The Sunday News
THE term ‘‘artist’’ has been taken over by those in the ‘fine arts’ field. Those in the fine arts have over the centuries owned the word and the meaning behind the term ‘‘artist’’. An ‘‘artist’’ has traditionally been a person with a set of specialised skills in a particular area. The term ‘‘artist’’ has been loosely defined and categorised in modern contexts as someone who draws or paints pictures or creates sculptures as a job or a hobby. An artist is a person who creates novels, poems, films, or other things which can be considered as works of art.
An ‘‘artisan’’ (from French: artisan, Italian: artigiano) is a skilled craft worker who makes or creates material objects partly or entirely by hand. These objects may be functional or strictly decorative, for example furniture, decorative art, sculpture, clothing, jewellery, food items, household items and tools and mechanisms. Artisans practice a craft and may through experience and aptitude reach the expressive levels of an artist. These expressive levels reveal thought and emotion with regards to both the artist and the artist’s community.
During the Middle Ages, the term ‘‘artisan’’ was applied to those who made things or provided services. It did not apply to unskilled manual labourers. Artisans were divided into two distinct groups those who operated their own businesses and those who did not. Those who owned their businesses were called masters, while the latter were the journeymen and apprentices.
In European academic traditions, fine art is art developed primarily for aesthetics or beauty, distinguishing it from decorative art or applied art, which also has to serve some practical function, such as pottery or most metalwork. In the aesthetic theories developed in the Italian Renaissance, the highest art was that which allowed the full expression and display of the artist’s imagination, unrestricted by any of the practical considerations. It was also considered important that making the artwork did not involve dividing the work between different individuals with specialised skills, as might be necessary with a piece of furniture. Even within the fine arts, there was a hierarchy of genres based on the amount of creative imagination.
Historically, the five main fine arts were painting, sculpture, architecture, music, and poetry, with performing arts including theatre and dance. Today, the range of what would be considered fine arts commonly includes additional modern forms, such as film, photography, video production/editing, design, spoken/written word and conceptual art.
One definition of fine art is ‘‘a visual art considered to have been created primarily for aesthetic and intellectual purposes and judged for its beauty and meaningfulness, specifically, painting, sculpture, drawing, water-colour, graphics, and architecture’’. In that sense, there are conceptual differences between the fine arts and the decorative arts or applied arts. As far as the consumer of the art was concerned, the perception of aesthetic qualities required a refined judgment usually referred to as having good taste, which differentiated fine art from popular art and entertainment.
A person may be exceptionally good at something, so much so that he or she may be called an ‘‘engineering artist’’, ‘‘architectural artist’’, ‘‘a culinary artist’’, or ‘‘a musical artist’’, or ‘‘a con artist’’. This implies that the individual transcends the ordinary, and does something creative in his or her trade, so much so that by the standards of those in these fields perceive them as an ‘‘artist’’. I have heard people use the word ‘‘art’’ in a sentence when they describe the level of skill that one applied to do or design or execute a difficult task such as a surgery. A surgeon may be respected for applying their surgical skills but it all becomes an art when that skill is performed with a form of mastery, grace and excellence. The applied arts are the arts that apply design and decoration to everyday and essentially practical objects in order to make them aesthetically pleasing. The term is used in distinction to the fine arts, which are those that produce objects with no practical or functional use, whose only purpose is to be beautiful or stimulate the intellect in some way. In practice, the two often overlap. Applied arts largely overlaps with decorative arts, and the modern making of applied art is usually called design.
Examples of applied arts are, Architecture, gold smithing and artistic forms of metalworking, ceramic art, glass and enamel, automotive design, fashion industry, textile design and furniture design. These areas of applied arts are also counted as a fine art in cases of unique technical excellence. The word “fine” does not so much denote the quality of the artwork in question, but the purity of the discipline according to traditional Western European canons. Except in the case of architecture, where a practical utility was accepted, this definition originally excluded the ‘useful’ applied or decorative arts. Africa has always been known for creating functional art forms that aid in building the foundations of society and the foundations of physical structures. The term Artist must be worn with pride as artists are highly skilled individuals that influence and are catalysts to future advancements.