cultural backgrounds and more. Edvard Munch is one of the greatest expressionist painters and regularly used his life experiences to withdraw inspiration from. Capturing the fragility of life, and the anguish he felt watching his father treat patients as a doctor, he created The Sick Child. Many of Munch’s work represent his truest feelings; feelings that we can all relate to on some level. Art completely cuts through everything, and leaves you with that one idea the Artist portrayed.

This is where my love of art comes from so deeply. Art spreads messages of beauty, pain, hope, and understanding within moments. Immersing yourself in art, is immersing yourself in life. And through the practise of art, we understand ourselves better.

Throughout history, people would travel miles just to view the most famous works of art and see what the artist wanted them to see. People would spread the messages conveyed in artworks through letters, describing their power to others. Artists would hide secrets within their work, for fear of being silenced or punished. They persisted, for spreading ideas they deemed important was worth everything.

And now you can so easily experience those ideas from history’s artists. The greatest gift of today’s age, is that we can access everything so easily. Galleries are now found online as well as in your city. You can view the most famous works of art within seconds, and you can discuss the intention behind them with others across the globe. I have a particular love for studying Da Vinci’s work, discussing his amazing techniques, the codes and secrets he left within his work, and the historical significance behind them. With this ability to see ‘the whole picture’, art becomes so much more interesting. You can expand your mind, feel the power of art, and truly feel connected.

So what are you waiting for? Connect.

Jemma Morgan, blogger and illustrator, founder of The Girl Gang


Art is a creative activity that expresses imaginative or technical skill. It produces an artifact, also called a work of art, for others to experience. Those who do this are called artists. They hope to affect the emotions of people who experience it. Some people find art relaxing, or exciting, or informative. Many people disagree on how to define art. Some say people are driven to make art due to their inner creativity.

Art includes drawing, painting, sculpting, photography, performance art, dance, music, poetry, prose and theatre.

Types of art[change | change source]

Art is divided into the plastic arts, where something is made, and the performing arts, where something is done by humans in action. The other division is between pure arts, done for themselves, and practical arts, done for a practical purpose, but with artistic content.

  • Plastic arts
  • Performing arts
  • Practical arts

What "art" means[change | change source]

Some people say that art is a product or item that is made with the intention of stimulating the human senses as well as the human mind, spirit and soul. An artwork is normally judged by how much impact it has on people, the number of people who can relate to it, and how much they appreciate it. Some people also get inspired.

The first and broadest sense of "art" means "arrangement" or "to arrange." In this sense, art is created when someone arranges things found in the world into a new or different design or form; or when someone arranges colors next to each other in a painting to make an image or just to make a pretty or interesting design.

Art may express emotion. Artists may feel a certain emotion and wish to express it by creating something that means something to them. Most of the art created in this case is made for the artist rather than an audience. However, if an audience is able to connect with the emotion as well, then the art work may become publicly successful.

History of art[change | change source]

There are sculptures, cave painting and rock art dating from the Upper Paleolithic era.

All of the great ancient civilizations, such as Ancient Egypt, India, China, Greece, Rome and Persia had works and styles of art. In the Middle Ages, most of the art in Europe showed people from the Bible in paintings, stained glass windows, and mosaic tile floors and walls.

Islamic art includes geometric patterns, Islamic calligraphy, and architecture. In India and Tibet, painted sculptures, dance, and religious painting were done. In China, arts included jade carving, bronze, pottery, poetry, calligraphy, music, painting, drama, and fiction. There are many Chinese artistic styles, which are usually named after the ruling dynasty.

In Europe, after the Middle Ages, there was a "Renaissance" which means "rebirth". People rediscovered science and artists were allowed to paint subjects other than religious subjects. People like Michelangelo and Leonardo da Vinci still painted religious pictures, but they also now could paint mythological pictures too. These artists also invented perspective where things in the distance look smaller in the picture. This was new because in the Middle Ages people would paint all the figures close up and just overlapping each other.

In the late 1800s, artists in Europe, responding to Modernity created many new painting styles such as Classicism, Romanticism, Realism, and Impressionism. The history of twentieth century art includes Expressionism, Fauvism, Cubism, Dadaism, Surrealism, and Minimalism.

Roles of art[change | change source]

In some societies, people think that art belongs to the person who made it. They think that the artist put his or her "talent" and industry into the art. In this view, the art is the property of the artist, protected by copyright.

In other societies, people think that art belongs to no one. They think that society has put its social capital into the artist and the artist's work. In this view, society is a collective that has made the art, through the artist.

Functions of art[change | change source]

The functions of art include:[1]

1) Cognitive function

Works of art let us know about what the author knew, and about what the surrounding of the author were like.

2) Aesthetic function

Works of art are more or less harmonic and bring pleasure, a sensation of beauty.

3) Prognostic function

Some artists draw what they see the future like, and some of them are right, but most are not...

4) Recreation function

Art makes us think about it, not about reality; we have a rest.

5) Value function

What did the artist value? What aims did he like/dislike in human activity? This usually is clearly seen in artists' works.

6) Didactic function

What message, criticism or political change did the artist wish to achieve?

Related pages[change | change source]

References[change | change source]

  1. Bagdasaryan, Nadejda (2000). "7. Art as a phenomenon of culture". Culturology (in Russian). p. 511. ISBN 5-06-003475-5. 
Wikimedia Commons has media related to Art.
A painting by Renoir which is a work of art.

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