The arts, in general, are viewed as an enjoyable but not necessary part of life. There is a general belief that music, dance, sculpture and other similar creative outputs do not serve the same role in society as more practical professions such as teaching in schools or practicing medicine, but I believe they occupy an equally important part of our modern day culture. In an age where we are surrounded with chatter, news, and trivia from around the world at all moments of the day, to escape your everyday life for a few minutes into a painting or a song can provide immense relief. Both producing and viewing a creative endeavour provide an enjoyment for people that they can be lacking in other parts of their lives, and give an opportunity for deeper thinking and reflection. It is our ability as humans to enjoy creativity that sets us apart from other species – without it, we would be so much lesser, living our lives without feeling or emotion. It is precisely because of this concept that I believe art and all its similar forms of expression are just as important in our lives as anything else.
Talking to artists about their reasons for creating work shows the profound effect it can have on their happiness and emotional state; the reasons being richly varied, but all with a basis in self-expression. The natural instinct of a human is to express themselves in some form, reaching from the present day back into the distant past to the first cave paintings. One of the great luxuries of being as cognitively evolved as we are is that we can enjoy such activities, and to dismiss someone’s creative output as anything less important than the value the artist places on it is a real sadness. One artist I talked to speaks about their work as the only place in their life where they have any real control, and where any emotions and feelings that they have cannot be labelled as “wrong” or “inappropriate.” Art can be a really important form of self-expression, and also a way of reaching out in the public to help others; another artist talks about their work as wanting other people to see the world the way that they do and the desire to create a shared happy experience – creating a personal connection through the work to give the audience an insight into a different way of looking at things. But equally, an art practice based around ideas such as this can have very personal foundations in things such as a frustration with the inability to solve everyone’s problems, and creating artwork as a way of providing a small amount of happiness to each person that comes across it is just another example of art being important to the artist in a way you may not have considered. Creating art can act as sort of catharsis for some people, and can almost become a kind of self-therapy; a physical outlet for difficult issues and emotions. Whether someone creates paintings, sculpture, or flings mud at a wall, attaching emotions to physical objects and actions forms a certain type of beauty, and for whatever reason an artist creates their work, if they manage to take something meaningful away from their process, it has been completely worthwhile.
Enjoying art as a viewer is a very different experience to enjoying the creation of it, but it's based in the same kind of desire to form connections between oneself and the world. Accessing a world and a viewpoint different to your own is something that always captures an interest, as evidenced in the worldwide fascination with fantasy genres, with franchises such as Harry Potter and Lord of the Rings gaining billions of pounds worth of success and a place in people’s hearts. On a relatively smaller scale, looking at somebody’s artwork creates an intimate glimpse inside someone else’s mind, and a stroll around an art gallery can give you an extremely diverse yet personal experience of all the different ways that people think. The general answer I received to my question of “Why do you enjoy art?” was that people enjoy the intensely personal nature of it, and the variety of talent and expertise you can experience. Realising the number of different ways of thinking around you in the world can be extremely humbling, but also comforting in the realisation that you are not alone in worrying about your life and the environment you live in.
Creativity is truly one of the widest spectrums in the world, and includes pretty much everything you see on a daily basis. From the way someone dresses themselves or how they dye their hair, through to doodling on a piece of paper while on the phone or the buildings you pass in street, you can find creativity wherever you look. Art is important because it gives people a way of expressing themselves, and in the same manner as a play or a song, art is a tool we use to induce deeper thinking, and a way to examine our emotions. An artwork can have the same effect on a person as a haunting melody, a well-written book, or a dramatic monologue from centre stage – people seek out such experiences for the feelings that they invoke, whether the response is sadness, joy, grief, anger or nostalgia. The rush of emotion that comes when someone else’s creation affects you is addictive, and humans are endlessly addicted to those experiences.