Thursday, September 1, 2016

Art vs. Real Life - How Does Art Benefit Us?

Creating art is a very emotional process which may be the main reason why it's often described as "to express oneself".

Last week Naïve Gnostic commented on many of my blog posts via Google+ and we had several interesting discussions. Some of them were about the educational function of art, catharsis and that art sometimes feels like psychotherapy. Since I planned a post covering all these aspects anyway, I took it as a sign it's about time to finally write it.

By now I've written down quite a few thoughts on the relationship between art and artist on this blog. Trying to sum up my general experience, I'd say that creating art is a very emotional process which may be the main reason why it's often described as "to express oneself". For some creating art is a way of escapism, fleeing into their own fantasy world. For others art is a way to cope with their experiences and emotions, even traumata. There are even people who use art for some kind of academic exploration, speculation or even presentation of one's research findings. And there are also people for whom art is all this at once.

Art and Psychology

It always has a reason why an artist creates a certain type of work or why an art lover appreciates certain genres. There's also the fact that art can be used as therapy. This summer I've helped filming a documentary about psychological painting. In one of the interviews it was mentioned that adult non-artists who come to a seminar and paint for the first time often struggle with using colours - an issue that can be fixed if they paint only with black for a while. This says much about the world we live in, I guess.

Art helps us to get rid of the black in our inside and let in colour. At the same time, we can look at the black we've produced and see if it illustrates a problem. For only if we know the problem we can find a solution.

If we are on the receiving end of art as readers or audience we usually expect the experience of a catharsis. Not every artwork is meant to evoke empathy, but there is a general tendency to feel for the characters, to feel for the speaker in poetry, to have an emotional response to music. Suffering fictional hardships is a great opportunity to let out suppressed emotions - very much like painting with black, I suppose.

Art as a Teacher

Handling our emotions isn't the only thing art helps us with. Fiction provides us with lessons about good and bad, about decisions, about consequences. A hero who doesn't give up inspires us not to give up in real life. Music from action movies can give us energy to persevere. We try to be like the heroes we admire.

Yet art isn't only there to lecture us. The team of Extra Credits has pointed out very well how video games teach us not to give up by making us practice it. No matter how good or bad your chances to win are - it's always worth trying again and again. It's actually the same as with chess where you can win, lose or get stalemated with the result being a draw, even if your opponent has played better. In other words: Even if you lose everything but your king you still haven't lost the game. You always have a chance not to lose. Which is why personally I never give up on principle. And I try to do the same in real life.

Art as All at Once

For me personally, art is a way to escape reality, but I usually take real life problems with me and then use my imagination to scan, transform and experiment with these problems in order to understand them and handle them better in reality. My poetry, for example, isn't very poetic, but rather abstract as feelings are usually expressed in the beginning while the rest is about thinking about the problem and finding a solution, even if it's merely accepting reality as it is.

Now I don't believe I'm the only one like this. In fact, it sounds to me like any artwork that is capable of touching others does everything at once. It lures us into a fantasy as we try to relax and then confronts us with our problems. We're still very much like children who learn about life through playing and fairytales. In the end, art is a game, a parallel world where we can learn how to live in a safe place. At least, this is what good art should be aiming at, in my honest opinion.

What do you think? What does art teach us? How does it help us in real life? Share your experiences!

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