Six are the features all of the arts have in common and six is the number of different types of arts I’m going to use in order to prove these characteristics are shared. A certain level of skill, conveying an emotion, being human made, intention, being original and interplaying between what is real and what is illusion are the six qualities all the arts have in common. I’ve chosen to find one of the qualities in different types of art such as painting, performance arts, graffiti art, sculpture, music and literature respectively.
Although there are different subcategories inside each of the seven chosen arts, I’m going to try to work with classic and well-known examples of each because the idea of this essay is not to discuss whether they can or cannot be considered art, but what has made them be socially accepted as art. The first feature all of the arts have in common is that they all need a certain level of skill to manage to create it. This is indeed one of the characteristics that distinguish an artist from a lawyer, for example.
The artists have either been born or developed an artistic skill that enables them to produce a piece of art that reflects their ability whereas the lawyer would have the skill to find the alibi in order to prevent his client to be declared guilty. A kind of art that usually reflects the artist’s skill is painting; let’s take for example La Gioconda from Leonardo da Vinci. An art expert will have no doubt in affirming it is a work of art because of the way the artist has combined the colours, used shadows and drawing a perfectly symmetrical face. He definitely needed a good level of skill in order to paint that portrait.
A common criticism to modern art is saying that a ‘five-year-old kid could have painted that’. If we take for example one work of art from Bo von Hohenlohe, lots of people might say it is not art because you don’t need a great level of skill to put some circles and lines in a paper. However, as Mark Rothko says “I’m not interested in the relationship of colour or form or anything else, I’m only interested in expressing human emotions”1 hence, in this case, his artistic skill is not used to find perfect dimensions but to try and express emotions.
Mark Rothko’s quote leads us to the second feature all arts have in common, transmitting a feeling from the artist to the observer. As Leon Tolstoy says, “the activity of art is based on the capacity of man to receive another man’s expression of feeling and experience those feelings himself”2. This implies that the artist has to transmit certain feeling when creating his work of art and the observer can only say he understands the piece of art if he gets the emotion. In other words, by transmitting emotions, the artist is looking for a reaction in the audience.
The type of art that proves this idea to be right is the performing arts. By representing a story using real, human characters, theatre fully conveys emotion and creates a reaction in the public. For example, in the classic drama of Antigone, by Sophocles, the audience would leave the theatre with the idea that they should follow the divine rules if not, the Gods would make them suffer like they did with Creonte. Therefore, in this case, the work of art would produce a feeling of fear and respect on the audience and make them change their ways of life in order to follow, more closely, what the Gods say.
Another important aspect that all different types of art share is the artist’s intention to create art. This is very important and it’s connected to the idea of conveying emotion because if the artist wants to transmit a feeling he must have the intention to create art. The type of art I’ve chosen to proof intention as a common denominator is a sculpture. As Stephen Dedalus asks: “if a man hacking in fury at a block of wood make there an image of a cow, is that image a work of art? “3. From my point of view, this image would not be a piece of art because there wasn’t the intention of creating art.
However, this is quite a controversial idea because when we look at a piece of art, the intention of the author is not usually available, hence how can we judge something under a category that is not available at first sight? Nevertheless, I firmly believe that if something is created with no intention to do art, it is simply an artistic work, however, it is not a piece of art. Moreover, about intention, it must be clear that for something to be a work of art it must be created to be seen as a piece of art, not, for example, to decorate a house or to put an attraction to the main square.
Moreover, the fourth common feature between all arts is that they are man-made. From a start, for something to be considered art, it has to be made by a human being; this is why nature cannot be considered art. As Leo Tolstoy affirms, “art is an organ of human life”4 not of nature or of animals. Graffiti art, for example, considered art because it is different from graffiti tags, is made by men and so, it is art. Nowadays, it is very common to see elephants painting, and their works being put up in galleries and even being sold at huge amounts of money.
These, as the example of hitting at a piece of wood and making a cow, mentioned before, are examples of artistic pieces of work. Some people might consider them art, and that’s why they are so highly regarded, nonetheless they fail to fulfil one common feature in all pieces of art, they are not made by a human hand. Originality is the next characteristic shared between all arts. For something to be considered art, it has to be original, different from what has been done before. As Henri Matisse says, “creativity takes courage”5 because “all profoundly original art looks ugly at first”6, nonetheless people manage to like and accept the change.
The type of art that reveals originality in an outstanding way is music. It is unbelievable how more and different music is created every year; after so many years, music is a resource that will never end and each song has a different melody, rhythm and lyrics from the rest. Songs might be generalized into a category such as “romantic” or “popular”, however, all songs are completely different from each other and although some have some similarities between them, what makes music live nowadays is its capacity to make a new sound every time.
Other aspects that force originality to be a feature of all arts are forgeries and mass-produced objects. When a piece of art is mass produced, it stops being original and hence, all the copies cannot be considered art; this is the same case as forgeries; if you copy any kind of art, you are not being original and no matter how to look your work might look, it is definitely not considered a piece of art.
The views about the relationship between art and reality have changed throughout the time. From Plato’s idea of ‘forms’ and the ‘perfect apple’ to Schopenhauer’s idea of art being an “insight into the fundamental feature of reality: the will”7. Either way, the feature that is present in any kind of art is the “interplay between what is real and what is an illusion”8. Art, in the times of the Greeks, looked for the “mimesis”, the closest the work was to reality the better work of art it was.
Nowadays, the view has changed, and as the Italian Alberto Giacometti affirms: “the object of art is not to reproduce reality but to create a reality of the same intensity”9. This confirms Picasso’s idea of art being “lies that tell the truth”10. For example, if we take the book “6 characters in search of an author”, the Italian writer, Luigi Pirandello, by not following any order in time, action or place, wants to make it clear to the reader, that what they are reading is not reality; is fiction.
And, although some pieces of literature, especially classic literature, do try to imitate reality, there is always a touch of fantasy and this is what makes the literary world so fantastic and be considered, with no doubt, as a type of art. In conclusion, the different types of art are obliged to share certain features in order to be considered as ‘art’. If there were no characteristics in common, then we couldn’t be able to define what is and what is not art. No matter how different a La Pieta11 might be from the song “Yesterday”12 they both share the main six features all pieces of art have.