Thought — 3 Min Read

What Is Art

by Case Greenfield, May 7, 2022

Thought – 3 Min Read

What Is Art

by Case Greenfield

May 7, 2022

It takes a lot of guts to answer this question: what is art. I’ll give you my subjective perspective. To me, art is the domain where reality resonates with the realities that we create to shape ourselves.

I know. Much more experienced practitioners, highly educated scholars, well-known art collectors, praised art critics and other experts all may have a much more profound and better thought through opinion on what art is than myself. Still, I feel the need to express my opinion about what art is, because I need it as my artistic philosophy. I need it as the basis of my artistic work.

So, this art definition of mine is, well, my take on what art should be:

Art is the domain where reality resonates with the realities that we create to shape ourselves

— Case Greenfield

And, what exactly do I mean by that? Let me explain.

Yesterday, I wrote two new stories, one about the grey area and one about us. Those two thoughts inspired me to formulate this definition of art. So, it is all about a grey area, the grey area between reality and the realities that we create to shape ourselves, and it is all about us, humans, homo sapiens.

Really, there are four terms that require explanation:

  • Domain = (from the dictionary) “an area of interest over which a person has control”; I would say, art is a domain over which we do not really have control, so merely an area of interest, but in my view a very important one for mankind
  • Resonate = (originally a term from physics) “strengthen, increase, elevate from being in harmony, ideally creating warm grounding”; however … sometimes art is the domain that creates dissonance, confusion from being out of harmony, out of sync
  • Reality = (my definition) universal and – to a degree – scientific reality; this is the reality that exists, even if humanity would not exist, it is the world outside our brains
  • Realities that we create to shape ourselves = (my definition) group and personal reality; this is the reality inside our brains, the world how we see it, our perception of the world, as a supporting instrument for, ultimately, our biological survival, through our need and drive to lead a save and prosperous life.

So, now I think of it, it has a lot to do with cognitive and intuitive resonance and dissonance: the domain where the knowledge and intuitions we have (collected through inheritance – nature – or learning – nature) may or may not coincide with our objective observations and subjective preceptions of the world around us.

It all starts in our brain

Basically, this comes all down to the fundamental need of our brain to create a consistent story – I call these “mind models” – that give our brain the feeling that we – can – control the world around us to a sufficient degree to be able to survive by predicting what will happen in the next second, minute, hour, day, week, month, year or our whole lifespan … individually and as a species.

What intrigues me more than anything about mind models is how our brains distort objective reality into our own subjective reality, the two of which objectively dissonate into cold alienation but subjectively resonate into warm grounding.

So, to me, art is the domain where we find warm grounding without distorting reality, a sort of realistic dreaming, balancing facing the brutal facts of life with inspiring fantasies, balancing ratio and emotion.

This immediately implies that art is much more than painting. It can be any object or activity that makes reality and the realities that we create to shape ourselves resonate or dissonate.

So, how about the ‘shape ourselves’ part? Well, apparently the key building block in our brain is the story. Not the thought, as many of us would say. The entire combined process of thinking and feeling in our brain consists of a giant set of stories (which biologically are a specific network topology of specific connected brain cells). And the unique purpose of these stories is to create an image of ourselves that can act as a guidance for our behavior. It is all about this self image, individually and collectively. Once you understand it, you see it everywhere: how we see ourselves, how we present ourselves on social media, stories in the news, marketing and propaganda, storytelling in history, ideas about the future, everywhere.

In some way, we always have lived in the metaverse already, the metaverse of our brain! The “brainverse“, the universe in our brain.

Art – and philosophy – should play a leading role here. Every artwork must represent a story. Every artwork is the – be it clumsy – physical attempt to represent a story. Every artwork should trigger a story in the beholder’s mind. An artwork without a story is decoration, which is fine – and from an artisan point of view may be much better than many a ‘real’ artwork – and may cause a degree of  feeling of warm grounding, but it lacks the depth, the draft of a story that can act as a guidance in our life.

“Postmodern Realism”

If postmodernism is the domain of escaping the limitations of reality and realism is the domain of accurate depiction of reality, I feel art should be merging the two into a somehow consistent whole. That’s why I sometimes call my art “Postmodern Realism”, attempting to close the philosophical circle of modern art from Realism to Postmodernism back to an improved form of Realism … and the next winding of the helix of human culture.

Attempting to merge the realist thesis and the postmodernist anti-thesis into a new synthesis, “Postmodern Realism”: a new way to deal with reality and the realities that we create. Slowly distancing from Idealism, back to a new form of Idealistic Realism, rooted in the interpretations of eg. Velasquez and Rembrandt, but based on the latest insights from modern science, eg. neuroscience, about … well, everything … into, let’s say, the next iteration of collective truth finding, Realism, while still feeling sufficiently comfortable with it, hence Postmodern Realism. Why not too fast, why must we feel comfortable with it? Because, otherwise the collective alienation (Entfremdung or Entäußerung) will lead to global chaos.

We need a better brain

The real question will be whether our brains will be capable of doing so. Personally, I’m not extremely optimistic, but we have a moral obligation to try as hard as we can. And if we will not succeed, then hopefully the evolutionary successor of homo sapiens – with a better equipped brain – will be able to do so when we as a species have dissappeared or have been reduced to an insignificant factor.

To say it differently: we need a better brain!

Soon, I will write down my thoughts about this future, which may come sooner than many of us believe if scientific and technological developments continue to accelerate and expand as they do today, especially in the field of artificial intelligence and human enhancement.

In the mean time, the best we can do is try to make reality resonate with the realities that we create to shape ourselves. The best way to achieve that, in my humble opinion, is not through rational explanation, but by creating postmodern realistic art.

That’s what art should be all about!

My art

With my art I aim to bring joy from beauty, and affirmation of who we are – identity and meaning through narratives, stories, both individually and as human beings. Attempting to reduce existential loneliness, my art helps us feel that we belong in the life that we want to live. That is what I mean with ‘Warm Grounding‘.

How? By bringing together in my artworks reality and the realities that we create to shape ourselves in a somehow consistent, no better, resonating whole. Consistent, yet messy.

The mixture of realities is expressed in my art by mixing well-thought intent and spontaneous expression in the moment of creation, and by using mixed media techniques, such as acrylic, pastel and oil paint, markers and spray, combining different color palettes, graphic and painting styles, abstract and realistic elements, different scales and more, into a varied yet consistent whole – creating artworks with both an identifiable tension and an identifiable feeling of comfort, that I like to call “Warm Grounding“.

Ultimately, my art should make the beholder aware of the messy world in their brain, yet, make them feel comfortable with that mess.

It’s okay. It is who we are.

And maybe, maybe, it will help you to create your everyday daily reality in a little bit more purposeful way …

Share This Story: