Art is a form of expression that allows people to communicate thoughts and emotions in ways not possible through words or actions. It also serves as an outlet for personal creativity, allowing individuals to create their own visions of the world and the experiences within it. Art can be seen in many forms including music, literature and film. It is often analyzed in a field of philosophy called aesthetics, which seeks to understand the subjective nature of the art experience.
A variety of theories attempt to explain what makes a work of art, and how the creation or appreciation of art develops over time. While some of these theories focus on defining art, others attempt to understand the function of art, and how it can influence culture and society.
For example, one theory suggests that art can serve a utilitarian purpose in that it can serve to entertain, educate or inspire. Other theories focus on the emotional responses art can evoke in the viewer. Some argue that a work of art is simply an expression of the human instinct for harmony and balance (beauty).
Another major function of art is its ritualistic or symbolic role. In this context, art serves a function similar to that of religion and mythology. It can act as a tool to evoke certain feelings or ideas in the viewer, such as pride, fear and love. Art may also be used to portray important historical or cultural events, such as wars, disasters and victories.
In addition to these more abstract functions, some artists produce works for purely aesthetic reasons, seeking to capture certain visual effects or textures. This approach to art can be seen in paintings, sculptures and architecture. It is also a common practice in modern advertising, as companies strive to create images that will elicit positive emotional reactions from the viewer.
Ultimately, the meaning of art is highly subjective and varies from person to person. It is also constantly evolving, with new works of art emerging all the time. This may be part of the reason why it is difficult to define art.
A good place to start exploring the concept of art is by reading books on the subject, especially those that analyze individual pieces of artwork in terms of their formal elements. Look for books that examine the line, shape, color, value and illusionistic mass or volume of the piece of art, as well as how these elements interact to create its effect. Also be sure to read books that discuss how these elements are influenced by the materials and techniques used to produce the piece.