Sep 14

Good Art is Not Subjective

Jackson Pollock’s art is interesting, especially the more colorful pieces, but I’ve generally had a much harder time appreciating other abstract art. I found some rationale for my tastes (or lack thereof) in “Acquired Taste,” in article by Gene Edward Veith in World Magazine (subscriber login required for full article, Feb 9/16, 2008 issue), where he explains “A work is beautiful to the extent that it displays at the same time both complexity and unity.”

“A canvas of random paint-splatterings may have complexity, but it has no unity,” Veith said. “The Sistine Chapel, or a Rembrandt woodcut, or a Hudson River landscape has both, being full of individual details that come together into a whole that is greater than the sum of its parts.” Veith extends the concept to music, drawing contrasts between simplistic and more complex forms, even within the same era or genre of music itself.

Enjoying junk food or junk culture isn’t bad once in a while, but developing taste in art (or music, or writing, or dance, etc.) does require discipline. “Growing in taste means learning to take pleasure in what is objectively good,” Veith said.

While classic thinkers spoke of three kinds of absolutes: the true, the good, and the beautiful, Veith clearly bases his definition of “good” on a Christian worldview. “The Bible tells us to set our minds on ‘whatever’ is ‘excellent’ and ‘of good report’ (Philippians 4:8),” he said. “To think that beauty is nothing more than a subjective preference—unconnected to standards that originate in God Himself—is to buy into a foundational principle of today’s anti-Christian worldview.”

Regardless of worldview, a principle we can apply here is that making good judgments about art, copywriting or strategy is often less subjective than the novice (or naïve) may think. Rationale patterns flow underneath good communications, and the professional communicator does well to become a life-long learner of theory as well as the practical application of our trade.

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