Understanding the Misunderstood Art From Different Cultures


By Kate Woods

Art is a medium used by people world wide to express their ideas, their fears,
and their joys. The artist takes the experiences of life and translates them
into a visual object, rich in colors, shapes and sizes, for all the world to
observe. As a casual observer of art, one is able to relive the feeling or
experience the artist was trying to display, if only for a brief moment in time.
No matter what cultural background one comes from, art appreciation and
enjoyment erases the barriers and the limits, and allows cross-cultural
understanding and appraisal.

Art has always relied heavily upon universal symbols. One of the most well
known universal symbols is the cross, meaning of course, religion. Religion of
a culture is one of the most frequently misjudged and stereotyped aspects From
the prehistoric times of the cave man to present day, art has depicted religious
scenes native to a specific culture. This is where most of the cultural
boundaries lie. To one person, a smiling monkey can instill a primal feeling of
fear, while to another the first reaction is one of amusement. This difference
in reaction is based upon religious upbringing, and nothing more. To certain
culture, a smiling monkey is the scariest thing they could ever imagine, and to
another, it means laughter. A close minded person viewing an ancient religious
mask would see nothing more than nonsense, while one who wishes to understand
art would see the beauty of that culture and it\'s beliefs, and would try to
place themselves in a way so that they may understand the original meaning ofthe
mask, and form an educated opinion on it.

Anyone can enjoy a piece of art, but what is it that makes a piece of art
"good"? Is it the realism of the piece? Or the absolute perfectness of a
sculpture? Maybe good art is abstract, an array of shapes put together to make
a point. Or maybe good art is a classical sculpture that catches the light just
so and brings a warm smile to the viewers face. Is it a measure of
craftsmanship? A measure of mediums used? A measure of technique? Or is it
just a measure of how it affects the viewer? Is good art visually irritating or
visually pleasing? The beauty of art is impossible to define, for it\'s beauty
inherently lies in the eye of the beholder. As Georg Wilhelm Friedrich Hegel
said, "Beauty is the spiritual put into a form." So, in defining beauty, one is
attempting to define the spiritual beliefs behind the form. This means that
that which is seen as ugly is just something that is new or is not fully
understood by the viewer.

Knowledge of art is just a measure of experience. It is impossible for someone
to know art, but it is possible for someone to be well briefed in the field of
art and have an understanding of it. No one can ever be an expert on art,
because art is indefinite. There is no right or wrong, good or bad, and the
rules change every day. When art is studied, the observer may note things such
as symmetry and balance, but they may never understand why they are there. One
may carefully measure the dimensions of an object, catalogue its mediums, its
shapes, its patterns. One may even catalogue their opinions on the piece, but
they will never fully capture the meaning of the piece, for seeing is not
understanding. Maybe this is why art is studied. The absolute uncertainty is
guaranteed, and it is human nature to want to understand what is not understood.
This may be what draws people to art exhibits and museums, the primal urge to
understand, to solve the great mystery of art, to be able to say "I get it, I
fully understand art". This will never be possible.

Category: Philosophy