Category Archives: Art Theory

Ideas to Ponder

Fractal Generation: Is It Art?

There is much discussion about whether machines offer a valid contribution to the production of Art, especially Fine Art. With the advent of computers, artists now have a vast vocabulary of software and hardware that can be used for visual processing. How do these new technologies differ from traditional methods for artistic production. In the case of drawing, a traditional form used graphite pencils and paper. Today, artists can use a computer stylus, and software that mimics the pressure sensitivity of traditional drawing, and that also adds powerful computing capability to the process.

In the world of music, machines are taken for granted as important components of the creative process. With the advent of recording, and amplified live performance, musicians, and the music industry embraced machine technology.

In its infancy photography was thought of as craft, and it was only through the enlightened efforts of Stieglitz and Steichen when early in the twentieth century these attitudes were displaced. Today, many artists use photographic technology as an important method for expression.

Often people think of ceramic as craft, and yet in Japan, ceramic, and ceramic artists are respected in the same light as artists working in any other medium.

Technology changes, and at any point in human history artists exploit technologies for use as mediums for artistic expression. Social media has introduced a new pathway for artistic communication, and perhaps there are other new technologies alive today that will leave an imprint on the history of human artistic expression.


“The word is derived from the Japanese
word mono (物?), which means "thing", and aware (哀れ?),
which was a Heian period expression of measured surprise
(similar to "ah" or "oh"), translating
roughly as "pathos", "poignancy", "
deep feeling", or "sensitivity", or "aware".
Thus, mono no aware has frequently been translated as "
the 'ahh-ness' of things", life, and love.
Awareness of the transience of all things heightens appreciation
of their beauty, and evokes a gentle sadness at their passing.


“One night [ca. 1920] I was in my studio drawing my own portrait. On the ceiling, a light. All of a sudden I thought: suppose I were a fly. I could fly on to the easel, fly around me, go for a walk on my back, go up to the wall, etc…. In this closed space I projected the path taken by the fly: no more frame, no more Renaissance.”

“The old Chinese used to say: ‘It is better to feel a painting than to look at it.’ So much today is only to look at. It is one thing to paint a picture and another to experience it: in attempting to find on what level one accepts this experience, one discovers what one sees and on what level the discovery takes place. Christopher Columbus left in search of one world and discovered another.”

“‘Let nature take over in your work.’ These words from my old friend Takizaki were at first confusing but cleared to the idea – ‘Get out of the way.’ We hear some artists speak today of the act of painting. This in its best sense could include the meaning of my old friend. But a State of Mind is the first preparation and from there this action proceeds. Peace of Mind is another ideal, perhaps the ideal state to be sought for in the painting and certainly preparatory to the act.

OBERVATION: Mark Tobey (December 11, 1890 – April 24, 1976), can be defined as a genuine artist, one worthy of the name, who saw the known and the unknown, who held insight into the abstract world of the unconscious, being able to define and make real glimpses into the world of human capability. All of us benefit from individuals like Mark Tobey, in that he, and others like him leave a legacy of ideas, thoughts, and actions that open our minds to new vistas.


Humans have extraordinary capacity for abstract reasoning. Through the years they have developed religious awareness, spiritual life, and assorted elements of mythological, and metaphysical belief. Additionally, the ability to appreciate aesthetic, moral, and ethical behavior have become part of the human psyche. Through self-conscious discipline humans have been able to harness the will. While it is easy to recognize the genius involved in all of these capabilities, humans also function without conscience, building horror upon horror in the lives of others, and in the natural world.

In aesthetics, artists delve into the mysteries of the human capacity for imagination, intuition, expression; a world of the yet unknown. This is the place where art bridges the instinctual with the conscious. At the instinctual level, the human mind invokes, reacts, and processes ideas in an immediate (pre-conscious) way. Prior to the mechanism of conscious intervention, the instinctual creative mind brings to the surface ideas, organizing thoughts from the many regions of the mind, the intellect, the emotions. These processes of inspiration, intuition, instinct, and imagination, all contribute to the ability to foresee that which is intangible. In bringing forth ideas from these complex regions of the mind and brain, the artist transforms idea into a fashioned, constructed manifestation (the form). The medium takes on the characteristics of that original thought, allowing material to act as a cohesive device, a kind of matrix holding ideas in place.

Aesthetic encounter takes the art further, when a viewer, or participant interacts with the concept using powers of perception to draw the idea into the self, merging mind with mind. As the perceptual mechanism absorbs data, feeding the information to the higher functions of the brain, a new impression forms in the viewers mind, perhaps, nearly identical with the original moment of creation, perhaps different, but at the very least becoming a tool, an experience for new and uncharted mental ideation. Art is the catalyst, the enzyme triggering a cascade of secondary responses in the viewer’s mind. Perhaps this is the greatest function of art, where the mind of the viewer takes on new characteristics, new capacity to learn, understand, and feel, becoming immersed in the aesthetic experience.

Each viewer enters this action of aesthetic encounter with unique criteria; perceiving, processing, and making new the art put in place by the artist. Here we find the power of communication evident in the language of art; the tangible, the unknown, beauty, horror, complexity.



History (from Greek historia, meaning “inquiry, knowledge acquired by investigation”) is the study of the human past. It is a field of research, which uses a narrative to examine and analyze the sequence of events, and it sometimes attempts to investigate objectively the patterns of cause and effect that determine events. This discipline of history can be used as an end in itself and as a way of providing “perspective” on the problems of the present.

Function: noun
Etymology: Middle English histoire, historie, from Anglo-French estoire, histoire, from Latin historia, from Greek, inquiry, history, knowing, learned; akin to Greek eidenai to know
1 tale: story
2 a: a chronological record of significant events often including an explanation of their causes
2 b: a treatise presenting systematically related natural phenomena
2 c: an established record
3 branch of knowledge that records and explains past events
4 a: events that form the subject matter of a history
4 b: events of the past
4 c: one that is finished or done for
4 d: previous treatment, handling, or experience

Extant Pronunciation: \_ek-st_nt; ek-_stant, _ek-_\
Function: adjective
Etymology: Latin exstant-, exstans, present participle of exstare to stand out, be in existence, from ex- + stare to stand
1 archaic: standing out or above
2 a: currently or actually existing

Archaeologists to identify and recognize cultural and social customs from ancient historic periods use extant examples.

Scientists use various mechanisms to examine the past, using the geologic record, and the data contained within rock formations to understand forces working at specific times, and geographic regions. Astrophysicists and astronomers use telescopes, spectrometers, and other machines to examine the physical universe. This data allows the scientist to look back through history in order to identify cosmic circumstances, ultimately to know how the universe formed, when things happened, and how the dynamics of celestial mechanics continues in the present, predicting future developments.

Extant artifacts define Art history. These objects and ideas allow us to speculate and re-create a social history of any specific time. It is necessary to clearly understand that art history is an actual history only defined by the continuing presence of the idea. Some cultures maintain an oral tradition carrying significant icons into future generations through the transmission of the word and idea. Many examples exist in the historical record of painting, sculpture, architecture, and print offering a glimpse into what people thought, and in effectively maintaining the idea as a living entity. Ideas are sometimes lost, destroyed, or fail to be cared for. These ideas then depart from the historical record.

Artists engage the historical record through the creation, capture, and maintenance of ideas. Properly maintained ideas live well into the future as ideas flow through dialogue. The persistence of history is the key element to preserving truly human pursuits. How, who, why, and what ideas are maintained determine the course of human history evidenced by the ideas themselves.


OBSERVATION: This URL connects to the Summer 2010 issue of NY Arts Magazine, and the essay written by Abraham Lubelski.


At the URL listed above Friedhelm Mennekes has collected insights regarding Joseph Beuys, and his work Manresa (Ignatius of Loyola). Mennekes has described the relation between art and religion found not just in the work of Beuys, but in other art as well. In 2002 Mennekes was awarded the Wilhelm-Hausenstein-Medal of the Bavarian Academy of the Fine Arts, Munich, “for his outstanding achievement in the field of promoting visual arts“.

Mennekes has been engaged in many discussions with artists through exhibitions and lectures that address this vital relationship of creative expression and experienced religion. These encounters are documented in print in a multitude of catalogue contributions, essays and monographs that discuss individuals such as Donald Baechler, Joseph Beuys, Christian Boltanski, James Brown, James Lee Byars, Francis Bacon, Eduardo Chillida, Marlene Dumas, Jenny Holzer, Anish Kapoor, Barbara Kruger, Arnulf Rainer, David Salle, Cindy Sherman, Antoni Tàpies, Rosemarie Trockel, and Bill Viola among others. Mennekes poses systematic questions, addressing individual works and also their vital relationship to the broader world of contemporary culture. He seeks structural correspondences and parallels that address our experience of faith and doubts in organized religion, as well as the secular world. Above all, however, he shows through over one hundred interviews with artists that their work is not simply dealing with private convictions of a personal nature, but with large issues that relate to all kinds of people striving to live a meaningful life.

OBSERVATION: It is necessary to understand that art may contain insight and meaning beyond the mundane. Many artists have worked to demonstrate the potential of human thought and action.
The potential (action), that we find in the work of Joseph Beuys, is the path that leads to full participation in the mystery of humanity.


“As the man who acts must, according to Goethe, be without a conscience, he must also be without knowledge; he forgets everything in order to be able to do something; he is unfair toward what lies behind and knows only one right, the right of what is now coming into being as the result of his own action.”

OBSERVATION: This quote was extracted from a piece done by Joseph Kosuth. In the context of the art, Kosuth also quoted a newspaper cartoon describing commercialization in art, free thinking and how it is necessary to sometimes sacrifice integrity and values in order to participate in the system where art is simplified in order to be better suited for mass consumption.

There have been times in art history when artists led the pursuit of social responsibility, and freedom of intellect. The lines of art, and commercial production have become blurred in recent years, where the production of art has been centered on the prevailing attitude of conspicuous consumption. Each artist must recognize the purpose of their individual direction, follow that path, and ultimately reap the reward for that personal responsibility: Nietzsche: “the result of his own action”.


Ananda K. Coomaraswamy, The Dance of Siva, New York, 1985.

AK Coomaraswamy (1877-1947)

…..”The question follows: What is the essential element in poetry? According to some authors this consists in style and figures, or in suggestion (vyanjana, to which we shall recur in discussing the varieties of poetry). But the greater writers refute these views and are agreed that the one essential element in poetry is what they term Rasa, or Flavour. With this term, which is the equivalent of Beauty or Aesthetic Emotion in the strict sense of the philosopher, must be considered the derivative adjective rasavant, ‘having rasa’, applied to a work of art, and the derivative substantive rasika, one who enjoys rasa, a connoisseur or lover, and finally rasasvadana, the tasting of rasa, i.e., aesthetic contemplation.

What, then is Beauty, what is rasa, what is it that entitles us to speak of divers works as beautiful or rasavant? What is this sole quality which the most dissimilar works of art possess in common? Let us recall the history of a work of art. There is (1) an asethetic institution on the part of the original artist, –the poet or creator; then (2) the internal expression of this intuition, –the true creation or vision of beauty (3) the indication of this by external signs (language) for the purpose of communication, –the technical activity; and finally (4) the resulting stimulation of the critic or rasika to reproduction of the original intuition, or of some approximation of it.

…The true critic (rasika) perceives the beauty of which the artist has exhibited the signs. It is not necessary that the critic should appreciate the artist’s meaning–every work or art is a kamadhenu, yielding many meanings–for he knows without reasoning whether or not the work is beautiful, before the mind begins to question what it is ‘about’. Hindu writers say that the capacity to feel beauty (to taste rasa) cannot be acquired by study, but is the reward of merit gained in a past life; for many good men and would-be historians of art have never perceived it. The poet is born, not made; but so also is the rasika, whose genius differs in degree, not in kind, from that of the original artist. In western phraseology we should express this by saying that experience can only be bought by experience; opinions must be earned. We gain and feel nothing merely when we take it on authority that any works are beautiful. It is far better to be honest, and to admit that perhaps we cannot see their beauty. A day may come when we shall be better prepared.”

OBSERVATION: Rasa, or flavor represents the essential fluid, energy, dynamic, and mystery that defines art. Necessary aspects of art are found in the artist as generator of the art, and the rasika, the connoisseur or lover of rasa; aesthetic contemplation. It is this mutually symbiotic relationship between artist and participant that maintains the liveliness of the idea; rasa; flavor. Participation is necessary for a successful marriage between intuition, artist, participant, and ultimately the active component: rasasvadana .