Plato’s Philosophy of Art Today
By Olivia DeMilta
Being my last semester here at LCAD, for the first time I am being ask what is it I’m doing, what it means to be an artist, and what makes a painting art? For me art is an expression, a mode in which I have known to be in many times throughout my life. For one to ask the question now of what it all means, is a bit scary and intimidating at the same time. When I first came to art school I was attracted to the idea of making images that appealed to people. To appeal, I suppose now, means many things, but specifically making something “pretty” or “cool!” As I’ve grown older and wiser, seeing the world for what it is, I’ve begun to understand the importance of these expressions; that art can express many different things, meanings, and more importantly possibly the meaning of life and existence. Here, through my studies, is where I begin to see a “connection” with my own work and my own reality that I know.
Through the work I’ve produced in the past, to my current series of work, I begin to see a connecting line that answers some questions regarding my strengths and weaknesses in a both subjective context and objective too. When comparing my work, I begin to think of Plato’s ideas of the real and the imagined, specifically what he mentions in the Allegory of the Cave about imperfect “reflections” of the ultimate forms that subsequently represent truth and reality. That images we see aren’t always the real thing, and that there is an existence far beyond what is directly in front of us. For me, I was too naïve to understand what it was I really wanted when entering art school, so I went for learning about the first thing that would make me money one day, illustrating. I thought I could eventually have my work published in articles for making nice pictures, and that I could just do whatever I wanted. But it suddenly changed when I actually began studying the field, and seeing how you really can’t just do anything you want. Thankfully, you are required to take fundamentals of drawing classes, and here I began learning about the “form”. For the first time here, I felt what it was like to be connected to something other than myself, actually connecting to a living human being, object or structure. Eventually I would have moved up to my elective classes, which is where I began to choose painting. Only soon to again, feel the connection that I was longing for so long.; Paint, this pure element with pigments from the earth, soon to be eloped onto the canvas, only soon to depict the model with pure form, variety, and intention.
These experiences I was having, the need to connect with physical form and human relation, seemed very real to me. That even though the changing physical world is “poor” something important escapes from the human experience, something positive, and real. Now faced with the challenge of creating my own ideas and bringing them to life, I begin to search for those feelings I have once felt when stepping into that experience the first time, constantly exploring, seeking truth, in order to make a pure work of art. This process can at times be enduring, even exonerating. Studying work of art and ideas beyond the pictorial space, and what makes something art are very intriguing, but I don’t know if necessary. In Plato’s philosophy, he sees art as being 3 steps outside the real. For art, those steps are even placed back further, that art is an illusion of an illusion. But was Plato around when the Internet came around, and how suddenly millions of images are viewed through this tiny screen we call a computer? Now, art is being displayed even further from reality. It’s printed in books, posted on television screens, printed and displayed in all forms and sizes. If Plato doesn’t believe that art can’t be called real simply from its original source, the canvas, installation, film, etc., then how is he to say that these other imitations of art are only a few steps behind those of the original? Is it still just as far away from being to that of the original source? The original art is far more significant in my eyes, in that it shows true form. It shows that it is real, that it was created, and that pure thought was established in the making of these creations. For me, its not about whether what it is I’m creating is the most pure or most knowledgeable of all creations of art, but that it’s about the experience and actually being a part of the piece through its process, and essentially being a part of its creation of reality as close as possible.