Column is a monthly feature that explores the world
of creativity and aesthetics.
Are You Artist or
de Sousa, Director, AbleStable
desire to name, define and categorise the world
is testament to our need to make sense of it, yet
many words are used in such diverse ways, the more
they are considered, the more they confuse. The
word 'artist' is one such word.
A Time Before Art
The problem with defining the word artist is that
in common usage it covers such a broad range of
people. From those who practice or are skilled in
'art' (the painter), to those whose profession requires
'artistic expertise' (the 'make-up artist').
The idea of the 'artist' as a creative person who
has certain 'artistic qualities' is a relatively
recent one. When we visit a museum or gallery where
ancient objects are displayed as 'art' we experience
those objects in a very different way than those
who viewed (or more likely used) them in their original
setting. The maker of such objects may not have
been perceived of as an artist at all, nor is it
likely their creations were viewed as 'art' at their
time of production.
Painting for example was counted as a craft much
It was in the 15th and 16th centuries in Italy that
'works of art' began to emerge as a collective term
for many disciplines including painting, sculpture,
and architecture. Later in the 18th century, music
and poetry became known as 'Fine Arts'. It was also
at this time that the notion of the 'artist' came
Academic institutions specialising in the training
of artists were established in Italy and France
for the first time, and political and social influences
seperated many creative occupations, such as the
'decorative arts' and 'crafts', from being counted
as among the elite art in these academies. Pottery,
weaving, metalworking, and furniture making were
viewed as inferior compared with the academics choice
of what constituted art: painting, sculpture, architecture,
music, and poetry.
Art as practiced in the academies of the 18th century
demanded the artist observed many aesthetic 'rules'
and inevitably provoked a reaction to its dogmatic
approach in the 19th century.
Fluid Notions of Art
It was a little over eighty years ago that traditional
art academy notions of the artist and art were challenged
by Marcel Duchamp and the Dada movement. Duchamp
declared that anything the artist produces is art.
From that moment the definition of the artist and
art has become increasingly problematical as new
generations assert their own 'art identity'. In
large part this has led to the dislocation of contemporary
art from the general public as they struggle to
connect with the artist and their work that constantly
The Case For The Creative
My hunch is that the time of the artist is slowly
but surely coming to an end as the new, broader,
inclusive term of the 'Creative' takes its place.
Creatives are characterised by their ability to
solve a challenge by coming up with ideas, and the
medium does not define the creative as it does with
the artist. This runs counter to the arguement all
artists are creatives.
The creative can be a software author or a painter.
Some creatives are strong on expression, others
with ideas, yet others with patterns (mathematical
patterns, musical patterns, linguistic patterns,
visual patterns). Creatives are playful and demonstrate
an independence of mind with a 'can do' attitude.
Above all, and unlike the notion of the artist that
is still posited by cultural institutions and arts
organisations, we are all born creatives.
Definitions of 'Art',
'Artist', and the 'Creative'
From the Collins English Dictionary (Complete and
1. A person who practices or who is skilled in an
2. A person who displays in their work qualities
required in art, such as sensibility and imagination
3. A person whose profession requires artistic expertise
4. A person skilled in some task or occupation
5. A person devoted to or proficient in something
1. The creation of works of beauty or special significance
2. The exercise of human skill (as distinguished
3. imaginative skill as applied to representations
of the natural world or figments of the imagination
4. The products of man's creative activity
5. Excellence or aesthetic merit
6. Any branch of the visual arts
7. Any field using the techniques of art to display
From a refrigerator magnet:
(ar'tist) n. 1. a) one who practices an art in which
conception and execution are governed by imagination,
style, and taste. b) a person skilled in one of
the fine arts. c) a craftsman that executes his
art with individual style. 2. often their work is
judged according to the culture and the attitude
placed on art at the time. Although they may earn
recognition during their lifetime, they are usually
not recognized for their accomplishments until after
death. 3. Lives a life of unstable economic means.
4. Many theories have been put forth regarding their
creativity, the most common one being that it is
inherent, although if not developed and tested will
remain dormant. a) They seem to create during moods,
often intense, mostly lasting only a short while.
5. They have a feeling of brotherhood with each
other that is timeless. 6. Thought to be haphazard,
having no sense of order, plan, or direction, yet
are known to be perfectionists when it comes to
their own work. a) They make decisions on feeling
rather than reason. b) Have problems with concentration.
7. They are stereotyped as mentally unbalanced.
One artist cut off his ear in a passion of creativity
combined with frustration about his art. It has
not been determined whether their creativity has
anything to do with this. 8. They are sensitive,
aware, and alert. 9. They are tolerated by society,
which allows them to live in accordance with their
From the Collins English Dictionary (Complete and
1. Having the ability to create
2. Characterised by originality of thought; having
or showing imagination
3. Designed to or tending to stimulate the imagination
4. Characterised by sophisticated bending of the
rules or conventions
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