Never was art appreciated before it was understood: it is this effort to understand which is the prime reflex in every human encounter with it. To analyse, this is our condition. We ask ourselves: what does art mean? What is the artist trying to tell us? Let us say then that during the course of this analysis we discern no meaning, either it eludes us or there is no meaning to be discerned. Can we appreciate this thing? Can we love this thing? There may have been a purpose to its creation, we say. Yet again, there may not. For all we knew this art was created by a programmable robot whose algorithm allows colours and shapes to be chosen in a randomly assigned manner. Who is to say otherwise? Even an interview with the creator is likely to yield fallacies; meanings dormant during composition and which, through the workings of time and perspective, have knitted themselves into the grand understanding of the work. Either way, the effect is the same. If we cannot perceive meaning then, for our purposes, to us, it is meaningless and we cannot appreciate it. We say to ourselves: yes, there is meaning here but I do not see it and we feel alienated. We say to ourselves: there is no meaning here, how is this thing called ‘art’? And in this regard we simply reply, it cannot. If it has no meaning to us it is not art to us.
In the first instance there is no meaning to be discerned. It is clear that this cannot be art. What would the be the point? Even that art supporting a nihilistic attitude can be said to carry its message of meaninglessness, its point of pointlessness. Art without meaning is not art because it does not exist. It cannot exist. The mere appellation ‘art’ presupposes conscious forethought. For example, a tree is not art, nor a river, nor a sunset. A sunset is simply that, a sunset. It is the interjection of human influence which gives rise to a thing being art, and since by the very condition of its definition that art is in the very least man-made, the idea that through conscious exertion of will an artist would set out to create something without meaning (as a sort of conceptual folly) is fatuous. It is neither likely nor, in my opinion, possible. A conscious act, such as the creation of the work of art requires an exertion of the will. The mind, that process which oversees the subconscious and exerts ‘will’ cannot enforce action without some desire. Again this truth is contained within what one may term the ‘loose’ definition of the notion of action i.e. a conscious, unforced, exertion of one’s will to satisfy some desire. All action is prefigured by desire. Without desire there is no thought, without thought there is no ‘action’. Standing still in a single spot, you will never move if at some point the notion of moving does not occur to you. You may be moved, certainly. Some force may act upon you, which in turn may trigger an idea that you might want to move. However, in a universe where all desires are satisfied and no forces act upon you and, as a result of which the notion of moving never enters your mind, you will never move. All this to say the following: since only those things which are man-made can be termed art, and only the exertion of will (pre-dated by the existence of an idea) can give rise to man making anything, the notion of art without purpose is a paradox in terms.
In the second instance there may be meaning but we cannot say exactly what it is. We do not understand it. But if we do not understand it, how can we say there is meaning to be discerned? What other criteria have we for the existence of meaning other than our appreciation of that meaning? We have common consensus, we have the opinions of experts, we even have the confessions of the creator if they take the time, as they sometimes do, to illuminate. However it must be said that all of these form a backdrop to the thing itself. The encounter with art is embarked on alone. If, as should always be the case, one encounters a piece of art without ever having heard anything about the artist, the the piece itself, without ever having appreciated the context in which the art was created, the meaning derived (or not derived, whichever the case may be) will be that which you alone have conjured. It is therefore its ‘true’ meaning, unadulterated. It is art alone which gives rise to a response. Art communicates through itself alone. Once created, only it has a voice. The chorus of commentators (including the best known critics, the consensus of the masses, even the artist) no longer has a say. The piece of art, whatever it may be, is now signalling in its own right, its own message. If this message is not clear and the meaning eludes us, then it does not fulfil the criteria which forms part of the purpose of art. Since art communicates with us on an individual basis i.e. that is its method and its purpose, then that art which does not communicate effectively or else communicates in a language that we cannot understand is not merely bad art to us, it is not art to us at all
Therefore we can concluded the following:
1) Art is a food trough. There is food enough to feed us all, but each must eat for themselves. Your hunger will not vanish if I eat my fill. This thought is a comfort, since even the greatest minds must interact with art alone.
2) Since Art’s existence is eradicated through the dissolution of its meaning, it is clear that it is the artist’s responsibility to make that meaning clear, in their own mind at the very least. After all, what reason could they have for disguising that thought which they are so enthralled by that they have gone to the trouble of painting that picture or writing that poem? It is illogical.
3) Art is communication. Communication requires both message and receiver of message. Art, therefore, requires a message. Art, therefore, requires that someone receive the message. For communication to be good, its message must be clear. For art to be good its message must be clear.
The first foundation stone of my art is clarity.