ART: Part I
By Noel Huntley
The human civilisation is significantly handicapped in art appreciation owing to organised methods of development of left-brain abilities and discouraging the right brain use. With this imbalance, non-aesthetic forms of communication are infiltrating the art world, threatening the artistic integrity of our culture necessary to our survival as an evolving species.
Let us outline the principal problem before delving deeper into this abstruse subject. Genuine art today is being replaced to some degree, also we could say infiltrated and adulterated, by other forms of communication, which utilise messages, intellect, quantitative aspects of life (as opposed to qualitative) and, in particular, thinking rather than looking. This deviation from aesthetics has essentially risen from the adult's loss of that 'freshness of vision' of the child, envied by the artist; perception is being subjugated by thinking.
Art, in particular, modern art, must be the most complex subject in the world to understand. Most people would readily agree with this or be relieved to have it pointed out. Why is it so complex? As we have implied above, one reason is that we have developed a society in which values are based on the quantitative aspects of life that relate more to left-brain consciousness rather than the qualitative (right-brain consciousness). Art is qualitative but is, as with all subjects, communicated through a quantitative methodology (drawing, painting materials, as it must be). This reality, emphasising quantity, is apparently more applicable for objective approaches to understanding, such as in science, but not for subjects which are based on perception of true unitymanifesting quality, not quantity. [Note that we shall use the terms left and right-brain consciousness somewhat over-liberally for the reader's convenience and easier understanding.]
What makes art even more complex is that everything which can be potentially understood in art is dependent on the viewers' state of mind, which we can consider would range from ideal to non-ideal, regarding their perception, thinking, experience, judgement, etc. This is a separate variablethe human factor. The viewer may have no artistic appreciation whatsoever. Thus we must assume in our evaluations that we have the ideal situation. If, for example, we are explaining the value of Impressionism then we are assuming that the spectator is capable of comprehending this, which is not generally what occurs in practice, and we will discuss the non-ideal situation separately. Thus clearly the viewer's role plays a vital part in the discussion of the understanding of art, whether it is ideal or non-idealotherwise in omitting the viewer's role the evaluation in this article would be useless for the student of art or the uninitiated. Let us firstly take a look at the perception process.
A true whole (such as the underlying integrity of a good painting) is not made up of parts. The mind can quantum regenerate (recreate the wholeness of it) the 'hidden' dimension underlying the quantity (of interrelated bits of paint: colouring, line and areas), which has its own unified waveform. We are referring to the relationship between the quantitative and the qualitative. Imagine viewing, say, a good painting. The bits of paint are stuck together by forces---this is the quantitative level (it has only simulated/composite unity, not true unity). Now the artist has placed the bits of paint, the quantity, into a special order. We now require an appreciative observer. The quantitative aspect of the painting is apprehended but the process of appreciation involves the conscious mind going out of focus, and the intellect steps aside. The 'unconscious' steps in and correlates all the ordered bits of paint simultaneously in one instance. This quantum regenerates a whole energy waveform, a unity or quality. Thus the mind has created a qualitative state, a holistic, single state, from the quantitative. This energy field of the qualitative appreciation is in the mind but superimposed on the quantitative---the surface of the painting. Understanding has taken place. Note that if we now, while holding the above condition of appreciation, start to analyse the painting---just as science does---the qualitative unity and understanding immediately disappears and one is now looking at the local areas of the painting. Quantitative science and the experimental set-up cannot handle art, or any psychic, ESP or paranormal phenomena, since the analysis either breaks down the unity and integration required for these energies (art/paranormal), or it simply does not detect them. Now if nevertheless the painting gives a sense of incompletion or fragmentation, then it will not quantum regenerate into one whole qualitative state, and it will not be good art.
A further factor involving the viewer's state of mind is that although the universe is organised fractallysee fractal articlesthe perception process is also fractal, contrary to superficial observation of this process. Attention on (consciousness of) a subject occurs in separate (in time) and repeated whole states (quantum states) or focuses, rapidly switching on and off, and 'superimposed'.
What this means then is that the perception process itself will tend to group visual elements when they are in related positions. A painter should paint in a manner to trick the perception into apprehending groups within groups of whole states by careful positioning of lines and mass. In addition, a work of art must at least have the attributes: completeness and integrity (wholeness).
The negative side of the perception process is that education develops left-brain consciousness and discourages right-brain development. The left brain will analyse and make comparisons and judgements since it is context-dependent. For example, if a figure within the picture is realistic, the left brain will look at stored images in the mind relating to this figure and make a comparisonthis has nothing to do with art. Art is experiential, direct viewing of the pictorial content (what is on the surface of the canvass), plus experiencing any aesthetic emotional language being conveyed by the subject; it is not thinkingwhich is representational, that is, looking at what it represents. Do not let a genuine artist hear you say, What does it represent? when viewing his work.
What do we mean by 'experiential' (right brain) as opposed to indirect, detached observation (left brain). For art appreciation, consciousness must be involved in the event, which is achieved by resonance. In terms of physics, resonance between two separate vibrations can generate a single whole vibration. Similarly consciousness thus becomes at one with the event, that is, when consciousness' frequencies resonate with those of the observed, visual or sound, this experience gives a true emotion on what is being experienced.
The left-brain consciousness remains detached from the event by means of out-of-phase (non-resonant) energies in which pictures are taken and stored in the mind as representing the painting. The emotion now comes from the associations and memories of the figures and elements in the mind that are being focused on instead of the direct experience. This has nothing to do with art or aesthetics.
This 'logical' perception involves a kind of analysis, comparison, judgement. It is intellectual, involving the thinking process. The right brain understands by direct duplicationthere is no space between observation and apprehension in the perception process. It is instant both in space and time. Any delay once the process has begun is a measure of the extent to which the left brain is being used, with detached and fragmented thinking, or of course it could mean simply that the work of art itself is fragmented, lacking wholeness, and to that degree isn't artand there is nothing the right brain can do to remedy this. For example, a spectator may view a house in a painting and conclude that it reminds him or her of a haunted house (or, this association may be unconscious). Thus he or she will experience the emotions of these memories, which has nothing to do with art. They may be unaware of this, either fully or marginal, and simply decide they don't like the painting or that in fact it is not good.
Note that children's consciousness is much more directly involved with what they are viewingthey have that freshness of vision so envied by the artist. Thus when children look at something their attention is on what they are seeing, whereas in adulthood this external attention may only be about 10 percent and much of consciousness is involved with thinking, with associations, what the object, painting, etc. represents. This is a result of disabling the right brain, the in-phase resonant and direct mode of knowing.
Certain forms of modern art have almost established a trend in which artists intuitively demonstrate cleverly this deficiency in the public's proper observation with an indication of its remedy. For example, Picabia's collage, 'Centimeter'. In this work, the artist has coiled a tape measure clearly to look like a tree, and stuck it in place in the picture. The important point is that he didn't name it a 'tree' but more what it actually is. In effect, the spectator is encouraged to see the work as it isthat is, a tape measure in a particular shape, and not to see it as a tree, in which case one will merely think about trees.
This judgement and comparison (in thinking about trees), will activate left-brain thinking, causing a failure to look at what is actually there. One is supposed to recognise that the tree was merely being used as a framework and the art is present in the (maybe) fascinating way the tape has been twisted and manipulated. Note that we are not saying this is good art; it is merely an example of how one should be looking at a work of art.
Since this aspect of art is so important let us give other examples. A variation on this theme regarding what the artists are trying to convey are Schwitter's assemblages of trash; to be observed in their own right (not what they represent, etc.). There are Jasper's flags, and Magritte's pipea painting of a pipe with a caption, 'This is not a pipe'. Note that here, although the artist is encouraging the viewer to look in a manner to avoid habitual thinking of pipes, he could have been conveying that the pipe is not any specific one. These artists are aspiring to unmask the so-called 'Art-Lie'. The most striking example of this was the exhibit sent by Marcel Duchamp to the annual exhibition in New York. It was a urinal, placed upside down with the water spout directed upwards. Unfortunately the potential impact of this was totally overlooked by the critics and the artist himself (who had other motivations in mind). Duchamp could have exonerated himself from the ensuing volley of criticism directed at this example of degraded art. He named it 'Fountain'. We must now imagine spectators casually coming across this 'work' and firstly noting its title referring to a fountain. Immediately, all the pleasant associations of fountains come to mindwhich really has nothing to do with what is in front of them. Then they realise what it is; and similarly now receive the new associations of that object, the urinal. Two sets of totally different associations ought to tell one something; that they can't both refer to this 'art' product, and therefore both have nothing to do with what one is supposed to be viewingit is an object with form, texture, colour, etc. This valuable teaching point was missed unfortunately. Note that we are not saying this was a true work of art. In other words, one is supposed to look at its visual attributes and be unaffected by what it reminds one of, or what its function is. One may wish to practise staring at objects; this will eventually break down those associations.
Other examples of artists 'tricking' the mind to break down its formatting, that is, avoid activating preformatted patterns in the mind and preformatted perceptions, are paintings such as in the impressionist group, for instance, Cezanne's Still Life with Fruit Basket. This unconventional, nonlogical design of juxtapositioned fruits and bowls, out of perspective, and nonlinear lines, helps to prevent set patterns from being triggered off in the mind that cause the attention to focus on these in the mind. Thus the viewer must then only look at the painting and creatively assemble the parts anew. In particular, this aids integration of the parts into the whole picture rather than viewing a 'framed' subject set out and separate from the background, that is, the whole surface is the picture and 'subject'.
As a further example, there can be art in photography, even though this is generally thought to be totally representational (just photographic and a copy of a subject). There is potential art in almost everything. A piece of sack cloth could be, say, magnified and photographed from a certain angle with appropriate lighting, eliciting interesting colouring effects and highlighting the natural beauty within the fractal nature of all things. Photography, however, is clearly handicapped and limited. Even computer images when utilising fractals convey that particular dimension (fractal) of art.
The next feature to focus on is that the left-brain representational aspect also gives rise to the need to create messages to art, beyond the subject and the pictorial content. Note that by 'pictorial content' we mean purely the art work (on the canvass). And by 'subject', we mean, say, a figure or building, etc. Now in general these messages are intellectual. For example, a Dali may have an abstract intellectual message; a Gauguin may have a symbolic message. In either of these cases the artists have sufficient talent that without the message the pictorial content generally demonstrates great art.
The point is that this kind of message is superfluous to the aesthetic content and is merely another form of communication (not art) superimposed on the art aspect. It can, however, be an interesting addition for any spectator but particularly needed by the observer who is a left-brain thinker; in general, people lacking in art appreciation. Such intellectual messages will not unite with the pictorial content as one whole. There is nothing wrong with adding or having non-art type forms of communication as long as they don't in any way subtract from or replace the genuine art or aesthetics and do not lead the viewer away from art appreciation.
Unfortunately much of modern art is over-emphasising other forms of communicationmeaning they are not art. That is, the other form of communication is not art, though the rest of the picture or sculpture may be. As long as this is recognised and prevented from pushing out true art there is no problem. Regrettably, however, one of the 'tools' for suppressing man's development and true evolution (into higher frequencies/intelligence) is this very mechanism of reprogramming the masses with new forms of communication that are not art (unless one wishes to redefine art), much of which is harmless though in itself. But the point is that the harmony, beauty, perfection/completion and wholeness of real art, resonates a civilisation into higher states of consciousness; non-art forms resonate with the lower third-dimensional spectrumthe reality of excess logic, fragmentation, disharmony, conflict and suffering---and manifest the times (like fashion) rather than be eternal. We shall come back to the physics of this.
Are all messages incapable of integrating as one whole with the pictorial and artistic expression of a painting? Not if one wishes to consider, for example, Van Gogh's emotional messages as separate, which of course is a contradiction since this emotional level can't be separatedit is united within the aesthetics of the painting since the feelings invoked, range in the higher-emotional band, aesthetics, and not in the lower feelings, such as grief or melancholy, which are separated away by the illustrative aspect. We shall say more of this later.
Of course, with or without a separate message (intellectual), the pictorial content may not be good art. If it does not communicate beauty, harmony, completion and integrity (undivided wholeness) it is not good art to that degree. It will be fragmented and the conscious serial/linear mind will then merely link together the elements of the picture and seek realistic recognition; and there is no art for the 'unconscious' to grasp. This is a composite whole, and thus this whole does not have its own vibrationdoes not have true unity. As stated, art regenerates an extra dimension of frequencies beyond the 3D 'surface' within the viewer's mind. Quality is real; it is not imaginary or insubstantial.
What about representational and realistic art? It will automatically cause one's perception to link together the familiar elements of the picture into total realistic recognition, but the associations in the mind of the observer will only create a composite of parts, an image of what it represents, a landscape or whatevernothing more than a group of recognisable objects, etc. A realistic picture of a tree will invoke the perception process to recognise 'tree', and we may see how realism can (but needn't) distract one from art appreciationone simply thinks about trees and how well the picture looks like a tree.
This was handled by the reactionary approach of the Impressionists. Sufficient distortions of reality were introduced to enable more probabilities and dimensional aspects to be regenerated by the observer. An impressionist painting is sufficiently undefined to bring together extra-dimensional relationships, prompted by the artist's ingenuity in placement and choice of colour, mass, line and brush stroke. Relationships in these factors can stimulate consciousness' aesthetic sensibilities, invoking whole feeling tones elicited from higher frequencies (shorter wavelengths capable of greater refinement) and greater holism. Impressionism demanded, however, creativity on the part of the viewer, who in general is not an artist, and the Impressionist artist was initially opposed and discredited. Today it is the most accepted form of modern art and may be more popular than realism amongst the educated masses.
Realistic art tends to be received as, what we can call, informational art since all objects within it are copies or are representationalthey are things we all have a lot of information on. But for good realistic art it must also have qualitative pictorial contentnot just realism. For example, Corot was criticised by the art authorities in that he was being true to nature and not reforming nature as the classical artists did of that era. The academic rules were that one added brown to all greens of nature and every twig or leaf is carefully ordered. What they failed to recognise was that in fact Corot was reforming nature qualitatively, meaning that his relationships within the picture were qualitatively interrelated and organised. As an aside and ironically, the pedantic paintings of that periodof, for example, perfect treesresembled a hint of primitive art; highly acceptable as a modern art form but would have rendered insult to these great works of that time.
The qualitative interrelationship is obtained through harmony of colour, line and masses and good overall composition and design, and a consistency of technical rendering. How much of this would be experienced by spectators would depend on their artistic appreciation. Thus we begin to see the complexities as we recognise not just the presence of pictorial content in art but also informational content.
What can we say about art today? We might ask: Does contemporary art invoke pleasure and a recognition of beauty, etc? Should it? What do we really mean by art and what is wrong with other forms of communication, if in fact there is anything wrong? There is no question that we do see the presence of pictorial beauty, and harmony; we receive enjoyment from its viewing; we perceive integrity and wholeness and sense of completion. But we also see ugliness and many other forms of communication, and a great deal of information, most of which contains the emotionalisms of aberration and mere intellectual messages.
We have examined the perception process and introduced some of the difficulties in art appreciation. Before finalising Part I we can introduce a basic relationship fundamental to all human manifestations. This is the respective presence of 'relative' and 'absolute'in this case, art. An example of 'relative' is fashion, which one becomes used to and can like or dislike, and it pertains to the times. Nevertheless even fashion could contain some aesthetic and 'absolute' features, that is, they are lasting and have certain basic harmonies that are not dependent on, say, getting used to them.
Much of modern art relates to the times or the current psychology of the artist, and thus tends to introduce other forms of communication, that is, energies invoked by contemporary circumstances, than pure art/aesthetics. It thus will have a tendency to be informational 'art'. However, it could still contain good art, and ideally should if it is to be labelled art.
We are now more prepared to uncover and attempt to analyse in part II the complexities, confusions, and values of art, with a recognition of the presence of different modes of expression, and the role the viewer plays in appreciation of art.
Return to Home Page