by Spiros Skiadopoulos
We, people, live in a world given in such a way that we easily forget that all things around us have been created through human labor. It takes an effort to understand our environment not only as a physical entity but, also, as an expression of human needs.
In every society, the physical need for food, clothing and shelter, the quests for individual and group identity as well as the desire to celebrate the various events of life operate as sources of inspiration and creativity.
Thus, many art forms are born from the need to create structures within which we live, work and play. For example, architecture is the satisfaction of the need for shelter, the design of clothes satisfies the need for clothing, music easies our desires for entertainment and relaxation etc. etc. To formulate their environment people need tools (the necessary means to basically enhance human power). Today, most of domestic and commercial goods are designed for mass production by marketing specialists and industrial engineers. Essentially, we are consumers of supplied products, unable to create original objects. So little as to nothing we are concerned with the creation of original objects that it escapes us the fact that many of these objects were born out of the need to survive.
Man, as an art agent, brings forth a new creation within nature. While reflecting on the world of art, man recognizes himself as a creative, spiritual being. On the other hand, the one-sighted view of things may lead, through a lost internal world , to the formation of a being trapped in nature’s rationalism.
It is very dangerous, at the dawn of its youth, making the first steps far from the familial security, under the influence of the teaching authority, for the fast acting and developing young man to be trapped in one-sided learning procedures. On the other hand, it is the understanding of art that could help him turn toward the creative expression, the independent judgment and the enhancement of his dignity.
Art is the fruit of the free human nature.
When man admires something beautiful, he is united with the creative powers alive in nature and within himself.
Through this admiration of beauty, real love for the truth as well as for moral decisiveness may be developed. Beauty reveals itself everywhere to everybody.
Nevertheless, the sense for its perception is developed, while man is trying to understand it.
THE TRIAD: BODY, SOUL, SPIRIT.
Man is bound in a three way manner to the world. One is to find the world as it appears in front of him and accept it as real.
The second is to make the world his own personal affair that has a meaning for himself.
Through the third, he considers a goal in the world that never ceases the efforts to attain.
He is, thus, connected three ways with the things of the world; he has three sides in his being: body, soul, and spirit.
“Through the body, things of the world that surround him appear, connecting him temporarily with the objects. Through soul, he connects things of the environment with himself by impressions that cause feelings of contentment and discontent, desire and aversion, pleasure and pain. And as spirit, it is meant what is revealed, when, according to Goethe, he sees things in a way of a divine being that can see what is hidden behind the very same objects.”
It is only when we observe man from all these three sides, we can hope that we will understand his being, because these three sides show man his triple relation to the rest of the world.
The understanding of art contributes to the enhancement of the dignity and creative power of the human being.
It is through art that young people express the creative and independent piece of themselves. Contrary to ignorance and bad taste, young people are trapped in oversimplifications, insecurity and introversion.
Besides, a certain partial knowledge of art works, their line of origin and influences does not constitute essential education. “In every real work of art, there exists a hidden promethean spark and, once experienced, jumps into our soul to warm, light and move us, to lead us to the unique apocalypse of a work of art.” We can meditate, as much as we wish, about a work of art, nevertheless, its real personal character will, almost always, escape intellectual reasoning. History of art cannot explain this in the same way we cannot explain human individuality.
Steiner avoided in his lectures to analyze specific works of art. Frequently, he was showing slides without any comments. He was expecting the public, through his introductory remarks, acquire a personal contact with the work of art. It is only when personal powers for the absorption and contentment of art are excited that real reflection of art can exist.
Having attended a professional museum tour, one recollects the disappointment felt, listening to all those superfluous explanations. Equally important is the psychological framework for attending art. Many people feel restrain or fear in museums and galleries, while facing the formalities and rituals performed in these places. The fear of saying something improper or poorly understanding art is overwhelming.
Once, Steiner gave teachers this educational advice: “Do not teach physical history during an educational tour. If, for example, wish to explain something about the world of plants, do it, beforehand, in class. When we take children out to nature, we have first to kindle into their hearts the bliss felt in the view of a beetle, the joy felt for the way it runs, its funny relation with the rest of nature.”
Significant aim in teaching art is to arouse and refine the power of observation. Every function of perception empowers the soul and spirit in young people.
Art is a kind of language, ie. a means of communication and expression of man’s feelings and ideas, expression of a need to overcome loneliness through externalization procedures of the beauty.
Mission of art
1) Entertains, while releasing man from the materialist-consumer bourgeois way of life, since it makes him realize that he needs to deal with his spiritual being. It relinquishes his existential agony and liberates him from the daily monotony.
2) Absolves man from intellectual one-sidedness/dogmatism and enriches his interests. Educates and sensitizes the pondering on major human problems.
3) Morally, it refines the manners, idealizes the body and soul, tames even savages, bringing forth their humanity. Improves social behavior.
4) Psychologically, it multiplies the enjoyment of life, decreasing sorrow by offering escape to creativity.
5) Socially, it unites people, bringing forth social values and ideals. Additionally, it contributes to the preservation of people’s national identity.
6) Esthetically, it plants in man’s soul the idea of the good and beautiful, thus contributing to the upgrading of the quality of life.
Enemy of art is its vulgarization, ridiculing and commercialization.
We do not know very much about the origins of art as we do not know about the origins of language. If, by the word art, we mean building houses, painting pictures, making sculptures or design clothes, then there is no man without an art. But, If we mean a certain excellent luxury enjoyed in museums and exhibitions or something special, valuable that is used to decorate a hall, we should realize that such use of art is very recent and that many significant architects, painters or sculptors of the past could not possibly imagined that art would have turned out in such manner. (In our society, many people express their will for social prestige by buying complicated furniture and various decorative objects).
We cannot understand art, if we ignore the purpose it serves.
Finally, we will not understand art, if we fail to enter the mind and rational of the creators. I do not think we are incapable of such feelings provided we are honest in ourselves and our judgment is not influenced by biased opinions of the day. Nevertheless, the role of art, in a society or culture is not referred only to esthetics. The ways of life created by people are reflected and changed in the art forms they opt for and build. Every time we judge modern environment, we judge ourselves.
“Art is not creation without a purpose but power that serves the development and sensitization of the human soul.”
Leica Academy, Αthens 2008
Sources (Translated into Greek):
Steiner Rudolf . Dormach: Rudolf Steiner Archives.(www.e-zine.gr)
Arnheim Rudolf. “Art and Visual Perception” (National Bank of Greece Publications))
Chapman Laura. “Teaching of Art” (Publications Nefeli)
E.P. Papanastasiou. “Esthetics” (Publications Noisi)