i wish i were cool.
i wish i were cool.
“Beautiful,” when describing art or anything, is purely, 100% subjective. One cannot argue whether something is beautiful or not. And why would you? Know that beauty is personal. Beauty is difficult to explain, but we know it when we see it. Beauty can’t be broken down into components and reasoning as readily as other descriptors. Some are able to articulate why they believe something is beautiful, but due to this, beauty loses one of its most important qualities: mystery. Not understanding why something is beautiful makes it all the more beautiful. The moment one begins to explain something’s beauty, the beauty wanes. To me, beauty feels like awe surrounded by silence.
When something is impressive, it strikes me in a specific way. Upon examining and realizing the extreme effort put into a piece, a burst of admiration, amazement, curiosity, and jealousy hits me in an instant. I puzzle over the time and the pain that went into making this exist. “Impressive” is the opposite of “I could do that.” There are two different things that cause “impressive.” They are intricacy and magnitude. Intricacy pertains to tedious detail, while magnitude pertains to size and scale. Personally, magnitude impresses me far less than intricacy. Thousands of hand-drawn, hair-thin lines are way more impressive to me than gigantic metal shapes. The only time I deviate from this rule is with architecture, because sometimes it’s hard to be more impressed with the blueprints than the actual building. (There’s actually a third type of “impressive” that I don’t really care for, but I might as well mention it: when a piece is coupled with some kind of stunt or oddity involved in its creation. For example, a painting that was done during a tandem skydive or something. There’s no integrity in that; it’s just shock value. Plus, you wouldn’t even know about it unless it was explained to you somehow.)
“Thought-provoking” is what it sounds like: it makes you think. It forces you to reflect on a topic that may rile you up, bother you, please you, disgust you, disturb you, inspire you, or cause you to ponder about your own life. It evokes an emotional response which leads to an internal narrative. To achieve its ends, “thought-provoking” relies on content and the beholder’s knowledge and opinion of that content, which makes it challenging for an artist to provoke a specific thought. In a piece meant to be mostly thought-provoking, the artist must work very hard if they want to direct the majority of their audience toward a certain point. A shortcut through this dilemma is the use of text, either incorporated directly into the piece or on a little card beside it. I think it’s more admirable to be able to convey a message without text, but text can sometimes benefit a piece with style that it may not have had otherwise. In any case, a piece being thought-provoking at all is pretty satisfying.
Something can be described as innovative when it contains aspects that are on the cutting edge technologically or when its creation employed methods or media that were extremely imaginative and original. An example of the former may be that the piece includes some kind of crazy, spherical television display, and an example of the latter may be that the piece was composed by weaving together multicolored blades of grass or something. The fact that a piece is innovative alone gives you a reason to admire it, even if you don’t really like it for any other reason. Due to this, pieces that shoot mostly for innovation will lose their sheen quickly as time passes. Innovation itself can be a novelty. Therefore, it’s probably best to combine innovation with other positive qualities.
Unlike “thought-provoking,” a piece that’s shocking brings forth a visceral reaction that isn’t necessarily coupled with an inner monologue other than “Oh my god.” This reaction might occur because a piece is insanely beautiful or impressive, but it’s most often due to graphic violence or lewdness. Shock is a powerful tool. It can bring attention to a piece that may not have otherwise gotten much. It can also be used as contrast to another part of the piece, making both that other part and the piece as a whole more effective. I like being shocked, regardless of the reason for it. That’s not to say a piece should go entirely without a message or point of view. “Shocking,” more often than not, requires something else.
You like a piece, but you don’t really know why. You give it a longer glance than the other pieces you’re passing by or scrolling through. “Intriguing” is the vague, positive adjective attached to these pieces. It’s a few steps above “interesting,” but really anything can be interesting. “Interesting” is something you say when you don’t really care enough to say anything more. “Intriguing” is “beautiful” without the awe, but the mystery is still there. That’s the main thing to it, actually. “Intriguing” might even be able to be replaced by “mysterious,” but that wouldn’t be quite accurate. It’s more like “Mysteriously, I like this.”
Last, and perhaps least to some, is “funny”. I say that because some people feel that humor has no place in art. I disagree with that. True, pieces that are mostly funny tend to lean toward gaudy or tacky, but used properly and in the right moderation, humor can be a very effective tool. In my opinion, the best amount of “funny” to have in a work of art most of the time while still maintaining integrity is enough to make its audience crack a smile. Like “shocking,” that little involuntary reaction can be what a piece needs to give it some extra attention. It could be like throwing a joke into an important speech; it causes that necessary bit of levity.
While this was written with mainly visual art in mind, it could probably be applied to other kinds of art and still work. Note: I didn’t write this because I claim to know shit about art. I was just scrolling through #art and felt like writing it.