Beyond the Canvas: Challenging the Stereotypes in Art Appreciation

Surrounded Islands | Biscayne Bay | Greater Miami | Florida | Christo and Jeanne Claude | 1983

Art takes the crown as the ultimate form of creativity. It’s the heartbeat of creative industries, and people in the arts are the true creatives. In my articles, I’ve explored creativity in various domains, forging interdisciplinary connections with the art world to leverage its incredible tools for our own creative growth.

In each article, I feature artwork, ensuring that readers, who may not have interacted with visual art that day, get to do so through the article. The benefits of daily interaction with art on cognitive processes are massive. For a broader context and more details on this idea, you can dive into my  ‘Boost Your Brainpower with Art’ article.

Today, I’m dedicating this article to our own interaction with art, aiming to break down stereotypical and cliched preconceptions about it. I hope to shake up some of your beliefs about art because, at the end of the day, I fundamentally believe that creativity is innate in all of us and we all have a love for art; we just might not be aware of it yet.

Speaking of the exploration of art and its misunderstood angles, let’s delve into some of the most common misconceptions that have shaped our perceptions about art.

Expressions of creativity must always be understood. 

Many of us falsely believe that a formal education in art or art history is a must for a full appreciation and understanding of artistic expressions. This belief not only provides a valid excuse to avoid engaging with art but also completely overlooks the significant role that personal experiences, emotions, and individual perspectives play in art appreciation.

The misconception that creative expressions should always be understood limits the entire concept of mental play, imagination and experimentation. My personal belief is that any form of creative expression, be it art, writing, or music, transforms into a personalized interpretation once you interact with it. There might even be a case where the initial meaning or message of the artwork becomes completely irrelevant. You don’t need to rationalize or make sense of what the artist did and why— often, artists don’t have the answers to these questions themselves.

Avoid taking the interpretation of art into a logical realm. It simply doesn’t matter. Art appreciation and creation are profoundly subjective in their nature, and everyone’s perception and interpretation can and probably should be completely different. Art doesn’t have to have a deep, hidden meaning or speak to your soul. Or even if it does, you don’t need to force yourself to find it out. Don’t underestimate the value of directness and personal interpretation and keep in mind that “Art is in the eye of the beholder.”

Classical art is more valuable than modern art.

The value and manifestation of art not only are subjective but also ever-evolving. A common stereotype suggests that older, classical artworks are intrinsically more valuable in contrast to contemporary art. 

Classical art has an emphasized technical proficiency and clear storytelling, the singularity and time aspect of it, of course, add further value to it posing a challenge to appreciate more abstract or unconventional approaches. Modern art focuses on expression, reflects on the current cultural landscape and narratives, focuses on the concept over aesthetics which is sometimes perceived as lacking in technique. Also, the rapid evolution of styles and movements in modern art can be overwhelming for people in the context of continuity.

Not everyone resonates with the themes, ideas, or messages expressed in modern art, and that’s perfectly okay. The point is be open to experiencing new forms of artistic expression, keeping in mind that “Different strokes for different folks”. 

Personally, I find the true value of art is not in its monetary worth or historical timeframe, but in the number of people who take the time look at it and appreciate it.

Digital art is not “real” art.

The misconception that conventional mediums are superior to digital art is outdated. Digital art demands just as much (if not more) skill, creativity, and mastery of tools, as the traditional forms. The medium doesn’t define the authenticity or value of artistic expression. 

Artistic mediums have evolved over time because artists had more to express than the medium allowed. For instance, before the invention of cameras, artists primarily depicted realistic portraits and stories of the time, often producing many simultaneously. (Yes, I’m deliberately using the word producing, not painting ). The advent of cameras altered the landscape, directing the language of expression towards concepts, ideas, and styles. Now, in the digital era, with the rise of generative AI, new waves and directions of digital art are emerging, and we are all here to appreciate and embrace them.

What is art, ultimately? Honestly, I wouldn’t dare to define it, but I know it when I see it. And I hope that you get to see more of it too.