Is it for the eyes alone that we engage with Art?
A titillation of the senses, or a mere dalliance with something different, something aesthetic? Trifling imagery to engage our intellect, to determine how well the colours mix and match? What is Art anyway? For what it’s worth, here’s my take on it: The purpose of Art should be to reach out and touch those faculties of Consciousness that free the Mind from a self-indulgent over-concern with security, comfort and prosperity, (aspects of thought that could otherwise overwhelm and ensnare us), allowing for the transcendental - letting go of the controlling mind in favour of the universal.
By sensually venturing forth boldly toward and into Art, getting lost within whatever we contemplate in a relaxed state of attention, we somehow forge synaptic connections in our neurology, which help disengage us momentarily from the mundane concerns of ordinary life, to instead allow for an entrainment into the extraordinary – into those higher organising principles of Nature – of the essence of Life itself. This is, I believe, the real value of Art.
We’re well aware that its value is not merely material – otherwise a painting, for example, would only be worth the value of its canvas and frame, plus some stabbed-at estimate of time spent at x dollars per hour. No, we intrinsically understand the value of Art lies in something far in excess of that, but what?
Maybe in our value estimations we have moved toward the idea of craftsmanship? In other words, we look at the work that’s gone into a piece, and admire both it and the artist who produced it. ‘See how the artist has done thus and so, producing this or that effect. . . isn’t that just wonderful?’ In seeing Art this way, we somehow make a comparison of the artist with ourselves, acknowledging the fact that, however hard we tried, we could never produce the like of it. And so we place our artist on the pedestal of ‘artist as effective illusionist’, worshiping him/her accordingly.
But the Value of Art of which I’m speaking – the value that becomes almost unspeakable – is that which transcends both the material realm and any ideas of craftsmanship, aligning itself with the kind of heart connection we feel with another close human being – that unfathomable depth of something that reaches inside and touches the soul. This is the kind of quality that will always remain wordless, unspeakable. In this manner of evaluation, the artist becomes a mere facilitator (albeit skilful) of our own connection with the divine. There need be no pedestal other than the one on which we ourselves stand, realising eventually that it supports not only us, the viewer or audience, and the artist – but also the whole world.
See also The Mystery of Transcendence