The term “art” has been used so loosely and varied over the years that it’s hard to pin down exactly what it means. Some people define art in purely aesthetic terms, believing that any work that pleases the eye and evokes emotions is art. Others believe that it must have some sort of social or political meaning. Still others view art as a tool for education or as a way to promote a particular philosophy or idea. Whatever the definition, there’s no doubt that art is a powerful force in our world.
Art is a means of grasping the world, not just the physical, but the whole world, including society and spiritual experience. As such it is not just entertainment, although it does often entertain, nor a form of propaganda, though it can be. Rather, it is a mode of understanding and interacting with the world, a higher level of thinking that unlocks human potentials.
It is a form of expression, a way to share the artist’s emotions or ideas with the audience. For this reason, art can be popular or ridiculed, significant or trivial – but it must communicate something to make it worthy of the title “art.” Centuries ago, Leonardo da Vinci wrote that art is the Queen of all sciences communicating knowledge to all generations of the world.
In the West, we’ve come to know art through the visual mediums of painting, sculpture and architecture. However, many other forms of expression are also considered art, such as music, poetry and dance. It can even be the way we speak, using grammatical symbols to construct non-verbal messages that convey meaning beyond the literal sense of words.
It has been a crucial vehicle for communication across cultures. It can take cultural practices and transmit them to different parts of the globe without losing their original identity, helping to break down barriers between different ethnic groups and promoting tolerance and acceptance of diversity. In our increasingly globalized world, it is important that we maintain a common ground for artistic expression.
Whether it is used as an entertainment form, as a propaganda instrument or to communicate ideas and values, art serves a vital role in our society. It has the power to change the way we see the world and, in turn, shape the world around us.
Some have argued that art is a necessity of humanity, in the same way as food and shelter. Others have viewed it as an intrinsic human desire, an inborn need for beauty and the things that embody it. The human need for beauty is fundamental to the existence of humanity and art is a way of satisfying it. As Dostoevsky wrote, ‘He thirsts for beauty and seeks it out as if it were an essential need, without which he would perhaps not want to live on earth’.