ISSUE-033

In order for any work of art — for example, a film, a novel, a poem, or a song — to have merit, it must be understandable to most people.


Write a response in which you discuss the extent to which you agree or disagree with the statement and explain your reasoning for the position you take. In developing and supporting your position, you should consider ways in which the statement might or might not hold true and explain how these considerations shape your position.


Puzzled by perplexing paintings, we are nevertheless enamored by a painter’s impressive strokes. And while the meaning of a poem may elude us, its emotional expression does not pale. Such ambiguity in comprehensibility and complexity of art constantly occurs in various art works. While the author declares art’s intelligibility to be paramount, I appreciate obscure art works as well. The seeming obscureness actually mirrors the artists’ dignity as well as the affluence of both the expression and representation of the artists’ mental worlds. All of these characteristics contribute to the irreplaceable merits of art.


I have to admit, on the one hand, that lucidity abounds in a great amount of popular artwork, from a Hollywood action movie to a catchy street song. Thanks to the work’s clarity in terms of content and expression, people come to know it, accept it and, finally, are inclined to spread it. This characteristic of being understandable enables artwork, which used to be exclusive to the noble and upper class, to flourish in public and thereby attain fresh significance in modern society.


Artists, however, do not always have to pander to the market, sometimes even at the cost of sacrificing art’s integrity and uniqueness. Neither is it possible that every single individual would have an equal aesthetic appreciation of the works created by a great master with peerless skills and special personal experience.


While I cannot turn a blind eye to copious popular movies, songs and TV shows which emphasize the market over grace and elusiveness, I am hesitant to hastily generalize all kinds of art in the same way. Pandering to the public may gain handsome profits for a while, but the resulting artwork will soon lose its value due to the absence of enduring attraction.

For supporting examples, let us turn to popular artwork: an album with a flamboyant cover, or a film lavishly decorated with advanced visual technology. Have they gained enviable popularity in the public? Possibly. Has their adulatory catering to the public taste earned them abiding merits? Hardly. The very fact that these music and film companies must conjure up various new productions one after another ironically reveals the producers’ awareness of the evanescent value of their works and their trepidation of losing the market due to such fleeting value.


More importantly, the possession of merit does not necessarily require artwork to be intelligible. In fact, art’s merit is primarily embodied in the artist’s skill mastery, as well as by the representation of his/her inner world. Such skills frequently remain exclusive to the artist due to its opaqueness; likewise, the artist’s unique personal experience also alienates him/her from those who do not share similar stories. The artwork, therefore, is not always understandable to most people, but under no circumstance does this complexity hinder the artwork from achieving its intrinsic worth. Picasso’s “Guernica”, one of many possible examples, sufficiently supports my claim. Prestigious for its adept expression of cubism and surrealism, as well as its vivid portrayal of the painter’s mental agony and fury about violence, “Guernica” has achieved worldwide fame. However, the abstruseness of this work’s expression precludes common appreciation; similarly, people with no experience under the devil’s trample fail to sympathize with the painter. Nevertheless, few dispute “Guernica’s” arcane expression and theme, but applaud it as a highly meritorious masterpiece.


To summarize, while we may feel a sense of closeness with the artists when previously elusive artwork becomes accessible, such a switch in most scenarios takes place at the expense of art’s integrity. To gain a better understanding of art, we should better foster our aesthetic appreciation, rather than juvenilely demanding the convergence of elegance and mediocrity.

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