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"I don't know why I like it; I just Like it."


"As far as I am concerned, a painting speaks for itself. What is the use of giving explanations when all is said and done? A painter has only one language."

-Pablo Picasso.





What do you think? Do you like it when the Art critic or artist explains a work, or do you prefer to let a painting talk to you without any explanation? Is painting a language, as Pablo infers, or is it, as American-Lithuanian artist Alex Kanevsky states, something else entirely? I recently listened to a podcast produced by Nicholas Wilton, Honesty in Art - Alex Kanevsky - Ep 65 Art2Life, in which the idea of Art being a language was challenged.

Accepting Art as language means it aids in verbal development. Art educators (Heberholz & Hansen, 1994; NAEA, 1988) state that understanding imagery precedes a child's oral development. Without formal instruction, we learn to read visual language earlier and more spontaneously than verbally. This way, it could be stated that Art is a visual language. But I am starting to accept that it is much more than that.


In my last blog, titled "Bittersweet," I spoke of the emotive quality of the Art. Art can be emotional, but it can also be too nuanced and complex to attach universal translatable words.


Humans are hard-wired to look for recognizable features in everything, so it's no surprise we make the same associations when we look at Art. When we first look at a realistic or abstract image, our brain is confused as we determine what this Art represents (is that a landscape? Is that a figure?). As we sort it out, we settle into relief as we identify what the image represents. Pleasure centers of our brain are triggered. Finally, our brains attach to the image, and an emotional response is determined. But unlike relatively stable verbal language, visual language is volatile. Much of the Art of the last decade of the 20th century, abstract expressionism, earthworks, installation, and performance art, might not even be recognized as Art by contemporaries of seventeenth-century artist Peter Paul Rubens. The codification of visual language has changed dramatically in 300 years, while verbal language has remained relatively stable.


Siding against Pablo, Educational Psychologists (Forrest-Pressley and Waller 1984) argue that Art is not a language. Communication in the visual language cannot be translated into another language as directly as English can be translated into French, for example. For instance, it would be impossible to ex- plain the meaning of yellow as it would vary considerably depending on the context and the culture in which it is used. While Art has some rules, there is no system of correct application and no structure by which one can judge whether or not a work of Art is right or wrong. Art lacks universal agreed-upon conventions to be accepted as a language universally.


So which is it? Is Art a means of communication? I wholeheartedly say yes. But is it a language? Am I not sure? Thinking about cave paintings and Egyptian Heiroglifics, language has bloomed from Art. Still, I can also argue that it is unique, enhancing the totality of being human. While Art has some rules, there is no system of correct application and no structure by which one can judge whether or not a work of Art is right or wrong. When I hear the phrase, "I don't know why I like it; I just Like it,"

I appreciate and understand that the other person has a unique and unknowable experience. We can each only appreciate our own experience; in this way, all Art is just Art. It is its own separate thing. I would love to know your thoughts on this. Drop me a line if you have the time! I love getting new insights and ways of thinking.

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