ARTiculate: Can You Talk About Modern Art?

Arts & Culture

August 29, 2017 | BY Philippine Tatler

#TatlerTips: decoding art jargon

The art world is ever changing. Museum trips, gallery viewings and exhibitions are beautiful experiences worth trying, but they can be tiring when all these new vocabulary words, theories and art movements are thrown your way – right?

We know that it's hard to keep up with the genre specific lingo and jargon when it comes to the art world—the struggle is real. Don’t feel out of place, awkward and un-cultured at your next cocktail, dinner party, hot date, or interview because we have prepared a list of 11 terms that you can start familiarizing yourself with, now!

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Here, we jump into several movements and styles from the realm of modern art:

Realism.jpgThis is thought to be the birth of modern art. Realists grasped from everyday life and used these scenes and experienes as their subjects. Artists no longer created situations, posed subjects and depicted an idealistic version of life, but drew from reality as it was – no matter how gritty and raw.

Artists: Gustav Courbet, Edouard Manet

impressionism.jpgImpressionism is an artistic movement that aims to depict the outdoor world, transient moments, as it appeared to the artist – full of his or her emotional connections. This served to give art more authenticity as the artist was immersed in the the real world, painting with spontaneity and not within a studio. Impressionist art is more romantic and free in the sense that light and brushstrokes utilised were soft, as they wanted to portray movement and that the world is not made of perfect forms or events. They did not focus on realistic figuration but more on caputuring the essence of the scene. 

Artists: Claude Monet, Edgar Degas

expressionism.jpgThis art came straight form within the artist, rather than from a depiction of the external world as it was. There is a strong emphasis on the artist's feelings and less on the composition, and figuration of the world. This was much more about how the world felt rather than how it looked in reality.

Artists: Edvard Munch, Vincent Van Gough, Wassily Kandinsky

abstract.jpgAbstract art is art that does not attempt to represent an accurate depiction of a visual reality but instead use shapes, colours, forms and gestural marks to achieve its effect. The word abstract strictly speaking means to separate or withdraw something from something else – an act of negation. Abstract art is art which is non-representational, it could be based on a subject or may have no source at all in the external world.

Artists: Kasmir Malevich, Wassily Kandinsky, Juan Miro, Henri Matisse

avant-garde.jpgAvant-garde is art that is innovative, something that introduces or explores new forms or subject matter. The notion of the avant-garde enshrines the idea that art should be judged primarily on the quality and originality of the artist’s vision and ideas. Avant -garde is calls the institution of art into question --- pushing boundaries, society and culture forward. This movement is not about mass appreciation, popular culture or capitalism, but about reaching the next frontier. It is the opposite of kitsch.

kitsch.jpgKitsch movement was in a sense meant to lower high art and complicated concepts in order to make them more accessible and popular with the masses. This movement is linked to capitalism. Kitsch art has a lot to do with re-productions and mass production thus allowing those who could not partake in the original art forms to have access to this from.

surrealism.jpgSurrealism is all about revealing the beauty of the endless possibilities of the subconscious. This art movement aims to let the mind run free and unrestricted. Surrealism’s emphasis was not on negation but on unhindered expression. Surrealism tried to connect the conscious and the unconscious by uniting the dream and fantasies of the mind with reality on a canvas, for example. There is an emphasis on content, meaning and free form. Art produced by surrealists is about chance, irrational movements and feeling– this art cannot be premeditated. When art is planned, sketched and thought out, that means that the artist has calculated his or her moves and censored the true idea or emotions  – theories drawn upon from Sigmund Freud. Surrealists believe that our consciousness sensors our unconscious and thus they aim to produce pure art that has not been tampered with by societal whispers or reason.

Artists: Pablo Picasso, Frida Khalo

concrete.jpgConcrete art takes the "referent" or reality out of the equation completely. The difference is that abstraction more generally seeks to reduce or pare down, while concrete art, seeks to create and not negate. This is a form of abstract art with no figuration at all. It expresses things not by abstracting from the world but by adding colors, lines, planes. Concrete art is about art at its purest form, highlighting the beauty of each component used in creation: form, color, texture etc. It has nothing to do with representation and figuration of reality.

Artists: Kazimir Malevich and Piet Mondrian

constructivism.jpgThe constructivists believed art should be all about its construction and the components that made it. Objects were to be designed not to express beauty, emotion or perspective, but to highlight construction and the components utilised. Here, art is created depending on how the components work together, not by altering components to create the final piece.

Artists: Alexander Rodchenko, Vladimir Tatlin

productivism.jpgBranching of off constructivism, artists stopped exploring how images or meaning are constructed and focused simply on how they can be productive in society. Productivism is about efficiency and functionality of creation – art should have a distinct purpose.

dada.jpgDada artists attempt to shock their audiences. This movement was about challenging order and social norms. Dada artists are known for their use of readymade objects which were then manipulation by the artist. The use of these mundane objects raised questions about creativity, originality and the essence of art and its purpose in society. Dada is thought to be one fothe few art movements where the focus of the artists was not on forging aesthetically pleasing works but on putting fourth art that ellicited challenging questions about art, society and life, thus pusheing audiences to respond.

Artist: Marcel Duchamp

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