As a social animal man communicates with others; being endowed with a larger brain mass and given to abstract thinking he has several means at his disposal to communicate with others. Art is one such.
A shop assistant who decorates the window in order to catch the eye of the passerby relies on some intrinsic urge from within so he succeeds in his objective is as much as an artist as a housewife who decorates the home in order to speak for the people that live within. In their art there is something as natural and self-conscious attempt to communicate with others. Their naturalness springs from the manner they set out to achieve rheir objectives; even so it is an indirect social statement of the technology and social status. What makes then an artist special?
An artist is an individual given to express pictorially and has command over the language as much as a lawyer has command over the laws of the land and can employ them to make a case for his client to purpose. Language is such words used carries meaning and these are at deeper level rooted in culture and social history of the particular milieu that a viewer can identify with. Words also change meaning since these are dependent on the end user. How artists in the medieval times treated sacred subjects are not same as how modern artists would see symbolic value in the objects themselves.
Peter Paul Rubens made a triptych in which the central piece is deposition of Christ from the cross. This painting was made (1612-14) for the Guild of Arquebusiers, who wanted their patron Saint Christopher (meaning: carrier of Christ) portrayed. If Rubens had complied with this wish, he would have had to explain himself to the authorities, because the strict Contra-Reformation’s principles did not allow portraits of saints to be hung in cathedrals. Instead, Rubens chose to hide all references to Christopher by portraying Christ as being carried in all three panels. (artbible.info)
Compare this with Salvador Dalí’s Corpus Hypercubus(1954). Influences of his times and his personal attitude to Catholicism can be found in it. His interest grew from the bombing of Hiroshima at the end of World War II which left a lasting impression on him. In his 1951 essay “Mystical Manifesto”, he introduced an art theory he called “nuclear mysticism” that combined Dalí’s interests in Catholicism, mathematics, science, and Catalan culture in an effort to reestablish Classical values and techniques(wikipedia- Corpus Hypercubus). An artist can only do so much as a child of his times despite the many tantrums he may throw in order to draw attention to himself.
Merely a shock value does not give art its relevance other than making the thinking person come to terms that there are more than many ways of looking at things. Many paintings that shocked the public in their time have become accepted as part of our cultural heritage. This is no different than the infant who threw many a tantrum has quietly taken place in the society of men as dutiful father hardworking tax-paying burgher as ever to do his duty to his family and state.
(To be continued)