What Counts as Knowledge in the Arts? Essay Sample

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“Art is a lie that brings us closer to the truth”; these are the words of the renowned artist Pablo Picasso. It is common belief to think that there is very little or no knowledge in the arts. The arts are normally equated to a creative way of expressing your thoughts and emotions; knowledge is not normally in the forefront when speaking about the arts. In most areas of knowledge like the sciences, facts and evidences lead to conclusions based on which knowledge is formed. In the arts there is often no definite conclusion, no definite answer, and to many it may seem vague, but the lack of a definite conclusion does not mean that there is no knowledge to be extracted from it.

Art is form of self-expression and it takes on many forms: paintings, movies, music and literature they are all examples of art, its is a very subjective area of knowledge, what is beautiful one may be horrendous to another, but it always expresses a grain of truth, through emotion, reaction or representation. But why did Picasso say art was a lie? A lie is a sense or feeling that something is not real, yet according to Picasso it brings us closer to what is real ‘the truth’ through various ways of knowing like perception, emotion and by drawing conclusions. Art is in fact a beautiful lie; a lie where the issues, problems, emotions, truths and knowledge are hidden behind a flurry of beautiful colors and stark images, behind lyrical symphonies and eloquent vocabulary and even behind a simple turn of an actor. If there is indeed so much knowledge to extract from art why is it common belief that art has almost no knowledge?

The belief that there is no knowledge in art can simply be equated to the lack of awareness and is an evidence of difference in perspective in the area of art. As I mentioned earlier art is subjective and the voice, mood and emotion of the artist are very evident in the work. Art is based on the perspective of the artist and the viewer, the knowledge to be extracted it is heavily based on the interpretation of the viewer. A painting may convey anger to one and to another it may convey passion. I can take my own at work as an example.

There were many perceptions to what I was trying to portray through the painting, some thought that I was trying to express anger, others thought it was meaningless, some thought that it was a witch, my sister thought it was Red Riding Hood and Hansel and Gretel. I was actually trying to depict the calming and almost spiritual experience of experiencing rain in the woods. This example serves to show that different people experience art differently and thus come to different conclusions about what they see. So we can say that the reason it is common belief that there is no knowledge in art is because of the difference in perspective. When the viewer is unable to understand or imbibe the message the artist was trying to convey they come to the conclusion that there is no knowledge or message in it, simply because they are unaware or ignorant about the message of the artwork. But why is it that people are easily convinced when knowledge is imparted in the form of a science, math, history or geography textbook rather than a novel?

It has long been argued that history is an art as well as a science but everyone believes that there is knowledge in history as it is recounting an event, but it can be argued that history is nothing more than a story, especially when discussing ancient history. But if history can contain truth even though it is literature, why cant art also have knowledge in it? A streetcar named desire by is a very good example of knowledge in literature. We studied this play in English and I was immediately drawn by the similarity in the characters in the roles they played and the way they were portrayed to the playwright and the situation around him when he wrote the play. It conveys the truth about the way women and homosexuals were treated and the roles different people of different social classes played. It even gives a great insight into the changing America, to be very honest I learnt more about the changing America after World War II from this play than from my history books. So why is it that we do not consider this work to be history, to be knowledge but instead sidetrack it as art, something that is nothing but a pastime and as something we don’t gain much knowledge from?

This is because people are more comfortable accepting that a historian would know more about the time than a playwright or an artist. This is because plays and novels are often sidetracked are fictional works, something which was never real and will never be real. By labeling something as a work of fiction we stop looking for any knowledge in it and stop trying to learn from it this creates a stereotype in the minds of people, which prevents further learning and gaining of knowledge. People are easily convinced when the same information is conveyed to them is the form of a textbook as it is not hidden in the storyline or hinted through the actions of a character, but instead is stated as plain fact. So how is it possible for one gain knowledge from art?

It is truly harder to gain knowledge from the art than from science, this is because knowledge in the art is hidden. It is almost like a cryptic message that needs to be deciphered, but unlike many cryptic clues there is no hidden decoder, which tells you where to start. The only way to gain knowledge in the arts is through opening your mind to new information, one must remove stereotypes and almost all information and knowledge we thought to be the truth. Knowledge and information gained from the art is to be taken with a pinch of salt as artists have free reign over what they wish to portray and how they wish to portray it, they are free to have strong opinions, which are not necessarily true.

Therefore as a conclusion we can say that there is a great deal of knowledge in the art but it is hidden and out of clear sight this is what makes art exciting and almost like a mystery. Gaining information from the arts might not be the easiest or most reliable but this article serves to disprove the common belief that there is no knowledge in the arts.

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