Human beings have an incredible capacity for complex language, but sometimes the things we want to express can’t be put into words. This is where art, and all its forms, come in. It is the language of the self. Without art, humanity would likely crumble.
Windows Into the Past
Art is an amazing method of transporting yourself to different times and perspectives. Just by picking up and reading an old journal or book or engaging with an old painting, you are opening a portal. Literature and other kinds of works are like abstract wormholes for our imaginations to explore.
Culture is the method human beings use to communicate with members of our kind from the past. Ancient cave paintings, sculptures, and pottery can teach us about how people lived and what they thought.
It’s likely that our modern interpretation of what art is may be rooted in ancient forms of communication and the transfer of knowledge. Ancient cave paintings from thousands of years ago give us a glimpse into how ancient people thrived in their environments.
The oldest examples of cave art that we have discovered so far dates back 65,000 years. That’s when Neanderthals were still walking around. Most of the cave art we’ve found is less than 40,000 years old and was made by Homo Sapiens.
All kinds of animals from the Ice Age have been depicted in cave paintings, like horses, mammoths, deer, and even saber tooth tigers. Most of the pieces found were painted with black and red pigments from stones and sediments.
Not all ancient cave artwork was painted. Some examples were actually carved into the rock walls with tools. The meaning behind cave art has been a subject of debate among scientists for a long time. Some say that it may have been a practice conducted by shamans on spiritual journeys.
There have been symbols found to be repeated across cave locations, hinting at the possibility of some of the earliest forms of graphic communication. Paleolithic art can help us have a better understanding of our species and how our minds evolved.
Artistic remnants of the past are integrated into our technology today. The common asterisk symbol can be traced back to European caves of the Ice Age.
Historical Works and Styles
You may have taken an art history class in school and might have pondered the subject’s importance. Why bother deep-diving the music, literature, sculptures, and paintings? The works of the past have ripple effects that permeate our culture today.
The Renaissance is a wonderful example of a time where art was the driving force for innovation and cultural advancement. Thanks to countless artists and works, we have a relatively clear view of what life was like in the fifteenth and sixteenth centuries.
The contents of paintings and writings are not the only elements to pay attention to. The styles utilized can give some pretty interesting insight into people’s thought processes and perspectives.
Thanks to popular culture, many believe that English men and women of the thirteenth and fourteenth centuries spoke very similarly to modern people, but that couldn’t be further from the truth. In reality, you would barely be able to understand English speakers in the fifteenth century, if you weren’t used to the old-fashioned language.
Regarding contents, much of the literature and paintings made back then were heavy on religious themes, and that is reflective of those times. Catholicism was at the forefront of daily life and culture.
Creating Our Mark on the World
Art is a way of speaking from the past and to the future. Something that no other species can do. In the age of the internet, everyone’s art can be experienced and saved for future generations.
The downside of historic artwork is that we can’t see all of it because we can only enjoy the work that has survived. Many pieces throughout history will never get to be seen because of wars, accidents, and acts of god.
With new technology comes new mediums of art to experiment in, like movies and video games. Art is becoming more and more difficult to describe and define. It has evolved in ways we never expected.
Even though there are new platforms for artists to experiment and innovate on, some of the classic mediums will seemingly thrive regardless of the times. Today’s painters have created stunning works that are worthy of preservation.
Artists like Jenny Saville have created stunning work that will likely be studied and appreciated for generations to come. Depending on style and subject matter, paintings can capture what the artist was feeling, not just what looks interesting.
A Modern Form of Art: NFTs
An NFT, or a non-fungible token, is a modern form of art that’s taking the world by storm. They’re unique, digital pieces of art that are part of the Ethereum blockchain. They can be literally anything—from images of wine bottles to GIFs. It’s the next step of fine art collecting, and there’s huge money in this field.
Art is not just a distinct and separate part of the economy. It is integrated into nearly every aspect of all markets. Think about that the next time you see an advertisement that has nothing to do with art. Someone had to direct that commercial, and someone had to create those animations.
The Financial Impacts of the Arts
Artists need to be used in just about every part of the goods and services we consume. A large chunk of what we buy and the services we pay for rely on artists. Every movie, videogame, song, and trading card you consume was made possible by talented people.
Even things like cars first had to be commissioned and sculpted by people who can paint, draw, and carve out the designs we see on the road. Unfortunately, there is a huge disconnect between what artists create versus how much money they usually make.
The Dark Side of the Art Dealings
Many artists are given the shaft after creating a piece or set of pieces. H.R. Giger, the artist famous for creating the “biomechanics” style, was responsible for the design of one of the most famous movie monsters in history.
Alien (1979) was a groundbreaking sci-fi horror movie with creature designs that shook people to their cores. H.R. Giger was given credit for his artistic contributions to the first two Alien films. However, he was not given proper credit for his designs in Alien 3 (1992).
According to Mr. Giger, 20th Century Fox was supposed to credit Giger as the creature designer but was credited as “Original Creature Design.” This distinction caused Giger not to be eligible for that year’s Oscar nomination.
Things like this are far too common in not just the film industry but in the artist industry as a whole. There is also a huge problem of artists either getting paid very little or not at all. Musicians are struggling to make money with new streaming platforms.
Have you ever seen a seemingly ordinary painting bought for an extraordinary amount of money? There is a possibility that it was used for money laundering. These schemes are often utilized by people who want to evade sanctions and other international financial laws.
Expression and Thought Provocation
Art is a uniquely human way of expressing complex emotions and creativity. It is created not just for work but as a form of meditation and stress relief. Artistic expression is important, no matter the skill level of the individual or the medium.
Scientists say that creating art is beneficial to our brains in many ways, like preventing memory loss and building cognitive strengths. It also activates the reward area of your brain, giving you feelings of accomplishment.
A new type of therapy is on the rise; art therapy. It’s used to help people of all ages with stress, depression, and anxiety. There is a reason why wine painting classes are so popular. Creating something can help process our emotions and have a better outlook on life.
Experiencing art can have similar effects. Sitting down and absorbing a painting at a museum is a tranquil experience. It’s also really fun to play the latest video game and appreciate the sheer level of detail.
Even the architecture that you drive past every day had to be designed by someone with an artistic vision. With art therapy, the therapist might ask the patient some questions while they’re creating a piece. They might inquire about the patient’s feelings about the process and so on.
After the piece is considered finished, the therapist will ask further about the experience and provide observations about the patient’s emotional state. Decoding abstract messaging in art is a difficult task, and it requires a high level of skill in both therapy and art.
Humans Need Art
Art is a vital part of the human experience. It’s entertainment, a profession, a form of therapy, and so much more. Some say that artistic expression is the language of the soul. Not everything we feel can translate into a written or verbal language.
Cave Paintings Found in Spain | National Geographic