Can Art Have Absolutely No Meaning?

Can art really have absolutely no meaning? Can art exist without meaning? These are some deep questions about art, philosophy, interpretations, the subconscious, and the meaning of art.

All art has some meaning; art can not exist with absolutely no meaning. This is because all human activity has some meaning, so even if the artist says the art has no meaning, the no meaning – is the actual meaning of the art. When a person views the art, their subconscious will give them an interpretation of the art.

Art With No Meaning Is A Meaning

When an artist says that their artwork has no meaning – the no meaning – is their meaning. All human activity has some meaning. Just being near someone has a meaning, even if that person is sitting silently.

When you are silently sitting next to someone, the silence is also a message. Many times silence can be a more powerful message than if someone speaks.

The same is with art; when an artist says their art has no meaning, the lack of meaning is the message. And that lack of meaning can be as powerful of a message if someone sat silently next to you,

When a person sits quietly next to you, your subconscious starts to create a message. Depending on the person’s situation, you may start to think of that person as rude, shy, quiet, unfriendly, or stupid.

The same is true with art; when we are told a piece of art has no meaning, we subconsciously create a message in our minds. We may sit there and view the art, but our subconscious mind will derive a meaning for the work of art. In other words, we will see the art as our subconscious views the art.

We will also take what we know or have experienced and put that into our art viewing. Maybe the art is a blue and yellow spot on a piece of canvas. Those blue and yellow spots may remind us and speak to us about blue skies and yellow flowers.

It may remind them of the Swedish flags, which are blue and yellow. For others, their childhood home had a blue door with a yellow bucket outside the door – so they see that in the blue and yellow canvas. All these are our subconscious giving meaning to the art because of our experiences, memories, or knowledge.

Even when artists say they are rebelling against the establishment and refuse to place a meaning on their art, that act of rebellion is the meaning; even artistic rebellion has a meaning.

All human activity has meaning. As human beings, our minds are programmed to look for and find the meaning – even if the meaning is not apparent. Just by the nature of being human, our subconscious will make an artistic interpretation.

Communication Is Not Limited to Words

Our communication is not limited to our words. There are many ways we can communicate, color, lack of color, texture, brush strokes, or lack of brush strokes: even words or a lack of words.

David Carson, the Graphic Designer, pointed out there are many ways art can communicate. David Carson said:

There’s many ways you communicate. With colour, texture, sound… Even words can communicate.

David Carson

What David Carson is saying here is that all art, all colors, all textures, and words is communication and has meaning. That is why art must always have some meaning and interpretations.

Art and Interpretation

When we view art, all of us will interpret the art. There are two major philosophies in how we view art: intentionalism and anti-intentionalism. Both of these have to do with how we see and view the work and interpret the artwork.

This theory of intentionalism and anti-intentionalism is usually relevant to literature or authors. But it is also relevant for visual art because the theories speak about how our subconscious interprets and adds meaning to any work of art – including visual art.

Here is how I see the philosophy of intentionalism and anti-Intentionalism and our interpretation of art; why our subconscious places meaning to our interpretation of art.

Anti-Intentionalism and Art

Anti-intentionalism is how our viewing or interpretation of art is determined by what we know, feel, or experience. We are, in a sense rejecting the artist’s intention. Instead, we are placing our own interpretation on the art. We see the art completely through our own eyes and experiences.

We see in the art what we want to see and how we want to see it. We do not care what the artist’s intentions were, but instead, we will derive our own meaning for the art.

Intentionalism and Art

Intentionalism is the opposite of anti-intentionalism; we view the art in the way the artist wants it viewed or seen. We will align ourselves with the full intention of the artist.

When I took art history and viewed many classical paintings, the teacher told us not to interpret the artist’s works for ourselves as much as to understand the artist’s intention. What was his meaning? What was he trying to convey to us? What did each of those symbols mean and why?

We would intentionally try to understand how the artist wanted us to view his works of art. That is intentionalism – viewing the art as the artist intended it to be viewed.

The truth is that most people usually view art some anti-intentionalism and intentionalism. Our own knowledge, feelings, and experience will influence how we see and view art. This is one of the gifts of art in that two people can see the same thing and come out with different interpretations and meanings.

So sorry fellow artists – if you want to say that your art has absolutely no meaning – the truth is that it does, and it will. We each view the art using our own subconscious and interpretations. When there is no meaning, we will randomly decide what that meaning is – our minds cannot help it!

Anita Louise Art – #ArtThatMakesYouSmile -we love all kinds of art.

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Anita Louise Hummel

Hi, I am Anita Louise Hummel. I am an artist and a blogger. I paint mainly oil paints. I love to paint women, animals (mainly dogs and cats), and abstracts. I use a lot of gold and silver leaf in my paintings. I also love to blog about anything to do with art, business, Procreate, and all the wonderful artists that inspire me.

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Can Art Have Absolutely No Meaning?