August 26, 2018


Not all of us are painters, but we possess the artistic instinct. Art is not just about the canvas or the gallery. It is also about what we are doing when we do our best work.

One of the root sources of the word ‘art’ is ‘to fit together’ and humans do this all the time. Be it fitting or bringing things together, we are creating in order to produce, to form and fashion. Humans have an amazing capacity to create anything, no matter how small, out of nothing. Every occupation — from painter to businessperson, teacher to chef — requires us to imagine, create and execute ideas. And that’s exactly what has brought us this far. Be it in the intimate surroundings of our home or the world outside, our choices, conduct and deeds are a reflection of our individual ability to process information and respond through tangible or intangible means.

Random motions like the sound of the sea, the wind rustling through leaves or the cry of a bird impact our senses in varied forms. Often, unconsciously, one of these memories spills forth and finds expression through some artistic vocabulary. The creative spark is ignited when an individual is seeking to make a statement, to invent, to cause a reaction, to connect, change a perspective or improve a design. Each time we connect things together we are creating a physicality emerging from our inner reality. It is this creative act that contributes to human evolution and transformation

Art reflects cultural values, beliefs and identity. It also helps to preserve the many different communities that make up our world

Noted philosopher, psychologist, educationist and reformer John Dewey says, “Art is not the possession of the few who are recognised writers, painters, musicians; it is the authentic expression of any and all individuality. Those who have the gift of creative expression in unusually large measure disclose the meaning of the individuality of others to those others. In participating in the work of art, they become artists in their activity. They learn to know and honour individuality in whatever form it appears. The fountains of creative activity are discovered and released. The free individuality which is the source of art is also the final source of creative development in time.”

Every great civilisation has left a legacy of their art that fills museums around the world. “Great nations write their autobiographies in three manuscripts — the book of their deeds, the book of their words and the book of their art,” said John Ruskin, a leading English art critic of the Victorian era. It is by examining ancient art that we unravel the mysteries of the past.

Art encourages critical thinking and better communication. Living in a purely functional world would lack meaning for us as human beings. We need to express ourselves through art and we need to surround ourselves with the expressions of others. Beyond looking at and admiring, a considerable amount of art has utilitarian value. Everything from a delightfully patterned quilt on the bed, a designer wardrobe or branded furniture can be considered a form of art. Our homes reflect our personalities through the art we choose to display.

We need art to keep us healthy. Creating or experiencing art can relax and soothe us or it may enliven and stimulate us. Art provides a release, a place for reflection and a way to wholly engage our selves. Reflecting on the cathartic impact of his art-making, Picasso said, “Art washes from the soul the dust of everyday life.”

Art is a way of grasping the world. Not merely the physical world, which is what science attempts to do, but the whole world, and specifically, the human world, the world of society and spiritual experience. Art reflects cultural values, beliefs and identity and helps to preserve the many different communities that make up our world. Art chronicles our own lives and experiences over time.

“The foremost reason that artists create, and the rest of us value their art, is because art forms a priceless living bridge between the everyday psychology of our minds and the universal spirit of humanity,” said Larry Culliford in his book Spiritual Wisdom for Secular Times.

Published in Dawn, EOS, August 26th, 2018